(121-04-05) Feasting the Tarbecks
Feasting the Tarbecks
Summary: The later stages of the improvised welcome feast thrown at the Hightower for young Lord Tarbeck and his Regent, Lady Ondine.
Date: (05/04/2014)
Related: None

The Hightower, Grand Dining Hall

The air is weighed down headily with the fumes of wines and rich, dark, bloody meats; generous torches are shown in their most dramatic profusion, reflected in great silver ewers; the hardiest singers still contest the honours of the high harp, while a gaudy, if increasingly soiled grandeur characterises the raiment of the evening's guests. It's a Hightower feast, to be sure, one thrown on a sudden in honour of the newly arrived Lord and (Dowager) Lady Tarbeck; but it's now in the latest of stages, and the Hightowers themselves have better things to do than preside over it.

Lord Ambrose, one of the Voice of Oldtown's foremost counsellors, sits in the high seat in the acting Lord and his kinsmen's stead. The youngish, uncertain looking Lord Quentin is flanked by the guests of honour. On his right, a stout little boy of four, perched on a pile of silken cushions, keeps yawning and looking over at his various foster-siblings for succour, or, in brighter moments, stuffing his hearty cheeks with cakes and sweetmeats. On Ambrose's left, poker-straight, is the dark, lean, pursed figure of the lady they call the Serpent Widow, wearing a distinctly fixed expression.

Lady Ondine feigns a sudden access of charm, which certainly alters her appearance, but perhaps too violently to be altogether reassuring. "Lord Ambrose. I had heard one of my liege lord of Casterly Rock's kin had not failed to persist in this revel. I wonder if he is at hand? I should much like to meet him. My cares have kept me all too often from paying proper respects, and it is surely fitting to make up for it…even if we are far from the Westerlands now."

And even further from the Vale, whose origins still sneak through her husky, insinuating, but for all that, defiantly audible accent.

Another of the new arrivals in town is present as well, as Ser Ludvik Lannister, one of the nephews of Lord Jason Lannister himself is seated a bit further away, sipping his wine while conversing with a few of the other lords and ladies present, looking rather relaxed as he does. He's looking around at the others present every now and then, studying the people present before he takes another sip of his wine now.

At a table nearby, between two politely chatting Reachlords, there is a lady, whose frozen smile could not have been melted down by tunes, or wine, or flattery. Lady Juniper speaks rarely at this eve, often a longing gaze is thrown at the door, an excuse to leave always in the gap between the next bite of her meal, the next sip of her watered wine. One of these gazes, however, enlightens her eyes.

A flushing energy raises her from her seat and draws her towards the new arrivals at town, towards the yawning little boy to be more precise. As careful and quiet as her approach may be, her expression speaks of yet another longing, the longing of a mother cat to smother a cub with rasp-tongued kisses.

"You speak of the bearded youth over yonder, my lady," Lord Ambrose replies in a level, diplomatic tone. "Ser Ludvik Lannister, nephew to your liege lord, just as you say. I'm quite sure he'd be delighted to make your further acquaintance." But he makes no further effort to ease the process, obviously not relishing the task of persuading either a young Lannister or a notoriously proud and touchy ruling lady to condescend to addressing the other first.

Fortunately, perchance, for the long suffering lord counsellor, Lord Tarbeck himself now distracts the attention of his step-mother. "Laydeeondine! I wanna meet that one! The nice one, with yellow hair!" He finishes the last few crumbs of his cake, straightens up, blushes a little, and really looks quite lordly and presentable, for a four year old, under the strange lady's gaze. For her part, Lady Ondine smiles with fell, condescending indulgence.

"It would seem my lord step-son is desirous of being introduced to you, my lady. Pray approach, if you would be so kind."

A late addition to the evening's delights, although perhaps questionably so, is a young noble maiden who enters belatedly, followed by a Septa and two gards who seem to blend with the furniture very well once they have entered. Their charge, Lady Elinor Costayne, may have a certain shy air about her that may appear pleasing to some, yet her unique face, that most will call plain indeed, will most certainly cling to the memory. For now, she is most tastefully attired in a dress in greens and yellows, her sandy blonde hair arranged into a bun at the back of her head, and hazelbrown eyes darting here and there with an apologetic smile as she takes her seat at the table, in a manner that means not to disturb any ongoing conversation.

Having drained his wine, Ludvik gets a refill from one of the servants moving around, while laughing at something one of the others he was speaking with said. Looking around, he first notices the young Lord Tarbeck's words, then looks from the child to the Tarbeck Lady, then to the Lady the Lord spoke about. The Costayne Lady's arrival is also noted, the Lannister studying her briefly, before sipping his wine again now.

Lady Juniper Meadows is pure delight. Like a maid half of her age, she flutters her lashes at the young boy, like dancing in spring she minces towards him and the proud Valelady. Cherishing in satisfaction Juniper fumbles a fold of her pigeon grey gown and retrieves a little, wooden pipe in shape of a bluebird.
"'tis an honour to make the acquaintance of such a gallant young lord. May this little bird chirp your name to me? And that of your noble mother?", she says, offering the small wooden object with in a careful, elegant gesture.

"I may introduce myself as Lady Juniper Meadows of Grassy Vale. A pleasure, a pleasure indeed," she adds with the shortest of all courtly greetings, and a merely curious look at the Lannister nearby, before returning to smother the boy with her attention again.

Little Lord Astarion likes birds, especially edible ones. And he loves presents, especially blue ones. "Azure, like my arms," he declares with satisfaction. He may be four, but he's on top of his House and its heraldry.

Unfortunately, it would seem Lady Juniper is less so, and after her very promising beginning she goes on to ruin everything by saying the worst possible thing. Young Lord Tarbeck flushes beet-vermillion and begins to bawl. "Laydeeondine s'not my mother. My mother was Crakehall, bigger and taller and fairer by far. Everyone says so. Then she…she…"

The ‘gallant young lord’ is breaking down in tears, but his step-mother meanwhile pays him no heed. She is muttering, perfectly audibly, to Lord Ambrose again. "That plain creature over there has a look of the Hightower Castellan you presented me to earlier, my lord. A Costayne, wasn't he? Do let's get her over here, too. Her countenance may not affect the boy as this Meadows chit has contrived to, but that may be a mercy, at this rate…"

As he sees that look from Juniper, Ludvik offers her a nod in return, raising his glass in greeting, before he takes another sip of the wine. Waiting for a few moments, before he starts getting to his feet, to approach the ladies and the young Tarbeck Lord.

Elinor's gaze brushes the Lannister, that brief moment of examination acknowledged with a slight incline of her head, before it tilts a little to the side as she overhears the words Lady Juniper uses to address him. That introduction of the Meadows Lady might have been an encouragement to follow her example, alas, Elinor seems a bit hesitant in that regard, pondering, hesitating,… until she cannot help but catch a word here and there referring to herself by Lady Ondine Tarbeck. Not that she is not used to being the subject of mutterings behind her back.

Elinor rises from the seat she just had claimed and moves over to the unknown paragon of aristocracy. "Your keen eyes have not betrayed you, my lady," she mutters, a faint smile present in her horsefaced features. "I am Lady Elinor of House Costayne, and so pleased to make your acquaintance. If you should indeed feel inclined to let me know your name. As I would not dare to call myself as informed nor blessed with such attentiveness, that you obviously call your own." Elinor's smile is all amiable though, as she offers a curtsey to Ondine - obviously clever enough to discern aristocracy through other means but names of Houses.

Thunderstruck the Meadows lady stands as the first sob emerges from the boy's throat. A certain quiet curiousity drags her eyes towards said Lady Ondine, as her indifference towards the child's distress enfolds. A certain knowing look.

Then Juniper returns to cooing: "My apologies, sweetling and my apologies Lady Tarbeck. Indeed, little bluebird knight - now that you mention it, I can see that you show any trait of your noble mother's family. I should have spotted it earlier." Which traits exactly she chose to refer to remain unspoken.

The newest arrival at their little gathering is greeted with another polite smile. "Mylady of Costayne, it is a pleasure. My brother, a Grimm, once spoke about chosing a Costayne bride, if I recall right. May it be you?"

The proud, upright and severe Lady Ondine, not so very many degrees nearer to the ideal of noble femininity embodied here by Lady Juniper than Lady Elinor is, concedes a momentary swerve of a smile which includes both of the younger, lesser, noblewomen. "Perchance you are a latecomer, or you sat down to this feast without caring in whose honour it was thrown, Lady Elinor? I would not blame you overmuch; both are sins I'm committed often enough myself, in my time. I am Ondine, Lady Regent of Tarbeck, and that undisciplined child, Seven save him, is the Lord whose rule I am here to secure. Ah, my lord of Lannister."

Ondine grins fully now with a keen-edged radiance that can hardly be aught but suspicious as the knight from Casterly Rock draws nearer. "Ser Ludvik, I am told. A great pleasure. I have been hoping for some small while that your lord uncle might come out and visit me at Tarbeck Hall and restore proper order and justice to its sadly harried environs, but for now, meeting you here and now will do very well indeed…"

"Lady Ondine," Ludvik offers to the lady, bowing his head a bit in greeting, before he offers a smile and a nod to both the other ladies now. "My Ladies." A brief pause, before he offers a quiet smile and a bow to the young Head of the Tarbeck House. "My Lord. A pleasure to meet you. All of you." Looking over to Ondine again, he offers her a nod at her words. "I believe my Lord Uncle have been busy lately. I am sure he would have visited Tarbeck Hall had he been able to do so."

When she finds herself addressed by Lady Juniper, Elinor will smile politely. Until that question. "Um,.. your brother? Not that I know of, my lady? Mayhaps he spoke to my father? But it seems I am not in need of such an arrangement anymore, as I am betrothed already."

Ondine's comment is met with Elinor's gaze lowering for a moment. "Aye, I may have failed there, Lady Tarbeck. But allow me to offer you my greeting belatedly, and with no less deference than you deserve. As I will offer you as well, my Lord of Tarbeck." A glance is shot towards the four-year-old, but the Costayne lady manages a most respectful nod in his direction. Before her gaze will shift towards Lord Ludvik and she will offer him a polite smile, should he accidentally look her way.

His lordship has by now been coaxed back into relative composure by a girl of about twelve years' span, who might at first be taken for a servant but is in fact one of his lesser foster-siblings, a daughter of the minor House Ferren of the west. He acknowledges Lady Elinor's courtesies, accordingly, with an only slightly unenthusiastic nod, though another shy smile through those glistening, lately tearful eyes at Lady Juniper confirms that much is forgiven, and they may be friends again. For a moment Lord Tarbeck's behaviour has even become stable enough, and as stellar as his arms, for him to be rewarded with a firm but smiling glance with his step-mother.

"You must introduce my poor late husband's boy to young Lord Lyonel, Lord Ambrose. He needs friends of proper rank and esteem, wouldn't you agree? After all, all these fosterlings are all very well, but Lord Tarbeck will still be an only child for quite a while yet." She lays sharp, lacquered fingernails on her far from swollen belly in a declarative travesty of motherly modesty, before changing the subject with magnificent effrontery, rather than subtlety.

"So you're betrothed, Lady Elinor. How lovely for you." And remarkable, she doesn't need to bother adding. "What about you, Lady Juniper? A widow like me, perhaps, by the way you fuss over Lord Tarbeck? And what of you, Ser Ludvik? I expect you're too busy filling the west and the Reach alike with little leonine Hills to even consider matrimony? I know the minds of men, even noblemen. Especially them, in fact." She yawns cheerfully and takes a fresh slug of Arbor Red.

Listening to the ladies for a few moments, Ludvik offers a brief smile to Elinor. "Congratulations, Lady Elinor," he offers, before he pauses as he hears Ondine's question to him. "Well, so far, no betrothal or marriage or any such thing, Lady Ondine. As for the Hills, nobody has told me about any of them, at least." Taking another sip of his wine now.

"Then it is probably a sister or a cousin of yours he spoke of, mylady of Costayne." Juniper comments mildly. "An arrangement already made. May I congratulate you?" The question is posed carefully before another question, arriving from Lady Ondine, hits her like an arrow in the back. Almost twisted with physical pain she turns around. "No mylady, I am most certainly not a widow. My noble husband stays at his brothers side at Grassy Vale, he is not well. I take care of some diplomatic business over here, until his health is to be restored," she states drily.

A last longing look is thrown at the child, before she returns to Lady Elinor. "Oh, it has been quite a while since I have been in your position. Have you met your betrothed yet?"

Elinor lowers her gaze at Lady Ondine's comment. "Indeed," she replies, her face a polite mask that can barely hide the nervous flicker that is so apparent in her eyes, her head turning towards Ludovik for a brief nod in acknowledgement of his best wishes. Lady Juniper's congratulations are met with another nod, whereas the question will have the Costayne turn her head to the side for a brief moment. "Aye, a little more than a week ago," the Costayne confesses, the twitching of the corners of her lips suggesting some slight discomfort there. "It was an awkward business, the meeting, I mean. But I hope we will not enter marriage as the strangers we have been, upon entering betrothal."

"Then you must be a chaste knight after all, Ser Ludvik," Lady Ondine comments with a throaty chuckle. "Any wench who got a Lannister's bastard would surely tell him as much. Everyone knows your family…" she makes an exasperated head gesture, "pay their debts. And a good thing too, of course. I could scarcely have found a more constant liege."

The Tarbeck Lady Regent seems to look surprised but not at all discomfited by the dramatic effect of her casual query on Lady Juniper. "I see. Well, with a face like yours, you should find diplomacy a hell's gulf the easier than I ever did." She smiles now again upon Lady Elinor, who seems, in a quiet way, to be gaining in this exceptionally judgmental lady's esteem.

"I was an entire stranger to my lord husband, my dear. He didn't seem to appreciate me any the worse for it. He'd had our betrothal hardened to a marriage by the time the morn faded into afternoon. Such a lusty man, was the late Lord Tarbeck. Not unlike his son." She looks slyly over at Lord Astarion, who is still staring right back at Lady Juniper, heedless of the discourse.

The sound of several pairs of boots can be heard from the entry hall, soon enough three people come into view, two men dressed in black with the gold stag of Baratheon on their tabard, and a young woman dressed in a nice dress of gold fabric. It's no question as to who is in charge, the Lady steps forward her big blue eyes scanning the room, for a moment, she says nothing not wanting to be rude and interrupt but she does make her presence known just by being there.

"Chaste, my lady? Or perhaps I have just been… I do not know if I should say lucky, or unlucky, of course," Ludvik replies, taking another sip of his wine now. Looking to the Costayne again, he offers her a brief smile, "May I ask who the lucky man is, then?" he asks. Looking between the ladies for a few moments longer, before he sees the arrival of the Baratheon lady. "Any idea who she is?" he asks the others, rather quietly now.

"Oh well, diplomacy,…" Elinor's voice trails off before she lets out a chuckle. A light blush will creep over her features once the unasked details of lady Tarbeck's matrimony are bestowed upon her. The new arrival of a lady she will acknowledge wit a nod, seated as she is. "Ser Axell Tarly." This muttered in reply to Ludvik's question, the colour of her cheeks turning a touch rosy, yet the awkward expression in her hazelbrown eyes remains. She rises when Lady Juniper departs, offering a curtsey in goodbye to the lady, before she settles into her seat again.

"Now just who," Lady Ondine, always swift to spot a rival centre of worship and fawning, "is…" She frowns as the stalwart young Lannister knight anticipates her question. While she doesn't much like being anticipated by anyone, in the case of her liege lord's nephew she has to bite back her pride. Turning over her shoulder, she calls, as if to a lapdog, "Lord Ambrose…", only to find that he has slipped away, leaving the high seat void. "I think the best of this feast is long over at any rate," she decides, on a sudden. "My lord of Lannister, my ladies both, it was…enchanting…to be…welcomed…by you, but it's obviously time for his little lordship to go to bed."

And without further words, she rises, to be followed out by a flock of wards and a small army of household guards. Small armies aren't good enough for her, though. Someday she'll get hold of the large one she needs, and be off on her ruthless career once again.

Sirawen raises an eyebrow as people start to leave, rather then come and greet her, she gives a small tsk, her hands folding in front of her, big sapphire eyes watching the people go, watching their backs.
Ondine has disconnected.

The talk of her betrothed seems to have troubled young Elinor Costayne a bit, and so, after another moment of contemplation she rises again, this time to leave herself. "I am not feeling well," she mutters as she offers a brief curtsey towards Ludvik and the lady, Sirawen getting at least a bit of acknowledgement of her presence there. "Good eve." Vanishing through the doors, her Septa and guards swiftly following her.

Ludvik pauses as he sees most others heading to leave, before he starts heading over in Sirawen's direction, offering her a quiet smile. "My Lady," he greats her, bowing a bit now. "A pleasure to meet you. I am Ser Ludvik Lannister." A brief pause, before he smiles, "I am unsure I know your name, though."

Sirawen inclkines her head to Elinor and says, "Good eve." She watches the woman go past then turns her attention towards Ludvik, "Ser, at least someone has the common courtsey to make themselves known." She curtsies gracefully and says, "Lady Sirawen Baratheon, of Storm's End."

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