(2018-05-18) Ill-Advised Adventure - Expert Advice
"Definitely don't give them your name."
beatrice livia 
library.jpg
Summary:
Antonella seeks her mother's advice on the visitante.
Related:
A waypoint between a bookish beginning and actual adventure.
Misc Info:
Other lessons may have also been learned.
antonella 

Having a dowager underfoot can be problematic in a number of ways. You never know where she'll turn up or what she'll plan to do, really. Since her return to the city, Beatrice has managed to make her peculiarity relatively unobtrusive so far, not out of any deliberate attempt at courtesy but more as a woman relishing the opportunity to do nothing particularly useful with her time.

She is beginning to get restless. It was inevitable.

Now, Beatrice is apparently engaged in a plan of reorganizing the family library. She has piled about fifteen different volumes on her favorite chaise longue in the room, and is going over another shelf with a critical eye, her hair bound back from her face and leaving her stern frown all the more apparent.

Antonella understands restlessness more than most, quite likely because it's a trait she picked up from her mother. Hereditary, perhaps, but just as likely learned. There's a difficulty to stillness which deepens with each day that passes in placidity. Yet today is a calmer day for the youngest of Beatrice's daughters, and libraries are fine places to express that sort of steadiness. Usually. Finding the library in mild disarray, she disrupts that quite scrutiny of the shelves with a bright little laugh. "Taking on a big project?" she wonders. Even as she crosses to see what's been set aside, she asks, "What has your interest, mama?"

"You know, when I had a hand in the running of this library, I yielded frequently to social pressure about the sorts of books one should have as a contesa in polite society," Beatrice tells Antonella in a blithe, casual way, as she hoists a heavy historical volume. It is spotless in terms of dust, because the servants keep the oiled spines clear of that kind of thing, but still, it somehow reveals some evidence of disuse; maybe it's something with the way that Beatrice is holding it, as someone might hold a dead fish. "This is Inganoglio on The Development and History of Matora, also known as about eighty percent utter pap." She ambles back over to the chaise longue and deposits the book with the others.

"A big project indeed," Antonella croons cheerfully to her mother, tired eyes — should her eyes be so tired at this hour of the day — delighted at the prospect of reconsidering the current collection occupying the Capello library. "Out with the horrible histories and in with more interesting considerations of the human experience. There are a few translated works I've been hoping to get my hands on, not to mention a rather curious consideration of internal morality— " The thought cuts off part-way through as her head cants, attention turning inward for a second before she refocuses on her mother with a smile. "Which reminds me. I am considering undertaking an adventure with a brave and well-read contessa of my acquaintance, and I was wondering if you might have any advice to that ends." Only after the ask is made does she realize she's missed a rather important detail. "On the manifestation of visitante."

Pausing with her fingertips upon the pile of books, Beatrice steps back from the chaise longue and gives Antonella a long, long look. The lightness has faded from her expression entirely, leaving behind only a remarkable intensity in her bright blue eyes. "It does seem likely that I would have something to say on the subject, doesn't it?" she says. She drifts away from the chaise, moving to her visibly weary offspring and giving her a raking look from crown to ankle before she reaches up to cup her face with one hand. Her skin is gently perfumed with lavender and spice, and her hands are — as not infrequently — cool. "What is your aim?" she asks.

Antonella straightens when Beatrice approaches, her steel-blue eyes going wide with more surprise than guilt. Is she unaware of that dim shadow beneath her eyes or the little red lines invading whites which might tell of a long night prior? Her cheeks rise in an uncertain smile before she answers. "Wonder," comes rather earnestly. "I believe the contessa is inclined to believe that she is now beyond such things, that whatever wonder is left in the world will not come to visit her. And so it is that some brave soul— " That'd be this girl right here. " —must draw her from her mundanity and prove otherwise."

Beatrice thumbs thoughtfully along the line of Antonella's cheekbone, and says, "Then yes, that would do. But have a care. You may offer gifts to the visitante, and make a deal you do not mean. You may offer nothing, and find you have offered insult. There are dark powers out there that might mask themselves as bright ones … and none are to be trifled with for a parlor game, my dear. Think cautiously before you speak, for when you speak to a spirit, your soul is in your breath, and they will twine truth around their fingers and make rings out of it."

Antonella's surely used to such inspection. Even in Beatrice's absence, there's been Amanda. There is always Amanda. Fussing and nudging and making sure everything is precisely perfect as often as possible. Antonella is not quite that, whatever perfection she'd mustered when she woke has undone itself in little ways, in wispy blonde hair that's come loose from its braids and falls haphazardly against her cheek, brushed aside by her mother's thumb. At the moment, the pair stand in the library, Beatrice inspecting Antonella, the young woman's eyes a bit bloodshot, soft shadows below those steely blues telling of a long night prior. About sixteen tomes of varying heft sit on a chaise longue, recently removed from shelves as the dowager contessa makes changes to the Capellos' collection. "I'll certainly be careful, mama, frugal with my words. And I'll advise the contessa of the same. It wouldn't do to have her find wonder and lose something whose absence might ache more keenly. What sort of gifts might be offered to the bene visitante?"

Beatrice pats Antonella's cheek, and then wanders back across towards the chaise and the pile she's made. "Oh, bother, what did I do with my water glass?" she complains, and then says, "It depends, though, really. Don't give them your names, whatever you do. A fragment, a piece, should be sufficient for what to call you by. An answer for an answer is a not uncommon trade, but for a gift, something that means hospitality is more important than something that matters. The intent behind the gift, they will taste it."

With the foresight of a well-trained retainer, Livia enters the room on quiet feet, entirely unobtrusive until she pops up beside Beatrice with a glass of cold water in her hand. She passes it to her mistress without a word. "Definitely don't give them your name," she says darkly, adding to the conversation. She waits for Beatrice to finish, before she looks to Antonella. "Can I get you anything, Signora?"

Antonella would have to feel guilt to feel relief and so it is that she only watches her mother curiously as she turns away, maybe wondering what was learned, what was decided. But surely too clever to ask. One needn't feel guilty to know some things are just best left unexplored. When Livia the Magician echoes that first bit of advice with such gravity, her brow knits as she studies the woman for a few seconds. "Water would be wonderful," as it always is for hangovers. "Thank you." She turns restlessly to consider the library, perhaps picking out what she'd be rid of to make space for more interesting books, and says, "Hospitality we can manage. The contessa in question is very gracious, generous. We'll be sure to pack well for the little trip." Beat. "Not that we're going far. A few hours' ride and no farther." A promise, that.

"Oh, thank you, dear," Beatrice tells Livia with blithe and easy, if thoughtless, affection. She takes a swallow from the cold water, and then rests its cool glass against her cheek for a beat. "When are you planning to do this? I trust you will be well rested when it occurs. If you aren't alert, you may struggle on the verge of nightmare."

Livia briefly directs a soft smile aside to Beatrice before she turns to withstand Antonella's inspection with a bland expression and faint smile. "Of course," she tells the younger Capello. She must have brought a tray in when she entered, because rather than leaving she moves instead toward a table nearer the door and pours water from the pitcher into another glass. "Signora," she offers the glass.

Antonella's head dips at the advice on getting a good night's sleep before running off to chase visitante, her smile perhaps wider than it ought to be. "A few days' time," she answers softly. "Whenever the contessa is ready. Well-rested, well-read and well-packed." She offers Livia a grateful smile as she claims the glass and drinks rather deeply from it. A sip, first, but that sip only reminds her body how desperate it is for hydration, and so she gulps down more in a manner which might border on unladylike.

Beatrice starts to move to grandiosely sprawl upon the chaise, but she's covered it in books, so she can't. Sighing dramatically, she wafts onward, her skirts shifting over the floor, and says, "I am surprised that you did not request something more from me than advise beforehand, considering my expertise, but it is, I suppose, a mother's role to outlive her usefulness." Her smile is slanted askew as she glances in Livia's direction, and she admits, "Though I do have my library project to work on. I am occupied." (She is making … a mess.)

With a quick narrowing of her intent eyes, Livia slips back to the water to pour a third glass. She brings it up to Antonella's side, silently offering it in exchange for the now well-drained glass. "No one could ever think you useless," she says, toward Beatrice, clearly, as she moves toward the chaise. Nimble fingers make quick work of the books. They are transferred to a table in the precise order in which she found them on the chaise - in case of sorting.

"It's meant to be clandestine, mama!" Antonella says this with far too much earnestness and cheer, as if she hasn't quite grasped the meaning of the word. Her shoulders sink with a grateful sigh as Livia offers that exchange, warmth flashing in her blue eyes as she accepts. This one is only sipped. Turning back toward Beatrice, she eyes her with exaggerated scrutiny, making a show of it. "Perhaps if I'm stealing away with one contessa already, another won't bring me all that much more trouble should everything go terribly amiss." Brows arch in what might be an invitation. "If the library can wait."

"Pish tosh. I am not very clandestine, this is true." Beatrice raises her eyebrows in a significant way at Antonella and takes a sip of her water. "I tired of hiding everything away long ago. No, you young people should have the experience of learning this on your own," she adds in tones of decision as she changes from vaguely plaintive and obnoxious to a firm object lesson given. "Ah, Livia, dear, you have made short work of my nonsense, of course you have. Thank you." She sits down, ready to drape herself in languidity apparently.

Livia nudges the last book into it's designated place and looks up at Beatrice with fond amusement. "Happy to serve, Signora." She doesn't, frankly, sound all that servile. With nothing else currently needing her attention she makes her way to a chair and settles herself there, spreading her skirts around her. "What is your aim, in seeking them out?" she asks Antonella curiously. "If you don't mind sharing."

Antonella smiles so very wide and adoring at her mother when that lesson is delivered, possible recognition that it's precisely one she means to learn. Even if the way she bows her head might be acknowledgement of how far she's yet to go before she gets there, excuses already welling up inside her head. "I'll keep that in mind, next time my sisters fuss over whatever awful thing they think I've done." Livia's question draws her focus, a glimmer in her eyes as she answers. "To invite wonder into the life of a contessa who thinks herself out of reach of such things. There's a romantic heart behind her pragmatism, and I want to help it find expression." By dealing with the visitante; don't romance and danger go hand in hand?

"I merely hope that her reach does not lead her, and you, into someone's grasp," Beatrice says with a snort as she settles in on the chaise. Stretching herself out, she toes out of her house slippers and then pulls her feet up onto the chaise with her, and she adds, "Livia, can you find me the Montmorency? I've taken my shoes off and now I don't want to get up."

"Oh." Apparently Livia doesn't have anything further to add to this. Why would a lady-in-waiting know anything about visitante, after all. Instead, she rises and moves to the table. She barely has to look at the books spread there in order to select the Montmorency, having just sorted into place. She hands it off to Beatrice, and resettles in a chair.

"We'll be careful, mama," Antonella assures with certainty in the same way that all reckless children do, all the good intentions in the world ill-matched against impulsiveness. With the conversation tapering and attention turning to books, she dips into a passable curtsey. "Thank you, mama, Miss Livia. If your work here keeps you too occupied to join us, I'll bring back stories. Promise. Of a lovely ride through the countryside, if nothing else." With that, though, she and her water are headed for the exit.

"Enjoy the ride, then, dear," Beatrice bids in mild benediction as she opens the book. "Shall we read together, Livia?" she asks, and then licks her finger to turn the page and the beginning of what promises to be, at least, a diverting portion of an afternoon.

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