Actions

Work Header

Florianne's Lesson in Humility

Chapter Text

Florianne gingerly walked into the Herald's Rest Tavern, wincing at every step she took. The harlequin outfit she wore was deeply humiliating to her, as it was intended to be, but it wasn't the makeup, tights, or various bells on her outfit that bothered Florianne the most. No, it was the shoes. They were colorful, curled upwards at the toes and were completely flat. There was no heel on them whatsoever! It was unacceptable. Orlesian ladies did not appear in public without heels. That was for common women. Florianne had been wearing high heeled shoes for years and years. Having her heel touch the ground felt completely...wrong.

Florianne had girded herself for another day of standing around in the Inquisition main hall, trying to keep a hold on the few tattered shreds of her dignity, when Josephine had sent her to the tavern with orders to report to some woman named Minvaela. That sounded like a suspiciously elvhen name to Florianne's ears, but she had no choice. With ill-grace, Florianne had walked out of the main hall with the sound of her bells drawing the attention of all she passed.

The common rabble in the tavern noticed Florianne's humiliating outfit just as much as the more sophisticated people in the hall had, but this rabble did not have their sense of propriety and reservation. Instead, many laughed and pointed at Florianne, who grimaced as she walked over to a dwarf who seemed to be running the tavern.

"Is Minvaela here?" Florianne asked in a very clipped tone.

The dwarf swung his head to indicate a corner of the tavern, where a red-headed elf woman sat at a table. The elf had noticed Florianne's presence but had not gotten up from the table. The nerve! Florianne walked over to where the elf sat. Even when she had reached the table, the elf still did not stand up to address her. Instead, the elf woman sipped from her glass and regarded Florianne with an even gaze.

"Well, elf? What is it?" Florianne asked with clear impatience.

"My name is Minvaela. I was going to tell you to call me that, but it seems that your attitude is in need of some adjustment. You will refer to me as Miss Minvaela, then." The red-headed elf woman said in a clear, no-nonsense tone as she set down her glass.

Florianne's eyes narrowed. Just because she had been sentenced to be a source of endless amusement for the Inquisitor and his supporters did not mean that some random knife-ear could speak to her that way. She was still Florianne de Chalons, cousin to the Empress of Orlais. She was not going to kowtow to some gutter-born elf.

"How dare you speak to one of your betters in such a way, elf!" Florianne said, stomping one foot on the ground for emphasis.

"I can see that this will be a time-consuming process. Let us begin, then." Minvaela said, standing up from the table.

"Josephine has asked me to provide you with some training and motivation. She is tired of your sullen presence in the main hall and wishes for you to fulfill the role the Inquisitor has designated for you. Which is to provide amusement as a jester. From today forward, that is what you will do." Minvaela said in the same firm tone as before.

"So I must learn to sing and juggle? Tell Josephine to provide me with an acceptable tutor, then, elf. I am leaving." Florianne said with a sneer as she turned her back on the infuriating elf.

"I'm giving you one chance." Minvaela said in a relaxed but threatening tone from behind Florianne.

"Are you now?" Florianne asked derisively, looking back over her shoulder at the elf.

"If you give me a sincere apology and refer to me as Miss Minvaela, then I will forgive your disrespect. This one time only." The red-headed elf woman said, leaning back from the table and fingering her belt.

Florianne looked down at the elf woman's belt and saw an unusual item hanging from it. It was not a weapon or anything one would use to fight with. Instead, it seemed to be a kind of wooden paddle. Was this elf threatening her with that? Her, Florianne de Chalons? The sheer ridiculousness of the idea made Florianne laugh.

"You should be the jester, I think, elf. Very amusing." Florianne said dismissively, turning her head back around.

Florianne tried to walk out of the tavern, but the next thing she knew, the elf had bounded behind her faster than she could react. In a moment, Florianne had her right arm seized and held painfully behind her back. She struggled as well as she could, but the elf woman's hold was like iron. Soon Florianne felt herself being pushed forward toward an empty stool near the center of the room. Minvaela then stepped in front of Florianne and swung her in a circle. The end result was that the elf managed to sit down on the stool with Florianne's momentum causing her to pitch forward over the elf's lap. Florianne struggled again, but the elf's hold hadn't weakened at all. She could do nothing but kick her legs, and even that was denied moments later after Minvaela moved one of her own legs to trap Florianne's between her's. The commotion had drawn the attention of every eye in the tavern. Everyone on the first and second level of the tavern was now watching the pair.

"If you will not amuse people as a jester, you will amuse them like this." Minvaela said with an air of regret, using her free hand to pull down Florianne's tights.

"You will unhand me right now, elf! I command it!" Florianne shrieked as her cheeks bloomed with color.

Perhaps Minvaela did not know that Florianne wore nothing beneath her tights, but the elf woman said nothing when Florianne's pale bottom came into view. The same could not be said for the tavern occupants. Florianne burned with anger as she heard gales of laughter around her. This could not be happening to her! She could not be humiliated in such a way in front of these low-born scum. And certainly not by an elf. Anyone but an elf!

Florianne's thoughts were cut short as she saw, out of the corner of her eye, Minvaela raising the wooden paddle. Fear filled Florianne, who, until that moment, was certain that Minvaela would not dare to use that on her. Now though, she knew that it was really going to happen. Florianne only had a split second to whisper a desperate prayer to the Maker before the paddle came down hard.

*CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK*

Florianne shrieked in pain as all of her illusions came crashing down along with the paddle. Despite everything that had happened so far, Florianne had still considered herself superior to all here but the Inquisitor and a handful of his followers. Now though, Florianne was confronted with the plain truth; she was not superior to anyone. Minvaela and her paddle had stripped any notion of superiority from Florianne completely.

"Stop! Stop, please!" Florianne begged as soon as Minvaela paused her paddling.

"Please is a good start. But you have more to reflect on. The first five was for not calling me Miss Minvaela. The next ten will be for referring to yourself as anyone's 'better'." Minvaela said without a trace of sympathy, raising the paddle once more.

Florianne paled the moment Minvaela said 'ten'. Her bare bottom already burned fiercely after five. She could not take ten more! But evidently, Minvaela felt that she could.

*CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK* *CRACK*

Florianne was a crying, moaning mess after the tenth smack. Tears were flowing freely down her cheeks, marring the white makeup on her face. Crying in public was absolutely not done in The Game, and it had been one of the first lessons Florianne had learned as a girl. Try as she might, however, Florianne could not stop the flow of tears from her eyes.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please forgive me, please!" Florianne sobbed desperately, willing to do whatever was necessary to forestall any further smacks.

"Almost, da'len. Who am I?" Minvaela said, archly.

"M-Miss Minvaela! Please forgive me, Miss Minvaela!" Florianne said in a rush, tripping on the honorific just a hair at first.

Minvaela released Florianne's arm and allowed her to get off from over her knee. As soon as she could stand, Florianne began hopping in place from the searing pain from her bottom. This caused the various bells on her harlequin outfit to ring, but Florianne didn't care how amusing the onlookers might find it. Minvaela's opinion was the only thing that mattered to Florianne at that moment.

"I hope this will not be necessary again. But having known human nobles in the past, many such corrections will likely be needed. For now, I want you to go to the courtyard and wait for me to arrive. Your outburst made it so that I did not get to finish my drink." MInvaela said, standing up from the stool.

"I-I am sorry, Miss Minvaela." Florianne said quickly, surprised at her own meekness.

Minvaela's face softened for a moment as she studied Florianne.

"Perhaps it will not be so difficult for you, da'len, if you can maintain that attitude. Go on, then." Minvaela said with a trace of a smile on her face.

Florianne took a hold of her tights but waited for a nod from Minvaela before she pulled them up. Florianne would never have expected her pride to be so thoroughly shattered in such a short time, yet that was exactly what had happened. Florianne had been so determined not to deal with her situation, so committed to maintaining the illusion that this was a minor, soon-to-be changed situation, that when the truth had hit her, it had done so with the force of a dam breaking inside Florianne. Her haughtiness had been washed away clean.

As Florianne walked out of the tavern, she could still hear laughter around her. But it felt different to her now. Florianne was still humiliated by it, but it wasn't as threatening as before. It wasn't chipping away at her fragile sense of self-regard anymore. Whatever sense of self-regard Florianne had now, it was too small to be harmed by something as slight as laughter. In a way, that was freeing, wasn't it?

And needless to say, Florianne's shoes no longer bothered her at all.

Chapter Text

"This is too hard!" Florianne whined as the balls she was supposed to be juggling fell to the ground again.

"This is not difficult, da'len. You're just not focusing enough." Minvaela said, shaking her head.

Florianne had an idea about why that was. They were in the courtyard in full view of dozens of people wandering around, many of whom apparently had nothing better to do than to watch the castle jester try to juggle multicolored wooden balls. Florianne hated looking incompetent when others watched, even at something as ridiculous as juggling. The way the onlookers laughed every time she dropped a ball was setting Florianne on edge.

"Can we please do this somewhere more private, Miss Minvaela?" Florianne asked hopefully, her recent paddling ensuring that she did not forget to use her elven instructor's honorific.

"I don't think so. You still don't have the right mindset, da'len. Making others laugh is your job now. Take pride in a job well done, as you won't have any other kind of pride to speak of." Minvaela instructed, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Yes, Miss Minvaela." Florianne responded sullenly.

Florianne continued to juggle for the next half an hour with her elven instructor sitting down on a wooden bench in front of her, occasionally offering Florianne advice. Her skill improved marginally, but it didn't seem to be improving fast enough to satisfy Minvaela. Eventually, the red-haired elf stood up and walked over to her. Florianne dropped all three balls out of sheer nervousness, as she remembered very clearly what had happened the last time the elf had come close to her.

"You have the technique down, but you're too worried about dropping a ball. Maybe this will help." Minvaela said firmly, reaching out to Florianne's waist.

The next thing she knew, Minvaela had pulled down Florianne's tights down to her thighs, exposing her now pink-colored ass cheeks. Florianne automatically dropped her hands to cover herself in the front and back as a storm of laughter erupted from the onlookers around her. Minvaela arched an eyebrow, and that simple look was enough to make Florianne stop covering herself.

"Miss Minvaela, please! I can't possibly juggle like this!" Florianne begged, feeling almost as humiliated as when she had received her paddling.

"I think you can. In fact, I think you'll do much better than before, as it won't much matter if you drop a ball now, will it?" Minvaela returned with just a trace of mirth in her voice.

Florianne inwardly cursed the red-haired elf, though she was keen not to provoke another paddling from her instructor. The elf's twisted logic held some sense, and Florianne had no choice but to go with it anyway. Florianne bent down to retrieve the balls and tried her best to pretend that she was not showing every man and woman in the courtyard a clear view of her most intimate areas. Her first few attempts were awful, but Florianne noticed that there was no change in the general mirth around her when she did drop a ball. Maybe Minvaela's idea had merit.

"That's better, da'len. You're not making nearly as many mistakes." Minvaela said after a few minutes.

"Yes, Miss Minvaela. Thank you for your help." Florianne answered in a sour tone, knowing what was expected of her.

"Go five minutes without dropping a ball, and we'll be done for the day." Minvaela offered, sitting down once again.

Seeing a temporary end to her overpowering humiliation in sight, Florianne buckled down and did her very best to keep all three wooden balls from falling. Her first attempt lasted two minutes before she dropped one, then three minutes, and then finally Florianne was able to go five full minutes without dropping a ball. Minvaela clapped politely at the five-minute mark, and many other onlookers did as well. Absurdly enough, Florianne managed to derive some satisfaction from their applause.

Florianne gripped her tights and once again waited for Minvaela's silent permission before pulling them up. Seeing that the "show" was now over, many of the onlookers dispersed and went to their duties. Florianne could only sigh with relief as she waited for Minvaela to tell her what to do. The sun was close to setting, and Florianne realized that she had spent almost three hours juggling in the courtyard.

"Let us return to the tavern. We'll get something to eat there." Minvaela instructed, already walking towards the tavern on the other side of the castle courtyard.

"I do not have any coin, Miss Minvaela. All of my possessions were forfeited." Florianne explained gingerly as she followed the elf, fearing that she might be expected to pay for her food.

"Don't worry, da'len. I shall pay for it. It must make for something of a juxtaposition, having to rely on an elf to provide for you?" Minvaela asked archly, giving Florianne a brief look.

"Yes, Miss Minvaela. Thank you." Florianne answered honestly, her hunger for decent food easily overcoming her humiliation at being dependant on an elf for, well, everything now.

 

 

"The food here is decent. I can see you agree, da'len." Minvaela remarked, watching Florianne dig into her plate eagerly.

The food served by the Herald's Rest tavern was likely nothing special, but it tasted wonderful compared to the stale rations Florianne had been surviving on for the past few weeks. Florianne was getting used to being constantly hungry, as her only meals were given in her cell during the morning and night, and there was never enough to satisfy her. It had stood as a stark contrast to how Florianne had always been able to summon an elven servant to bring her whatever food her heart desired when she was still a Duchess. Florianne was so intent on eating that she didn't even mind being at a table only ten feet away from where Minvaela had demolished her pride so thoroughly before.

"It's excellent, Miss Minvaela. I almost wish I could have more." Florianne ventured gingerly, having finished everything on her plate.

"Then you shall. I'll get you another plate." Minvaela said, raising a hand to draw the attention of a waitress at the tavern.

"You need to gain some weight anyway, da'len. You're too skinny for a human." Minvaela said critically, looking Florianne over.

It was true that Florianne had lost more than a few pounds during her imprisonment. She had always kept her body at the perfect fashionable weight when she was a Duchess, which meant that living on prisoner's rations for weeks on end had caused her to become underweight quickly. Florianne always had more important things on her mind, so she didn't really care.

"May I ask what da'len means, Miss?" Florianne asked as the waitress put down a second plate of food in front of her.

"It's Dalish for little one, or child." Minvaela answered simply, looking around the tavern.

Florianne felt a bit affronted at that, though that kind of feeling was always going to be faint from now on. She was at least ten years older than this elf woman! However, Florianne said nothing. Minvaela had at least as much control over her as any mother had over their child, and illustrating it was the fact that Florianne could not tell Minvaela to call her something else, lest she risk the elf paddling her again. Like with practically everything else that had happened to her recently, Florianne had no choice but to accept the humiliation she was receiving.

"I think that the people here would like a song. Do you know Empress of Fire?" Minvaela asked lightly, looking back over at Florianne.

"I do, Miss Minvaela. But I'm not really-." Florianne started nervously.

"But nothing, da'len. You may sing it as you are now, or you can sing it with your tights down around your ankles. Which would you prefer?" Minvaela asked again, this time with much less lightness in her voice.

Florianne instantly got to her feet, knowing by now that Minvaela did not make idle threats. Her bells jingled as she hurried to the center of the tavern in practically the same spot she had been paddled at earlier. After clearing her throat, Florianne wasted no time before launching into the song Minvaela had told her to sing.

"Empress of fire,
In the reign of the lion,
Eclipsed in the eye of
The empire of we Orlesians.
Empress of fire,
What season may come,
We fight for the day
You'll restore our heart
And bring us to glory.
We are forever
In your graces.
Empress of fire,
Save us, everyone.
The nation reviles,
The course is but run, and end has begun.
Empress of fire,
Believe in us all.
Embrace us with arms,
And dress us with swords,
And light up our hearts with blood so bold.
We are forever
In your graces.
Empress of fire,
In the reign of the lion,
Eclipsed in the eye of
The empire of we Orlesians.
Empress of fire,
What season may come,
We fight for the day
You'll restore our heart
And bring us to glory!" Florianne finished with a flourish, well aware of how she had traveled worlds away from the concept of "glory".

A smattering of cheers and applause followed Florianne's recitation of the well-known Orlesian song. Florianne bowed, thinking that might be the end of it, when a woman tossed a bronze penny at her feet. Florianne looked at her, then over to Minvaela, who nodded. Florianne bent down to retrieve the penny, only for a man to toss another penny to the ground, this time further away. Knowing that the purpose was to humiliate her once more, Florianne did what she knew they wanted her to do; which was to run after the pennies as if they were gold sovereigns. Which, to Florianne's entirely impoverished state, they might as well be.

More tavern patrons tossed pennies to the ground. As Florianne chased after them, the bells on her harlequin outfit rang prettily, causing more and more laughter around her. Being mocked in such a way by these commoners, who after all, were comparatively as wealthy to her as Florianne (who had nothing aside from the pennies she had just collected) had been to them, was humiliating in an entirely novel way. Florianne glanced over at Minvaela while she was in pursuit of yet another tossed penny and saw that the elf woman wasn't even hiding her mirth. The laughter around Florianne crested after a penny bounced under a table, forcing Florianne to crawl under the table on her hands and knees to retrieve it. Eventually, the tavern patrons grew tired of the game and allowed her to stop. Florianne gratefully left the center of the room and rejoined Minvaela at their table.

"Well done, da'len. You made everyone laugh, and made yourself vastly richer than you were before." Minvaela said with amusement, referring to the dozen or so pennies that Florianne was holding in her white gloved hands.

"T-Thank you, Miss Minvaela." Florianne responded with just a hint of sourness in her voice.

"It's nearly time for bed. I bought a bedroll for you earlier, da'len. You won't have to sleep in your cell anymore, as Josephine has given me custody of you. You'll sleep on the floor in my room here at the tavern." Minvaela stated archly.

Florianne nodded, thinking that a bedroll would be an improvement over the rock-hard cot she had been sleeping on for weeks. Having an elf sleeping comfortably in the bed above her was something that would have been outrageous before Florianne's noble pride had been shattered into a thousand pieces. Florianne didn't particularly care anymore, though. After all, it wouldn't be just any elf. It would be Miss Minvaela.