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Have you no shame? (attn: Hera)


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The corridors and the layout of Illian's royal palace had become quite familiar to Arette Stavros since the coronation of the new Queen. Lady Stavros now, she had to remind herself with an inner grin. The Wheel truly had a sense of irony for thrusting her poor husband into a role of a noble. Con had disliked the haughty and uncaring higher class all his life and now he was one by the grace of Queen Sofia as a thanks to for his help and sacrifices in her ascension. He avoided the palace and association with his new brethren as much as possible and representing their family fell on her shoulders for the most part. If the nobles returned the sentiment with Con, condescending him for his birth in the Perfumed Quarters, Arette was no more popular among them. She was an Aes Sedai and therefore mistrusted. But she had the ear of the Queen as her advisor and the nobles just had to swallow their distaste.


She was returning from the privy and passing one of the many lounges without paying much attention to the conversation inside until a clear and beautiful female voice mentioned the name of her husband. That made her halt and she began to listen what was said inside.


"Did you be seeing Lord Stavros yesterday?", the tone was half disdainful, half admiring. It was that second half that really made her perk up. "I can no understand how the Queen be giving him that title no matter how he did be helping her."


There were murmurs of consent but a hesitant voice finally said. "He did be very brave, though. And I be hearing he lost many men." Finally a ladyling with some sense.


"Mudbloods. Who be caring about them", a third voice said full of contempt and Arette fell her blood pressure rise. Those people who had died had been family and lower class had as deep feelings as the nobility. How cold hearted could one to be to pass their suffering and sorrrow with a shrug of shoulders. "But Hera, I did be seeing how you did be looking at him. I can no understand you. He do be very muscular but too much so which be making it vulgar. And his manners... ugh. And that ruined face, it be giving me shivers. And no matter how the Queen be making him a lord, he be nothing but a dock rat. It be disgusting." Arette officially hated this little bitch now. It was the woman's luck that she did not know who she was.


The first voice responded and Arette could pair one voice and face. This was Hera Menelaos, a twenty year old slip of a girl who was already the High Seat of her House. Many named her the most beautiful woman in the court and her hand was highly sought after.


"I be knowing, Athina", Hera admitted with a shameless chuckle. "But that be the attraction, no? It be forbidden and yet no and he be so different than all those young men courting me. They be just boring me. This be something else, a real challenge. And just be imagining those arms and thighs crushing around you. Ooh." The second girl tittered nervously and the third one, likely lady Athina Kouros, gasped scandalized. Her name was now firmly scribbled down to Arette's mental note book of people to bring low.


Hera was interested of Con now? Light help them all if she ever got courage to act on it. She had no idea how Con would react but it would end up badly, she just knew it. This young girl was everything that he disliked the most in a person. Hera could imagine him in bed with her as much as she wanted but he wouldn't touch her even with a ten feet pole. Con's fidelity was unshakable and the knowledge that she indeed was the one getting delightfully crushed in their marriage bed was enough to keep the jealousy at bay. She had no cause for such feelings anymore and most certainly she would not waste them on this girl who wasn't even one hundreth part the woman Telcia was.


"But he be married and they be having children. And the wife be an Aes Sedai. She be turning you into a toad", the second voice protested.


"They be having only daughters, Basileia", Hera said softly. "And you be seen the wife, she be plain and she be old. I be knowing that she can no have children anymore. I be much more desireable than she and I be able to be giving him something she no be able, a son."


Enough! That manipulating little slattern. Somehow she had managed to discern Arette's weakest spot and burn her if she let Hera Menelaos go ahead with her mad schemes and ruin everything by provoking Con's temper. She was not going to listen to even one more word and the wretched woman's companions were of the same mind.


"You be out of your mind, Hera", lady Basileia Nyxos cried.


"I be agreeing and I be leaving now", lady Athina said coldly.


She squeaked when she reached the doorway and met Arette's dark glare. She was made of sterner stuff, though and managed to compose herself even if her gait was half-run when she passed her and headed toward the end of the corridor like the Dark One himself was after her. Arette's entrance had an effect on the trollop and her friend too. Basileia went deathly pale and Hera stood holding her hands over her heart. She was clearly afraid as she should be.


"Lady Basileia has judged the situation almost aptly, child." Her voice was the blade coming off the sheath. "I won't give you even the credit of insanity, you are merely a fool. You are a naughty little girl whose mother failed to teach you any sense of propriety. It disgusts me that you would plot to break a happy home without an ounce of care."


"The Queen will not need two ladies in waiting like you for some time. I shall borrow you for a while and return you with some sense and ability to serve your country properly. You expressed such interest in my husband's affairs that I am of the mind to grant you your wish. You will meet and attend my daughters and truly grasp the consequences of your plans, Hera. And your lesson, Basileia, is to learn better judgement when choosing friends and how to give advice that is truly listened."


Hera opened her mouth to protest, a harebrained girl, and Arette stuffed it with a gag of Air. "And don't be entertaining any ideas, Hera. You may get close to my husband but he is as far out of your reach as the moon. If you have any wisdom, you will steer clear of him entirely and not enforce his loathing of your kind."


"Come along then, you two. We have much to do today." Not unexpectedly, Hera turned out to be a little rebel and even tried to run from her. It was a stark satisfaction to be given the excuse to smack her bottom with Saidar and by the time they were out of the Palace, she toed the line.


Arette Stavros

Hoping that she isn't making a horrible mistake

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  • 2 weeks later...

She was Hera Menelaos, High Seat.  Noble.  She didn't have to put up with this.  She was better than this, than these people who had come in and overnight been granted the title of Lord and Lady.  Well, the Lord, rough as he was, had been helpful to the Queen to be certain, but the Lady.. she was an Aes Sedai and everyone knew not to trust those.  In truth, she had been a fool to make her comments aloud when the Lady Stavros might overhear, but how had she?  Manipulative woman had probably been following them all along, envious of their youth and in her case at least, beauty. 


She had opened her mouth to protest as they got out of the carraige, but was quickly silenced by what she saw. She was supposed to be living here?  In the Perfumed Quarter?  She had thought the Lord Stavros would have quickly seen to a new estate outside this filth, but he must not have had the resources.


It proved her point of course.  Lord Stavros needed a good woman and she was just that woman.  Others might titter on about the men that came to court them, but Hera liked the men that needed chasing.  She wanted someone out of the ordinary and now that Con Stavros was a Lord, he certainly qualified.  She might turn her nose up at his birthing, but he might be the sort of man that just needed a strong woman to lead him on the right path.  From the state of the house, his Aes Sedai wife was not that woman.


They were in the entrance hall before she finally got her tongue back.  Looking at the Lady Stavros, she turned her nose up slightly to show her distaste.  "This do no be suitable at all.  The Queen do be learning that you be taking me against my will and she do be forcing you to release me." She said, certain in her assertation.  "And you be expecting me to stay in the Perfume Quarters? I do be dead before the night comes.  I demand you take me back to the Palace where I be safe and properly cared for.  I am no fool and no simple commoner.  I am the High Seat of House Menelaos.  I will not be treated thus."


Hera Menelaos

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Walking to the palace and back would have been more preferable option to Arette but Con's new title and her own position required some maintenance and behaving like the nobility was expected to act. The carriage was also safer than walking the streets even if she usually was accompanied by her trio of protectors and especially today when Light only knew what kind of a fuss Hera would kick up. Basileia was quiet and subdued and the slight smiles Arette directed at her didn't seem to solace her much. Hera on the other hand was pure insolence, looking her down upon her nose for the whole ride and openly wrinkling her nose in disgust as they got closer to the Perfumed Quarters and the dock and the smell got stronger. She had grand plans for how to clean the canals with the One Power but five channelers had not been enough and her skin crawled at the possibility of linking with the Asha'man. They could bring only four men in anyway as the number of women had to be greater if the old writings about linking held true. But even that might not be enough with Saidin so alien and men not as strong with Water as women.


It wasn't a worry of today. They arrived to the barracks and even Basileia appeared taken back by their home. It certainly wasn't a manor and 7 rooms was smaller than some apartments in the palace. Still, it suited them just fine and these two ladylings would learn to not sneer at it. Hera begun her tirade of protests as was expected. Arette listened patiently through all of it and in the end she laughed just because it would annoy the woman. She wasn't really amused at all so the short chuckle sounded hollow.


"Dead in a barrack of over hundred men? Such illusions and ignorant fears you have of the Perfumed Quarters, child. My husband has been working to make the streets safe and they have never been more so than now. But you will learn what it is really like here and other things. I don't think that you have ever met someone who you haven't been able to bully by your position or wrap around your finger by little charm and womanly wiles. None of that works here so that is a good lesson."


"You also have an overly inflated view of your importance. The Queen will not miss you and she won't mind me borrowing you because I will return you back more useful. The Queen lived with us for months so she knows what I am talking about. I had to warm her bottom a few times too so don't think that I stay my hand with you if you need to be taught the hard way."


"As for suitability of our home, my husband and his men built this house themselves and Con loves this place. If you want to be truly idiotic, go ahead and make the mistake of snide comments when he is present. I'm sure that you will try to be all honey and milk around him but you can not help your true colours shining through sooner or later. He hates snotty nobles."


"Now, was there something else that you wanted to say, child?"


Arette Stavros

The incarnation of humbleness

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Something she wanted to say?  Oh there were a good number of things she wanted to say, but she had better hold her tongue.  She hadn't gotten to where she was without a brain and she knew how to keep her peace.  She would do what she had to, but there was no doubting she would get what she wanted in the end.


Tomorrow she might rebel a little less against her captor, and in a few days seem contrite about her previous actions.  The woman had already given her a little insight into the mind of her husband and she would be able to use it. 


"No Lady Stavros.  You have made yourself quite clear." She said, not trying to keep the anger from her voice.  "Are we to be your slaves then, My Lady?" she said.  "Shall I scrub your boots My Lady?"


Ignoring the angry tone, Arette was glad that Hera could demonstrate at least that much self-control that she didn't let all the steam out. It was a good start. She smiled placidly. "You can both call me Arette and I will call you Hera and Basileia. Or children when you do behave like ones. You are not my slaves or even my servants but my students. If you are slave to something, Hera, it is your pride but I will try to help you to master it. And no, your first task is not to scrub my boots because you might ruin a perfectly good pair. We will start with something more simple like cleaning and helping me to prepare dinner by chopping things. When I don't have other chores for you, you will keep company to my daughters." Light help them if they did something stupid around Rana and Cina. But one of the three men would always be present to supervise if she wasn't there.


"Now why do you think that I am going to make you do some physical work? I give you a hint. Because I am evil is not the right answer."


She wanted to make an angry retort, but stopped.  "Physical work?  I do be supposing you think to be educating us in the ways of commoners."  Her father had tried to explain to her the virtue of the common man.  He had been a noble, but he had also been a bit too soft when it came to them.  Her mother had been the strong one in the family and had been the only one Hera listened to.  Her father simply enough had been too problematic for the family, always thinking with his heart and not his head.


Hera's tone was still condescending but at least the words were polite. "That is right. Common people don't have servants to do chores for them and if they work outside home, it is usually some kind of physical labour. And every country relies on the work they do like farming and fishing. I doubt that you have ever had to do any work yourself so now you will get a glimpse on what it is like. The Tower uses the same technique for the novices. Every Aes Sedai has spent their first ten or so years in the Tower scrubbing pots and sweeping floors from time to time."


It supposedly made you more humble but most novices didn't really grasp what it was all about and were perfectly happy to leave it all behind when they became Accepted and Aes Sedai. Likely Hera would spend the short time in their house loathing the chores so that was more for Basileia's benefit. Arette would think of other things for Hera that would open her eyes to the truths in Perfumed Quarters. "Tell me, Hera. How do you percieve your role as a noble? What are your obligations or is it just about the priviledges?"


She knew the correct answer even if it wasn't the one that was real.  The Aes Sedai who would be a Lady thought to make her understand her role in the world, but it was one she knew well already.  "Our obligation do be to the people beneath us." She said with a polite smile.  "It do be our responsibility to make certain they do be cared for and well treated."


Arette applauded at the well performed act. It was obvious that Hera for some reason tried to give her the answers she expected Arette wanted to hear. But such behaviour hampered her learning, it bordered almost lying and that was intolerable from mentees. "That would be the 'right' answer but it is not the right answer for you because you don't really believe in it. Why don't you? Is that how your parents brought you up to believe or is it your own conclusion? Out with it. And from now on you will tell me what you really think instead of being politically correct."


"What I believe do be that commoners take care of themselves.  They do no want nobility and they do no think they be needing it.  I be of no mind to change their opinion." She said.  If the Lady wanted to know her true feelings then far be it from her to sugar coat them anymore.


"And how well do you think that the commoners have been taking care of themselves so far? For example what do you know of the situation in the Perfumed Quarters before and after the Militia was found? Why don't they want the nobility? And is there really nothing you feel like you could do for the commoners?"


"There do be things you can do, and there be things that be impossible.  The Perfumed Quarters may be safer now, but they do no be entirely safe, no matter what you do be telling people.  If it do be me, I say they do be too lentient on the criminals and be letting them get away with too much.  If it be me, I do be saying hang the thieves and prostitutes and there be no more trouble do they?  But, they do no want the Nobility and it may be the good for them."  She hated this sort of thing.  She hated being questioned about her beliefs and about a people that were less than common.


Hera's response made Arette frown deeply with displeasure but this was the kind of honesty she had demanded. And they would be getting nowhere if she got angry. Instead she would have to make Hera to question her own beliefs and come to her own conclusions. "Likely no place can be made entirely safe but that should still be the goal. And do you believe that most of the people in the Perfumed Quarters are criminals? Most of them are actually peaceful if poor fishers and dock workers and housewives. There are thieves and prostitutes too but have you ever thought why they take up those trades? Are they really just greedy and wanton or might there be some other reasons too? And how about that poorness? And the shabby conditions of the Quarters? Is there nothing to be done to it and whose responsibility would it be?"


"This do be the Queen's work." Hera said immediately.  "But I do no say every person in the Quarters be a thief.  I be saying that they be too lenient on those that do be caught.  If they be harder on them then there be fewer looking to ply a trade in it.  And what be a prostitute, but an unmarried girl?  That do be something her family be looking into.  If she be from a good family as you say most of these people be, then they do be looking out for her.  But that be the problem.  They do no all be good families and caring for one another.  So you be getting prostitutes and thieves.  They do be travelling the same paths and making this area unsafe."


She didn't think the Lady was enjoying this discussion so she took a deep breath.  "I do no say the Nobles be washing their hands of it.  But I do be thinking it be a work of the Queens to take on such a large task.  She do take taxes from us all to pay for such things and it be her responsibility to be sure that this sort of thing no be happening.  The Queen be new to the throne and I no be doubting you be telling her the same thing, but it do take time, even for a Queen to be making an impact like this."


Arette & Hera

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Hera just was ignorant of the true state of povertry in the Perfumed Quarters. Most of the people who took up undesireable professions had lost their jobs and possibility for earning their livelihood in honest means. Certainly in some families it passed along the generations as they had never seen any other possible way of living but it was difficult to intervene in a way that was actually productive. And everyone had their own families to look after first even though the community as a whole was important. She and Con would work hard to create all kind of opportunities for the people in the Perfumed Quarters but sometimes people would have to change to be able to utilize them and that was the hardest thing of all.


The comment about taxes earned Hera a soft snort. As one of their perks and priviledges nobles were exempt from taxes and had in fact the right to levy taxes from their own subjects. The only ones the Queen taxed were the people of her own estates and the people of city of Illian. It didn't leave her with too large funds to operate with and in many countries powerful nobles had been able to coerce control over the ruler by lending them money. But being indebted to a powerful rival had still been preferable option to loaning from the Tower. The system was hardly equal and it tied the ruler's hands when it came to large investments. And even if there was money and goodwill, the change became real only when people's attitudes altered.


"The nobles pretty much have washed their hands of the Perfumed Quarters. How many of the Lords and Ladies do you think would be delighted if the Queen told them that they have to pull their load for their country and actually pay for some of the infrastructure changes here. But I'm sure that we will have many discussions about this topic. How about your own people? What are your duties and priviledges toward them? Do you actually know how to manage your own estates or do you have stewards for it?"


Arette Stavros


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