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    Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

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    Curtana
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    Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 22/01/13, 02:32 pm

    Aleyn was feeling moderately more confident about his wardrobe, although it was still no match for Vedran's, and he had a lot of questions about stylish clothing that he was fairly sure he was never going to get reasonable answers for, other than "that's just how things are done." But at least he could put on a fancy suit, with a bit of assistance, and be reasonably sure it was going to be appropriate (barring a disaster like spilling a drink on himself). There were a lot of other aspects to upper-class socialization that were still opaque to him, though. Like knowing which fork to use when at dinner. And dancing. And addressing nobles politely so that he didn't look like an uncultured oaf. And probably a lot of other things he wasn't thinking about because he didn't even know he was supposed to be thinking about them.

    "I'm bound to screw something up," he said to Vedran anxiously. They had invitations to several important social events in the next week, and it was all suddenly seeming much more real (and more terrifying) than it had when he'd first agreed to stay.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 22/01/13, 05:03 pm

    Vedran just stopped himself from saying it wouldn't be the end of the world if he did - not that it wasn't true, but Aleyn tended to be self depreciating enough that sometimes Vedran needed to stop and think about whether or not the matter in question was something that could be remedied. In this case, he realized he was the one who'd been taking things for granted - he'd been learning this stuff since he was young, by osmosis as much as by training. Aleyn hadn't had the same opportunities.

    "We have some time," he countered instead, smiling. "I can try and help you get the basics down at least. I'm sure we can recruit others to the cause too, if we need them. Any ideas where you want to start?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 22/01/13, 05:46 pm

    "There are so many things to learn, I'm not sure," Aleyn said, gratitude outweighing his nerves for the moment. "Dancing is a big one, and... what else do people even do at these sorts of parties? Eat and drink, I guess? And I could use a refresher on how to address people and all that kind of thing so I don't offend them - I learned some of that stuff for Diplomacy testing but I'm afraid I'm going to get it wrong when I'm nervous. Can't I just watch you all the time and do whatever you do?" he asked, smiling playfully.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 22/01/13, 05:59 pm

    Vedran grinned. "You sure that's gonna help you pay attention to what's going on? But seriously though - watching what other people are doing will get you through a lot, especially dinners and such. If we're going to do dancing though, I should take you to my mother's. She has a better room for it *and* we can have musical accompaniment. She's also way better at cards."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 22/01/13, 06:04 pm

    "That sounds like a pretty fun way to spend the afternoon, actually, when I can stop flailing for long enough to think about it." He hesitated, offering Vedran his hand. "I'm just really scared of embarrassing you, or doing something by accident that'll make you - us - look bad. The last thing I want is to make things harder for you."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 22/01/13, 06:32 pm

    "I'm really not afraid of that - you're pretty astute, and you're good at picking up social cues, and that's more than most people have going for them. But I don't want you to feel nervous if you don't have to - and it should be fun! We can work on these letters until Macen wakes up from his nap, if you like, and then head up the hill? Maybe plan to stay for dinner?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 22/01/13, 06:47 pm

    Aleyn carried a trunk's worth of his new clothes up to the door to Vedran's mother's house - Vedran was busy wrangling Macen up the walkway, since he evidently wanted to play in the garden instead. They were going to be using the house as what Vedran liked to call a staging area - Aleyn thought that made this whole process sound like a military assault, but maybe that's what it was. As soon as their arrival was noticed, a pair of servants hurried over to take it away from him. He briefly protested that it wasn't that heavy, but stopped mid-sentence - he was going to have to get used to this, he supposed. "Thank you," he said instead, and let them carry it upstairs.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 23/01/13, 10:10 am

    After Macen was wrangled sufficiently to at least give proper hugs and hellos to his grandmother, he was left to continue playing outside under Marys's supervision while the men headed inside with Vinalia. Her eyes twinkled, and she smiled as the servants carted away his trunk.

    "I'm giving you your own room, as you'll need the space - but of course you're welcome to sleep where you like. But I hear today you're here for dancing lessons?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 23/01/13, 12:11 pm

    Somehow Vinalia always managed to make him feel welcome and relaxed and at ease, even when talking about something as potentially alarming as dancing lessons. It was a talent she had, and secretly he thought it was one she'd probably had to learn because she wasn't really from this world either, same as him. Thinking of it that way made him feel a little more confident that maybe he could master these skills too.

    "Dancing and anything else you and Vedran think I need to learn," Aleyn said with a smile. "I'm feeling kind of worried about socializing and fitting in with all these nobles and so forth."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 23/01/13, 12:56 pm

    "Well, I promise you're in the very best hands here. I'll have Marsa put together a tray for us too - so we can have refreshments when we take a break."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 23/01/13, 01:38 pm

    "Thank you," Aleyn said gratefully. As they headed together into the larger music room, it occurred to him that there were questions he should ask before they even got into the intricacies of dance steps. "So, um... how does dancing work, with this kind of party? Do you just go up to whoever you like the look of and say "Hi, would you like to dance?" or... it's probably not that simple, huh?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 23/01/13, 05:32 pm

    Vedran smiled, squeezing Aleyn's hand. "It can be, if you already know them. Otherwise it is polite to introduce yourself - or, even better, have yourself introduced - beforehand. At some of the dances people, usually women but not only, are given cards with a program of dances to be played, and they can schedule partners ahead of time. So if someone is very popular it behooves you to try and catch them earlier in the evening. There are usually enough guests that you can find someone to dance with if you care to, though."

    Vinalia 'tch'ed softly as she arranged her skirts and sat at the piano. "The other part that Vedran is forgetting to tell you is that it is considered rude to monopolize the same partner for more than one or two dances in an evening, unless you are already attached in some fashion."

    Vedran shrugged apologetically, "Sorry - it hasn't ever been much of an issue for me... But I suppose the rule of thumb is that twice will lead to speculation, three to gossip, and anymore is taken as flaunting. But let's try not to be too overwhelming..."

    Vinalia nodded, folding back the cover on the piano keys and brushing her fingers along the ivory. "Lesson one then." She smiled. "Have you ever done any partners dancing at all before? Vedran told me you were guests of House Duarte for the Festival of Lights - or were you too distracted by the adventure at hand to take a spin?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 23/01/13, 07:44 pm

    "Oh, well, just some fooling around with Kallista. I don't think it really counts," Aleyn said with a smile, trying to commit to memory everything else they were telling him. "And then at my sister's wedding and that sort of celebration... but I don't imagine the kind of dancing we usually do at parties is the same kind they do up the hill." He glanced over to Vedran, giving him a little wink. "So are you saying I should put my name on your card for a dance if I want to make sure I catch you?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 23/01/13, 10:19 pm

    Vedran chuckled. "I'll try and keep a spot open for you."

    "Alright boys, enough flirting for now... Let's try a simple waltz, just to ease you into things..."

    Vedran explained the basics and, once Aleyn felt somewhat confident he understood, Vinalia struck up a slow tune.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 23/01/13, 10:53 pm

    "I thought dancing was basically flirting to music," Aleyn murmured under his breath, so only Vedran would hear. Following the directions he'd been given - not holding him too close or gripping too tightly, keeping a respectable distance between them, and letting Vedran do the steering - the actual steps weren't as hard as he'd worried they might be. If he was making a few mistakes - and he was pretty sure he was - Vedran was able to smooth them over and gently correct him without making a big deal of it, and after a little while he relaxed and actually felt like he was doing pretty well. Then Vinalia sped up the music, and things got more complicated again, but he was able to get the hang of it more quickly this time. And he had to admit that dancing - at least with Vedran - was kind of pleasant. He still wasn't too sure about the idea of trying it with strangers, but maybe he'd be lucky and no one would ask him...

    "So do you always have to lead, or do I get to try that too?" he asked Vedran after they'd paused for a short break, cracking a smile.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 23/01/13, 11:07 pm

    Vedran smiled back, thinking about how the only thing stopping from pulling Aleyn closer than propriety would allow was that his mother was right there watching them. "You should learn to lead.... but maybe not with me. I'm a terrible follower."

    "We can always switch out, too," Vinalia offered. "That tea tray should be along shortly though - lets keep going until it arrives at least, and then we can decide if we've had enough of dancing for one afternoon."

    "We should get Brenn up here some evening too. He'd be a good fourth for cards too, if he has the time."

    "Oh yes, I do enjoy seeing the good captain." Vinalia sighed, smiling wistfully. "It's good to have so many young people around again."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 23/01/13, 11:20 pm

    "You, a terrible follower? I would never have guessed," Aleyn teased, and leaned in to plant a quick kiss on Vedran's cheek. "But sure, let's keep trying this for a little longer, until the tea comes, and then if you feel like taking over the musical responsibilities for a bit, Vedran, maybe you can teach me to lead, Vinalia? I'm afraid I'm not a natural at it like your son here, but I'll do my best."

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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 24/01/13, 11:47 pm

    After refreshments they switched things around, Vedran sitting in front of his mother's harp instead of her piano to provide accompaniment ("I'm better at the strings," he said. "The piano is a stringed instrument," she replied. "But it's not the same," they's responded together, him determined and her resigned). Vinalia was an excellent dancer and a better teacher than her son, guiding Aleyn without leading and providing reassurance and gentle correction as needed.

    After Aleyn grew tired and overloaded with dancing, Vinalia had the card table set up. They barely had time to explain the basic etiquette, let alone the rules, however, before they were informed that dinner was ready.

    "Excellent," Vinalia smiled, dismissing her maid Maralis who'd been roped in to playing as their fourth. "I asked Ronsyn to set the table formally to give you an introduction to what you can expect - but don't worry too much about it for now. We can walk you through it - I don't have full courses laid out anyway."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 25/01/13, 01:26 pm

    Aleyn would have been content to follow them into the dining room, but Vinalia took his arm instead and walked ahead with him, evidently to show him the proper way to escort someone. "You're doing very well," she said quietly, patting his hand.

    "Thank you," he replied. "For the encouragement, but also for helping me with learning all of this. I appreciate it."

    "It's my pleasure. It will be helpful for Vedran to have you nearby during this process, and you'll be better able to handle more important things that may come up if you're not preoccupied with worry about matters of etiquette." She glanced up at him, smiling. "You don't have to be perfect. Try to stay relaxed and be yourself as much as you can - you'll be charming."

    "I'll settle for just being 'not embarrassing'," he said ruefully, as they made their way into the dining room, where the table was laid with full place settings. Vinalia gently guided Aleyn to take her to her seat, and he at least knew enough to pull the chair out for her and help her sit down, before taking his own seat. Vedran sat down across from him.

    Aleyn looked at the wide assortment of utensils with some trepidation. Someone has to wash all of these, he thought uncomfortably. Fortunately the first course they were served was a light broth, so that narrowed it down to spoons, at least. He watched which one Vedran picked and did the same.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 25/01/13, 04:59 pm

    Vedran caught his eye, smiling. "The genera rule of thumb is 'start from the outside in'. But you have to be careful because courses aren't always served in the same order, and some table settings are slightly different. Watching someone else is a good call, but we can teach you all about the exciting world of ridiculous cutlery." He waggled his spoon at Aleyn. "Spoons are a good example of variation - you won't always see all of them, as they typically only get put out of there is a course that calls for them. The soup spoon has a conveniently distinct shape - it will be the biggest spoon at your setting, and it is always on the right... The smaller spoon over there is for tea or coffee. Sometimes there will be an extra spoon above your plate...." Vedran pointed at where a spoon and a fork sat above each plate, left of the array of glasses. "That's for dessert."

    "We're actually having cake though," Vinalia offered with a smile, "So tonight it is only there for show."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 25/01/13, 06:17 pm

    "This might be more complicated than the polearm types Tilma made me learn at one point," Aleyn said with a wry smile. "But I guess the concept is similar. Different sizes and shapes work better for different, uh, targets."

    After the soup was finished and removed, and their glasses of wine were topped up, the salad course was served - thinly-sliced apples and spinach sprinkled with walnuts and a light drizzle of oil and vinegar. Aleyn eyed the assortment of forks warily, then risked taking a guess on the small one towards the outside on the left, since that was what Vedran had suggested was a good rule of thumb. "This one?" he asked, holding it up.
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 25/01/13, 06:37 pm

    Vedran glanced at the forks again, and eyed his mother. "You're mean!"

    She held up her hands in protest. "I can't help it if my staff are very precise!" She looked to Aleyn with an apologetic smile. "That is a fish fork. We're not actually having a fish course, so it shouldn't really be on the table. With forks, at a real dinner, it really does go from the outside in. The salad fork will shift its place depending on whether it comes before or after the entrée...."
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 25/01/13, 08:04 pm

    Aleyn stifled a sigh and picked up the next fork over, which fortunately turned out to be the correct one. At least the food was delicious, which made up for what he was privately starting to think of as the ridiculous faff that surrounded the process of eating it. Fortunately the longer the meal went on, the fewer utensils there were left to choose from, so his success rate was bound to increase...

    Over the main course (roasted quail, squash, tiny potatoes) Vedran and his mother made polite conversation, and it was clear they were making an effort to include Aleyn too, but he was feeling more than a little overwhelmed and stumbled over the opportunities they gave him to talk. "I'm sorry," he said after sitting there looking blank for a moment when Vinalia asked him a perfectly normal question about his alchemy work. "I just keep thinking about how it's fine for me to answer you, but when they - whoever they are - ask me things like this, I'm afraid I won't know how to answer. At least not in a way that doesn't make me look..." He trailed off, shrugging awkwardly, and picked at the remains of his quail (with what was probably the quail fork, he figured.)
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by elanya on 25/01/13, 08:32 pm

    Vedran reached over (past the ridiculous assortment of glasses) and squeezed his arm. "You're over-thinking. Talking is the easy part, and you *are* good at it. Just relax I really think that's enough worrying for tonight... Maybe after dinner we can just sit in the music room, or go play with Macen? Go investigate your room, maybe?"
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    Re: Instructing Aleyn in the ways of high society

    Post by Curtana on 25/01/13, 08:44 pm

    Aleyn nodded gratefully, fighting against the urge to curl up in a ball and never talk to anyone ever again. "That would be nice. I'm sorry. It's just... it's just a lot to take in. And I want to get things right for you. I don't want them..." (that mysterious 'them' again, the nebulous idea he had in his head of crowds of rich, powerful, important people who would be judging him) "...to look down on me," he finished lamely, although it was more than that.

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