(121-03-18) Chapter One
Chapter One
Summary: Ser Abram and Lady Valerity begin a story.
Date: 03/18/2014
Related: None

The mood in the common room of the Quill and Tankard is slightly more subdued than usual for a pleasant summer's afternoon. None of the present patrons of the venerable establishment are Dornish, nor are the entertainers, nor even are Dornish drinks being ordered. One spot of good humor in the common room is Abram, who was bored enough to call for a lyre, which is stood upright on the table beside his goblet of Arbor Gold, a lively little winding melody being coaxed from the bow.

It's not nice to bore a lady, and sadly it seems that two Hightower men accompanying Lady Valerity Redwyne are guilty of just that. The dark-haired waif of a woman is slouched in her chair with unladylike insouciance, a goblet in her hand, looking darkly at all the people failing to entertain her. Bugger. Them. All. She sighs and takes another sip of wine, ears and an elegant eyebrow perking at the call for the lyre. She sits up and turns, canting her head at the music, a smile breaking slow across her face. She holds out her goblet so one of the men with her can refill it — they can at least be THAT useful — and stands, sweeping the skirt of her deep blue gown aside as she makes her way closer to the player. The song is an old one, and a favorite, so the lady adds her voice to the playing — clear and carrying.

"Hello blackbird!
"Hello starling!"
"Winter's over — "
"Be my darling!"
"Long time comin', but now the snow is gone."**

Abram's brow is drawn up as a lady's voice joins his tune, the corner of his mouth following suit in a crooked smile as- without pausing his playing- the Florent dips his head to the woman in blue, setting to the music with a fresh flourish.
Valerity grins at Abram and winks, apparently delighted at his fresh enthusiasm. She leans a hip against the side of his chairback and shares her grin with the crowd the music's slowly calling to life.

"You were beautiful when first I saw your feathers and confectionary airs,"
"Like the earth it up and promised you the stars but you really didn't care."
"I sang in exultation, pulled the stops - you always looked a little bored…"***

Valerity dimples and rolls her eyes at her beloved's boredom, then declares in song, laughing, "I'm singing for the love of it — have mercy on the man who sings to be adored!"

This time, when she launches into the chorus, the room joins in, until the rafters rollick with a communal cry of Long time comin', but now the snow is gone!

Abram mugs along with the lady in blue, heaving a sigh of boredom and letting his eye wander off at the appropriate moment, and chuckling when the affectation passes and Valerity draws the crowd in. "But now the snow is gone!" he adds one more voice to the final refrain and a drawn out flourish on the lyre when a few cheers go up at the end. A merry mock bow to the commons from his seat, and a grand sweep of the bow to the singer, prompting more cheers.

No shrinking violet to begin with — and fortified with wine — Valerity sweeps out an arm and dips slow, bravura curtsies to this side of the room and that. Thank you, thank you — no, no, really. All too kind. Stepping lightly up onto a chair — and then Abram's table — the lady calls out, "You've all heard, no doubt, my uncle is on the mend — and I am certain your bright spirits would aid him mightily in his recovery. Therefore, let's everyone drink to his health — " she grins at the scandalized proprietor, who looks MUCH reassured when she concludes, " —and charge it to the Tower!"
There's a roar of approval, and Valerity turns to look pointedly at Abram, holding out her hand a bit. Give a lady a hand down, would you?

Abram gamely rises to his feet, setting the lyre flat on the vacated chair and giving Valerity the requested hand in stepping down from her impromptu stage. An easy smile greets the lady along with the words, "And I'd just begun to dread that all the fun had been bled from Oldtown."

She tips back her head to grace him with a wide, winsome, up-to-no-good smile. "It's a goodly song and well played," she replies, turning to deftly grab them both cups of wine from the round she invoked with her uncle's purse. "Sometimes people get so wrapped up in their little worlds they miss the music. I — " she's jostled a little by someone passing and sloshes her wine, laughing as she lips the overflow from her hand. "I," she resumes, merrily, "merely provide a spectacle."

"Take a seat, my lady in blue, before you start wearing spots of red," Abram invites as Valerity is lightly bumped, stepping to one side and accepting his own fresh goblet smoothly in passing. His own smile tilts slightly, the right eye narrowing ever so slightly, as though recognizing the mischief in Valerity's merriment. "A spectacle to raise dour spirits. How can you be a Hightower?" he jests with a jovial edge to the quip.

"Oh, but I'm not," replies Valerity, all agrin. She drapes herself in a chair with indolent grace, then leans in to confess her Big Secret… "I'm a Redwyne." She sagenods. "My good Uncle Ormund is by marriage. To my mother's sister — a Lannister. And there is your entry from A Genealogy of Prominent Westerosi Families for today." Then, laughing again, "And since I've managed to do this entirely backwards, I will append, somewhat awkwardly, that my name is Valerity. Hello!"

Abram settles lazily into a chair facing the lady, drawing a savoring sip of wine as piqued interest shows on his face as the identity puzzle as Valerity unfolds it. A sharp laugh answers her 'genealogy lesson' quip. "Well then, my lady in blue: a true pleasure to make your acquaintance, your musical accompaniment is called Abram." A languid motion of his free hand adds a lazy flourish to the introduction. "Condolances on your… second cousin, once removed?" A glance upward as he mentally checks the guess, "Let me cross reference the Genealogy index a moment.."

"Something like that," says Valerity, sobering a moment, though there's a wry twist of gallows humor at the corner of her mouth. "You're a Florent, aren't you? My father always said you could mount a Florent's head on the mainmast and the ears would take you across the Narrow Sea."

Abram smiles deeply enough that the aforementioned ears stir ever so slightly. "And he'd be right, though ask your mother and she'd say there are better things to do with a Florent's head," he returns, adding an irreverent wink to the quip. Chuckling through a sip, he voices, "Yes, I am a Florent, the proud descendants of the old kings of the Reach… and of fuck-all else for the last hundred years."

The rejoinder isn't lost on her — and nearly makes her snort wine up into her nose. She coughs and laughs, her eyes watering, expression one of scandalized delight. "My mother," she manages to rasp, clearing her throat as she recovers, "would have fainted dead away at the thought, and I'm told syncope quite kills a mood." A beat. "For most people." She gives Abram a bit of the hairy eyeball, wondering now. Pervy Florents. She grins into another sip of wine. "Really, who ever taught you to speak to ladies so, Florent? Your mother would be quite ashamed."

"Mothers," Abram answers with an affected long suffering tone. Entirely unapologetic, he leans back, draping an arm over the back of his chair he tacks on with a smile and shrug, "They get indignant at anything fun, what can you do?" His amusement at making Valerity snort her wine is plain.

"So what brings you out of the foxhole and to Oldtown?" Valerity asks, appearing rather engaged by the bold and irreverent Florent. "You've missed the Dolphins, I'm afraid. Arrived in time for the bloodshed and politics, though. Oh, and the lunatic dragon baiting." She holds up a finger to the point. Lest she forget. "There's that."

Abram nods with a wince at missing the dolphins. "I intended to come for the tournament, but was delayed on the road. Arrived just in time to search north with Ser Daevon for the aforementioned lunatic dragon baiting, helped pull some burning peasants out of a farmhouse, then rode south with a few old friends where, for variety, I helped pull a few dozen charred corpses out of a ruined hall. Now here again waiting to see if war breaks out. So," he summarizes with levity, "A spot of merriment is most welcome, my lady in blue."

"Burning peasants," echoes Valerity, her eyebrows aloft. "That probably could have smelled better." She tilts her head to the side, curious and birdlike, the faintest touch of a frown between her brows. War. Hm. File that under Not Merry. So! She chooses something else. "I do have other dresses, you know," she points out. "Will I be your lady in red, tomorrow? And your lady in yellow, the next? Or shall I always be your lady in blue, preserved in this perfect moment, in the eye of your mind?" She bats her lashes. Le swoon.

"Shall you meet me tomorrow and we'll see?" Abram wonders back with a raised brow deepening his grin. "Because until we meet again, this table treading songstress who turned a tavern full of churls to cheers will be my picture of you. Besides," he adds with a light laugh, "This way you wonder what your name in my voice would sound like."

"What a curious and distractible mind I have, to be wondering such things," says Valerity, though now that he's suggested it she can't help but wonder. She lowers her lashes a moment, canting an ear to an imagined sound, and smiles. "I shouldn't have opened so grand. Now I'm at a loss as to what I'll do for an encore."

"Too late now," Abram mock-laments with a shake of his head. "You've caught my attention and you can't simply give it back. But I'm sure somehow you'll manage. Mayhap your escorts have an idea?" The Florent casts an eye toward Valerity's old table, looking for the forgotten pair of attendants.

"Who — Left and Right?" Valerity glances at the two men, as well, and the fellows lift their drinks with somewhat sheepish smiles. "They're mostly for show — so no one gets any untoward ideas. They know a trick or two, though. You should see their vanishing act." She props her chin in her hand and drinks. "So are you a ser, or simply a lord?"

"Left and Right? No promises that I won't mix them up," he warns dryly. "Though I must see this vanishing act some time," he chuckles briefly tipping his glass toward the sheepish pair before taking another taste of the stuff. "I am a knight, dubbed and anointed by a fellow wearing one of those-" he indicates the seven pointed star at Valerity's throat with the words. "And what of you? What brings my lady in blue to the house of her uncle?"

"Ah, anointed. Reminds me of a bard my uncle once had at court," she looks off slightly, recalling across some distance, "'The pointy birds, all pointy-pointy, anoint my head, anointy… nointy — '" she grins wide and shrugs. "Anyhow, he was rather spectacularly bad. And we've already established how I love a spectacle." Valerity's gaze drifts down to her pendant, fingers lifting it to consider, briefly. Another drink. "I was banished amidst terrible scandal," she reports, the mixture of mirth about her mouth, mayhem in her eyes, and simple candor in her tone making it a challenge to tell how much she means it. "How else do you think a lady gets to be long in the tooth as I without the yoke of a husband?"

Abram barks out a sharp laugh, covering his mouth with the wine-bearing hand as the laugh over anointing settles. "Come to think of it, the 'seven holy oils' did smell suspiciously of olive.." Then Valerity speaks of scandals and banishment, and the yoke of a husband, and Abram can't help a merry smile. "So no jealous husband, then?" Another crooked grin as he adds, "I think my lady in blue has found the story that shall make her encore."

"Have I?" asks Valerity, dimples shadowing her cheeks as she leans in slightly on her elbows. "And what if you're only a chapter?"

"Then it will be a very entertaining chapter," Abram quips back without missing a beat. "So where shall I see you next? What do scandalous exiles from the Arbor use to occupy their idle days?"

"Oh, I dance, of course. Play the lute. Pick flowers and braid them into my hair, comely as you please." Valerity flicks a lazy gesture, encompassing whatever other, proper things maidens pursue in story and song. She glances at Abram, then away again, flirting her lashes. "I swim, sometimes. There's a lovely bend in the river, north of town, sheltered by some rocks, clear and calm. Just the thing on a hot summer day."

"Don't we all?" Abram returns to the initial list of proper pastimes, deadpan. "It's why I cut my hair short, it simply took too long to braid the flowers in, before." A sniff and musing sip of wine at the last. "The northern road runs to Brightwater Keep if you follow it far enough. To think I've ridden past it oft times without a second look."

"It's a bit off the beaten path — otherwise it would be overrun, I think. Usually I have it to myself." She glances at her guardsmen and tosses them a wink. "Save for Right and Left, off in the trees somewhere, backs nobly turned, I'm sure." Then, holding out her wine with every (correct, it turns out) expectation it will be filled by some passing server, she asks, "So what of you? Do you sink or swim?"

"Oh, no doubt," the Florent agrees with a sidelong grin and merrily scolding finger waved at Left and Right. The lady's latter question is met with a cheerful, "I've no idea. Quite curious to find out, if I'm honest. Haven't swum in the Honeywine since I were a boy." A last gulp empties the last of his goblet, just in time to summon the server back before they get too far away after obliging Valerity's need.

Left and Right look befuddled at the winking and the scolding; they smile awkwardly. Valerity raises her cup in approval as Abram plays catch up. Though it's not much of a level field, considering the difference in size and build. She's practically a waif. "Well," she muses over her cup, "perhaps one fine, sunny day we might meet again by the Honeywine. One never can tell."

"Yes one can," Abram objects with a small laugh in his throat. "One could even note that one plans to go hawking the day past tomorrow. Or perhaps fishing would make more sense, given the location. What does one think?" he queries, shifting 'one's toward the end with a look and easy smile to the Redwyne lady.

"One — and I'm not saying which — is the very soul of subtlety," says Valerity, grinning, dark blue eyes catching the candlelight. "Perhaps you could teach your pretty birds to fish — then you could do both."

Abram grins and nods, hands spread in a 'you-got-me' manner at Valerity's first before a laugh cuts off in favor of a thoughtful turn of the eyes at her last. "That.. might be possible. Eagles and hawks have fished as long as there have been fish and coasts. Can't think why a hunting hawk couldn't be trained to- wait, river trout hide under rocks. Hrm. Still, should be possible, just take a lot of waiting. Not that fishing isn't eye-gougingly tedious already." Realizing how far off topic he'd wandered, Abram clears his throat and sniffs. "So yes, subtlety has never been called my strong suit. Nor yours I imagine, so subtlety must go soulless between us, I suspect."

"Ha!" Valerity dips her fingertips in her wine and flicks a drop or two in his direction. "I can be subtle, when there's a need. Fortunately that's no too terribly often. People go easily in the direction their head is turned." She glances at Left and Right again, catching Right — or… the other one — in the midst of a poorly stifled yawn. "Oh, my. It's past someone's bedtime, I think. They're perfectly adorable when they sleep, but I'm afraid adorable isn't much of a deterrent to thieves and other villains."

The flicked drops of wine cause him to close his eyes against another chuckle. "Well then, lest Lefty there need someone to defend his virtue against thieves or other villains, I will bid you fare well, my lady in blue." Climbing unhurried to his feet and bowing to offer Valerity a hand in rising, needed or not. "Until next time."

She might need it. She might not. She takes it, either way, and unfolds gracefully from her chair. "Sweet dreams, Florent."


** "The Snow is Gone" (C) Josh Ritter, reimagined in a slightly medievalier style for this scene
*** Listen to it here, because it's awesome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJZiojEGuy0

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