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PostPosted: Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:24 pm 
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I feel like it's been some time since we've last checked in on the goings-on in Foraine. Well, this story will check in on everybody's two favorite Thorneau characters...

Okay, well, this story will check in on everybody's two favorite Thorneau characters...

While it probably wouldn't hurt to be caught up on the entire Thorneau Revolution story arc, I would suggest that the two stories most needed for this story would be these:

Required Reading


As with pretty much all of my Thorneau pieces, I owe a big "thank you" to Orcish for this one. It was a long time ago, but he and I talked through the brushstrokes of this particular story and ironed out a few details and implications at that time. Sadly, because of Orcish's current sabbatical, I did not have the opportunity to run the finished product by him, so hopefully this meets with the good Orc's approval when he eventually returns.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys!

A Business Proposal


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:17 pm 
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Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:59 am 
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I'm terribly sorry for being so late in checking dearest Perrine's latest news. I love the complete change of pace (and of tone) between the two halves of the conversation, though I wasn't completely sold on Thomas' dread before Perrine makes her counter-proposal (heh). Partly because Thomas has had a way too ominous introduction to be executed at the very first step of his first shown plot, partly because Thomas is painted as so obnoxiously confident facing threat after threat that seems weird for him to buckle after a single sentence. I would buy the switch to a more cautious approach on his side, but just a sentence like "Still, that sounds a very specific issue to scrap the whole plan. I'm sure we can salvage something to benefit the both of us" would show him switching gears keeping intact his image as a confident risk-taker: one used/prepared to risk everything can't break down just because the mark hasn't rolled over at the first meeting. He'd check his hold, make sure he isn't immediately about to die, then rebuild from that.

That's a very specific nitpick, though, I found Perrine's interpretation to be brilliant, and I'm looking forward to the next step in this thickening web of intrigue, so thank you for sharing! :D

Landis963 wrote:
Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?


Unless Thomas himself wants to kill Perrine (which is what she intended for poor Jacquilyn) an endeavor which he would find hard for a number of reasons (her secret magic, to name one), I find it improbable. He could, yes, use his (possible) access to her chateau to give information to peasants, but before his first marriage Perrine can keep guards on him; after that he'll live for a short time in Jacquilyn's abode, during which Perrine will probably ask him to set up a certain meeting, and only then she'll marry him. In this course of action, the only real moment of danger for Perrine will be the meeting itself, for which she'll be plenty prepared. So even if she risks later by accepting him in her chateau, she'd only be at moderate risk after the face and the true mind of the revolution are dead.

That said, Thomas presented himself as a third player, so he probably intends to kill off or manipulate both Perrine and Aurélie to get himself on top, so I'm sure the meeting will have a few surprises for everyone involved. As I said, I'm looking forward to know how this situation develops.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:58 pm 
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@Landis963 and Huey: Thank you both for reading and commenting! It is much appreciated.

Landis963 wrote:
Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?

I somewhat wonder if that is part of why she wants Thomas to kill his future bride, to see if he has the guts to do it or not. Thomas has had the advantage of planning all of this out, and while our dearest Perrine does not know how long or how thoroughly he's thought it through, she knows it was more than she's had to think about it. I think she wants what Thomas is offering, and this is partially to test Thomas, and partially to buy time to think this through a bit more. Further, the Vicomtesse is extremely confident in herself, so while I'm sure the possibility enters her mind, she probably views his success as unlikely.

And personally, I'm a bit more worried about Thomas than our dearest Perrine. I mean, IF Thomas were to have or try to have the Grand Magistrate assassinated, he would very likely be killed in retaliation. Vicomtesses in Thorneau fear no retaliation. Once she has what she wants, what possible reason would she have for keeping him around? She doesn't strike me as the romantic type, so unless she develops an ear for his "marvelous singing voice," I suspect Thomas had better have a contingency plan in place.

I'm terribly sorry for being so late in checking dearest Perrine's latest news.

No worries! I haven't been around anyway the past few days.

I love the complete change of pace (and of tone) between the two halves of the conversation, though I wasn't completely sold on Thomas' dread before Perrine makes her counter-proposal (heh). Partly because Thomas has had a way too ominous introduction to be executed at the very first step of his first shown plot, partly because Thomas is painted as so obnoxiously confident facing threat after threat that seems weird for him to buckle after a single sentence. I would buy the switch to a more cautious approach on his side, but just a sentence like "Still, that sounds a very specific issue to scrap the whole plan. I'm sure we can salvage something to benefit the both of us" would show him switching gears keeping intact his image as a confident risk-taker: one used/prepared to risk everything can't break down just because the mark hasn't rolled over at the first meeting. He'd check his hold, make sure he isn't immediately about to die, then rebuild from that.

I definitely see your point. The completeness of Thomas's disbelief comes, I think, from his arrogance in matters of the mind. He's so convinced that he had thought through every objection she would have, and he's just completely confounded that such a little thing could thwart his plan. But I think I agree that a bit more arguing, maybe just a couple more lines each there, and maybe a thinly veiled threat from our Dearest Perrine to put the fear of Goddess into him, might lead better into that reaction.

That's a very specific nitpick, though, I found Perrine's interpretation to be brilliant, and I'm looking forward to the next step in this thickening web of intrigue, so thank you for sharing! :D

Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't remember when Orcish and I first discussed this possible interaction, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was around the time I posted "A Game at Chess" and introduced Thomas Cerveau in the first place. So this one has been a long time coming, and I really enjoyed playing around with the dialog between these two.

Landis963 wrote:
Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?


Unless Thomas himself wants to kill Perrine (which is what she intended for poor Jacquilyn) an endeavor which he would find hard for a number of reasons (her secret magic, to name one), I find it improbable. He could, yes, use his (possible) access to her chateau to give information to peasants, but before his first marriage Perrine can keep guards on him; after that he'll live for a short time in Jacquilyn's abode, during which Perrine will probably ask him to set up a certain meeting, and only then she'll marry him. In this course of action, the only real moment of danger for Perrine will be the meeting itself, for which she'll be plenty prepared. So even if she risks later by accepting him in her chateau, she'd only be at moderate risk after the face and the true mind of the revolution are dead.

Good points.

That said, Thomas presented himself as a third player, so he probably intends to kill off or manipulate both Perrine and Aurélie to get himself on top, so I'm sure the meeting will have a few surprises for everyone involved. As I said, I'm looking forward to know how this situation develops.

What is most interesting to me, here, is that Thomas presented himself as a third player to the Scholars. It's interesting that we've had two Thomas Cerveau stories (I'm not counting his cameo at the end of "The Voice of the Heart" here because the story doesn't focus on him) and two different stated goals. Admittedly, the things he says to our dearest Perrine in this story are in line with his stated goal from "A Game at Chess." But the other side of that coin is that the things he says to Maëlys Dupont get him into the position he needs to be for the things he says here to be true.

In other words, Thomas Cerveau might want to gain the privilege of the nobility, and he might not. Thomas Cerveau might want to position the Scholars at the top of the social ladder, and he might not. It should also be noted that we, the readers, know that our dearest Perrine is directly responsible for the death of Thomas and Aurélie's father, Marc. For all we know, Thomas's loyalties have always aligned with the peasants.

Maybe we'll know more when and if we ever get the "family reunion" Thomas references at the end of "The Voice of the Heart."

Maybe we'll know less!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 29, 2019 11:21 pm 
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Thank you so much, Raven, for sharing this fantastic (as per usual) story! I enjoyed it thoroughly, and, while I won't exactly say that it's "nice" to be reunited with Dearest Perrine, as she will forever and always be known, it's certainly exciting to see some of the long-mooted events on Thorneau beginning to spool out! :plot:

Anyway, much more to be said about everything, so let's just dive right in, shall we?


Okay, well, this story will check in on everybody's two favorite Thorneau characters...

For starters, this should not have made me laugh as much as it did. :D


As with pretty much all of my Thorneau pieces, I owe a big "thank you" to Orcish for this one. It was a long time ago, but he and I talked through the brushstrokes of this particular story and ironed out a few details and implications at that time. Sadly, because of Orcish's current sabbatical, I did not have the opportunity to run the finished product by him, so hopefully this meets with the good Orc's approval when he eventually returns.

"Sabbatical" is certainly a nice way of saying "AWOL," but I'll take it! And, yes, this gets the Official Orcish Seal of Approval:

Image


Landis963 wrote:
Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?

I somewhat wonder if that is part of why she wants Thomas to kill his future bride, to see if he has the guts to do it or not. Thomas has had the advantage of planning all of this out, and while our dearest Perrine does not know how long or how thoroughly he's thought it through, she knows it was more than she's had to think about it. I think she wants what Thomas is offering, and this is partially to test Thomas, and partially to buy time to think this through a bit more. Further, the Vicomtesse is extremely confident in herself, so while I'm sure the possibility enters her mind, she probably views his success as unlikely.

I think this is definitely a part of it, and, if anything, I think it's even darker than that. The play-for-time aspect actually hadn't occurred to me, but I agree that it makes total sense. And I definitely think that this is Perrine's way of "testing" Thomas, for lack of a better word for it. My guess is that Perrine's take on Thomas is that she sees him as -- for lack of a more elegant way of putting it -- a jumped-up little s*** (pardon my French -- pun fully intended), and I guarantee that she loves the idea of putting him on the spot just to see how he'll react, how far he's willing to go. The thing to remember about Perrine is that she's a killer -- she's been killing since she was a girl, and she's only gotten more brazen about it with age -- and, while Perrine gets a particularly twisted delight out of using the mechanisms of justice to indulge her violent delights, she also gets a different and equally-enjoyable thrill out of inflicting violence herself. So, whereas Perrine knows from personal experience what it's like to hold the rope around someone's neck as you watch their face turn blue, and their feet stop kicking, or how warm the blood feels on your hands as you run someone through with a rapier, I suspect that, when Perrine looks at Thomas, she thinks to herself: he has no idea. He's a scholar -- practically a dirty word to Perrine -- an ivory-tower dilettante who thinks of violence and killing as a game, as an arm's length abstraction. And while we know that Perrine also regards killing as a game, there's nothing arm's length about it for her. And so I think she wants to rub Thomas's face in the viscera of it, and to see if trying to hold the rope around his newlywed-wife's neck while she chokes and fights and scratches and begs will maybe wipe that know-it-all grin off of his face. And I think that, frankly, she's hoping that he'll fail her "test," in the sense that he'll either turn out to not have that level of cold-bloodedness, or that -- even better -- he'll give it the old college try, and make a mess of it while she watches. Because Dearest Perrine is a full-fledged sadist -- she gets off on inflicting pain, suffering, and humiliation -- and the sight of Thomas trying to strangle his bride while she watches is going to be a two-fer for her. There's the killing, of course, which she is going to thoroughly enjoy -- and I expect that Perrine will be a rather active spectator, if this ever does come to pass -- but there's also the potential for Thomas's anxiety and discomfort. For Perrine, that will be shot-plus-chaser.

It's a test, absolutely. But she's going to enjoy this, too. And the less Thomas enjoys it, the more Perrine will. Pain and humiliation are her aphrodisiacs, and this plan offers the prospect of gratifying both.

(Plus, of course, then she'll have one over on Thomas. Now, we know that she doesn't really need the leverage -- if she decided to kill him, she would just kill him, on whatever trumped-up charges she pleased, and the consequences be damned. But I think she suspects that there's still some psychological edge to be gained from the certain knowledge that Thomas will have committed a hanging offense.)

Also, I think Perrine feels Thomas has underestimated her, which she powerfully resents. I think that she thinks that he has no idea who he has decided to tangle with. And I think she wants him to see. Because she thinks that will make him squirm. And Perrine wants to see him squirm.


And personally, I'm a bit more worried about Thomas than our dearest Perrine. I mean, IF Thomas were to have or try to have the Grand Magistrate assassinated, he would very likely be killed in retaliation. Vicomtesses in Thorneau fear no retaliation. Once she has what she wants, what possible reason would she have for keeping him around? She doesn't strike me as the romantic type, so unless she develops an ear for his "marvelous singing voice," I suspect Thomas had better have a contingency plan in place.

Weirdly, building off of the above, I think that Thomas has both overestimated and underestimated Perrine, if that makes any sense.

What I think he has underestimated is her capacity for violence. Sure, he knows about the extra-judicial killings -- he's seen that up close and personal, as we know. And, sure, he knows about the atrocities committed under the pretense of war -- he's seen that Dearest Perrine would put a village to the torch, and burn families alive inside their homes, rather than suffer even a perceived humiliation. But, again, what I don't think he understands -- because we wouldn't have been in any position to observe it -- is what Perrine can accomplish with her own two hands, when no one else is looking. And, while I think he regards Perrine as a sadistic opportunist in an academic sense, I don't think he realizes how literally true that is. Because, I think that, if Thomas realized who he is getting himself into bed with here -- perhaps literally -- I think that even someone as self-confident and ambitious as him would have second thoughts.

Perhaps even more dangerously for Thomas -- and for Perrine as well, although we'll come back to that later -- the sense I get is that Thomas has over-estimated Perrine's ability to play the long game. Perrine isn't stupid, and Perrine isn't naive, but, to my mind, she's a tactician more than she's a strategist. And I think that Thomas -- who does see himself as more of a strategist, and who does pride himself on his ability to see the long game -- may be projecting a bit of the same onto Perrine, here. When Thomas is listing his reasons for why it wouldn't be in Perrine's interests to kill him, all I could keep thinking to myself is, "don't count on that to stop her." Because Perrine -- for all that she has the ability to plot, and to scheme, and she is accomplished at both -- is impulsive. Perrine is a risk-taker. Perrine is a thrill-seeker. Perrine is someone who likes to see how much she can get away with, who gets off on pushing the envelope, and who has increasingly come to believe that she can get away with anything. (Which, to be fair, up until now has been true.) Consequences aren't real to her, and self-control is not Perrine's long suit. She can play nice when she needs to play nice, she can suck up when she needs to suck up -- no one kisses ass like Perrine, when it suits her to do so -- but we've also seen that she can be provoked, she can be tipped into forgetting about consequences and decorum. Perrine will sometimes lash out -- especially against people who she regards as lower than herself, which is basically everyone -- and it would certainly be possible for Thomas to overplay his hand at any point they're together. Could killing him cause unfortunate consequences for Perrine down the road? It's possible that it would. But that may not stop her. Long-term thinking is going to lose out to short-term gratification if Perrine gets needled too far, or even if she just sees her opportunity and takes it. So, to the extent that Thomas is expecting cool and rational calculation to keep his head safe in the lion's mouth, I think he's making a false assumption that could have potentially lethal consequences.

And, for her own part, Perrine is overconfident as well. They both are. And dualing overconfidence does not make for a stable partnership... :paranoid:


Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't remember when Orcish and I first discussed this possible interaction, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was around the time I posted "A Game at Chess" and introduced Thomas Cerveau in the first place. So this one has been a long time coming, and I really enjoyed playing around with the dialog between these two.

It's funny -- I don't remember the complete sequence of events, but I do remember having one potential scene come very vividly into my mind, as soon as we started batting this idea around, and it will be fascinating/terrifying to see how or if that moment ever comes to pass...

Anyway, getting back to the story at hand, there's so much here that I love! I really enjoy the dialog between the two -- there's this sort of asymmetrical game of cat-and-mouse, with Thomas remaining preternaturally self-confident and unflappable even as he goes out of his way to say things which he knows will get under the Grand Magistrate's skin, couple with her sort of growing disbelief as the impertinences just keep piling up and up. (To my earlier comment, I think Thomas has no idea just how fortunate he is to have survived this encounter. I think he is dancing much closer to the edge than he realizes, and all the persuasive powers in the world won't do him any good if he's too busy choking to death to be able to make his argument...) It's a cat-and-mouse game where both parties are convinced they're the cat, and it's really cool to listen to how it plays out.

And, of course, Dearest Perrine's description of her proposed match for Thomas as a foolish romantic, "fond of music and books," evokes a particularly chilling meaning for me, because I know where I've seen that description before. :cry: Those are the little connections that I always love in stories like these. Given what happened to the last person we know who employed that turn of phrase, and what happened to the person it was being used to describe, hearing Perrine parrot that attitude is simultaneously both ominous and doubly-tragic.

And, of also, I love the moment at the end when Dearest Perrine makes her bid to turn the tables, and the sense of dangerous stasis which we sort of leave both these connivers in. You get the powerful sense of a system which is not at equilibrium, and where something terrible is just waiting to happen, and could do so very suddenly, even though you're not sure just exactly what that something is. It's unbalancing in a very cool and deliberate way.

(The one bit of Dearest Perrine's biography which varies a bit from how I have pictured her in my head is the revelation that she married into her title. I always had the sense from her that she inherited that station, and that, while the Labelles are minor nobles and relative upstarts compared to the true upper echelons of the Foraine nobility, that the title has been in the family for at least a generation. There's something about young Perrine's perpetual self-confidence, and belief in her own invulnerability, which reads to me as someone who knows that she's going to inherit a title, and is being groomed as such. Arrogance as birthright, if you will. She definitely does have that grasping quality to her, that ceaseless need to drive herself upwards, coupled with the sadistic pleasure she takes whenever she's able to vault over somebody else, or to find a way to exert influence above her station. (Think about the palpable joy that Perrine gets when she's able to cow Brigitte, who is technically her social better -- that combination of outward, fawning politeness, coupled with a sort of calculated overfamiliarity which is designed to unnerve and humiliate. Partly, Perrine is playing with Brigitte, because she has already made up her mind about how it is all going to end; partly, Perrine just can't help herself. She does some of these things deliberately, but she also does some of them in the moment. She needles, because she loves provoking a reaction. Poor Brigitte is Perrine's perfect victim.) But my sense for Dearest Perrine is that the way she has tried to claw her way up above her station is via her civil titles. Perrine knows that she is only a Victomesse -- a minor noble -- and that's what drives her to become the Grand Magistrate, to attain martial achievements, to make a splash at every soiree, to make herself indispensable to the Baroness. And I can just picture the progression as Dearest Perrine begins to ascend to higher and higher public office, as she begins to get a foothold, as the other, more established nobles go from regarding her as an amusing but abrasive upstart to someone who they now regard with a mixture of resentment and fear, because they know that she has become dangerous to them. They know that she has the Baroness's ear, that she punches above her wait, and that she's endlessly ambitious. Perrine has gone from being a striver to a danger. She's the worst kind of aristocrat -- snobbish towards everyone below, covetous towards everyone above, and a terrible danger to both. I think there's a telling little moment in "Enough Rope" when Perrine boasts about her chevalier's achievements in the Grande Tournée -- partly, yes, it's about intimidation, but I think partly it's also pure bragging. A Vicomtesse isn't supposed to have a Tournée winner and Champion of the Order of the White Rose as her chevalier -- that's higher-order stuff. Perrine is showing off for a Comtesse. Anyway, that's my one thought about Dearest Perrine.)

Anyway, that's all a very long-winded way of saying how much I enjoyed this story, and how excited I am to see where things develop from here. Thanks again, Raven, for writing and sharing!

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:19 am 
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Landis963 wrote:
Oh dear, Perrine, do you not see the problem? What, pray tell, prevents M. Cerveau from arranging an unfortunate run-in between a peasant assassin and your own illustrious self?


Unless Thomas himself wants to kill Perrine (which is what she intended for poor Jacquilyn) an endeavor which he would find hard for a number of reasons (her secret magic, to name one), I find it improbable. He could, yes, use his (possible) access to her chateau to give information to peasants, but before his first marriage Perrine can keep guards on him; after that he'll live for a short time in Jacquilyn's abode, during which Perrine will probably ask him to set up a certain meeting, and only then she'll marry him. In this course of action, the only real moment of danger for Perrine will be the meeting itself, for which she'll be plenty prepared. So even if she risks later by accepting him in her chateau, she'd only be at moderate risk after the face and the true mind of the revolution are dead.

That said, Thomas presented himself as a third player, so he probably intends to kill off or manipulate both Perrine and Aurélie to get himself on top, so I'm sure the meeting will have a few surprises for everyone involved. As I said, I'm looking forward to know how this situation develops.


This is a good point, but the rope tricks only work on people who are not expecting it - note Nasperge no-selling it when she came calling at his fortune-teller's stall. Hence you hire two assassins - one to carry out the hit, and the other to watch the first and make sure Thomas knows what went down in the process. And once that info is out in the wild a lot of things come crashing down for Mme de Collet, pre- or posthumously. (If Thomas makes the mistake of blackmail, however, then she'll remove him right then and there. She doesn't dither around when it comes to murder, which OL correctly notes that Thomas has underestimated in the person he's getting in bed with)

EDIT: There we go. Teach me to respond to things a few hours after midnight.


Last edited by Landis963 on Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 12:45 pm 
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Thank you so much, Raven, for sharing this fantastic (as per usual) story! I enjoyed it thoroughly, and, while I won't exactly say that it's "nice" to be reunited with Dearest Perrine, as she will forever and always be known, it's certainly exciting to see some of the long-mooted events on Thorneau beginning to spool out! :plot:

And thank you for reading. I'm glad that you enjoyed it.

Anyway, much more to be said about everything, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

Indeed! I'll spoiler-block this for space.

@Orcish


Based on feedback, I have made a few small changes to the story. Below is the relevant changed section, which is in the version that is up for vote now. If anyone has any more issues that need to be addressed, or if the below changes don't work for you, please let me know!

Spoiler


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 30, 2019 10:44 pm 
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Landis963 wrote:
EDIT: There we go. Teach me to respond to things a few hours after midnight.

Well, I certainly appreciate you responding at all!


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