(121-04-16) In Vino Valeritas
In Vino Valeritas
Summary: A Baratheon acolyte, a ruined maid, a skin, strongwine…and truth. So much truth. Warning: Long. Also amazing.
Date: Date of play (16/04/2014)
Related: previous Amadys/Valerity encounters and Patience

Quill and Tankard

One excitable knot of youths at the board of the Quill and Tankard have, truth be told, long run out of formal excuses for their revelry, but where emphasis fails, repetition will do, and so Amadys Baratheon is celebrating his second link for approximately the fifth time. At least that adds up to the holiest of numbers, seven, and the acolyte and his present companions look to have consumed about that many cups of good gold wine each already. The mirth is light, the smiles frequent and fleeting, the conversation cheerfully incoherent.

In a considerably darker mood, and dressed to reflect it, Lady Valerity Redwyne enters the Quill, trailed by her ubiquitous Hightower men, Right and Left. By this time, they know the drill, finding themselves a place to sit where they can watch over their lady but not crowd her, while Valerity settles herself at a table in the corner, quite alone. She glances up at the revelers, some bright flash of wit and laughter catching her attention, and smiles faintly to see Somebody Baratheon there, but then her attention is drawn by the serving girl who comes for her order.

It doesn't take long for the Dark Lady of the Crimson Wines to draw looks and mutters from the rowdy youths. One of the brawnier ones grunts something to Amadys, up till now luxuriating in the apex of the good cheer, and the young Baratheon smiles readily; but he still has a slightly pensive look in his glance, gait, general demeanour. Before too long, he waves aside his fairweather friends - who seem hardly surprised at his habitual casual behaviour towards their jolly band - and saunters over, not far behind from the cider's wake.

"My lady of the vine," he begins with mock offhandness, "we've all been paying you and yours many a tribute here. To seal my late mastery of war and strategy, of all things. In theory…at any event, my lady, why so sombre? I went visiting the dragons a few days back, and was hardly startled to find the place as genial as a proxy lichyard…but I'd thought your friends had lately won…?"

"Congratulations," says Valerity, with what seems like all sincerity, however quietly rendered. "Well done, Baratheon." She tilts her head toward the other chair at her table. "Will you sit?" She thanks the server as her cup and flagon are delivered, the flagon almost black, itself, save where the light hits to show its ruby heart. Arbor Red, of course. "Not all my friends. I count Princess Mariya Martell in my affections, and she, alas, lost much." She pours and swirls the wine in her cup. "I've just been to see her — better late than never. It was difficult for us both."

Amadys's smooth alacrity in draping himself over that chair all but beats the lady's offer - there's a split-second one way or another, perhaps. "By the Smith, my lady Valerity, call me by the name my mother gave me, not my House…after all, if I get many more of these bloody things," he toys with the gold wire and the brace of links at his throat with utterly false modesty, "I may lose 'tother one all together." The cup that glitters in his left hand is as gold as the signet that gleams on his right, in pleasing contrast to the lady's deep, dark vintage.

"I recall that Princess, aye, from our own first meeting. She wasn't quite your…kind, I'd have wagered. But then again, it can be pleasant to let our friends teach us variety. But pleasant as well, truly, to garner companions who remind us of the best, ay, and the worst too, in ourselves…"

"Amadys, then," agrees Valerity, a dimple appearingon her cheek. "But I shall be sad to see 'Somebody Baratheon' go. I did like him." She sips her wine, letting out a sigh simply at the first kiss of tannins on her tongue. "And she wasn't. My kind. She still isn't. But…" She lifts a bare shoulder, the smoke of her sheer wrap sliding off to eddy at the crook of her elbow. "She was an outcast, for a while, when she was a 'guest' of Hightower. I have a soft spot for outcasts. So we became friends." She chuckles. "We couldn't be less alike."

"'S I recall," Amadys muses more than a little mischievously, "'twas your betrothed, that mighty and witty Grey Lion, who dubbed Ser Somebody. Nothing to do wi' me. But s'true, you're not so far wrong on outcasts, and all that. You could say I'm a bit of one too, except for my one terrible misfortune - I'm far too likeable to be kept out of anywhere much for long." He beholds the lady with a glance of long, hangdog mournfulness, before treating himself to a fresh and luscious gulp; then, a touch slaked, he takes up his theme.

"I've missed you sore, fair vine maiden. Not to say as there haven't been other distractions, and some of them most fearfully, excitingly sober ones. Northern warrior-ladies, royal princesses, even a charming little vixen of a Florent…there's a predeliction they say you understand, for one! But all the same, I've found my tongue dry and my heart bare, longing for conversation with a drop more…vim."

Valerity laughs, seeming to startle herself with the clear chime of it. She smiles more easily, shaking her head. "So now I'm meant to be 'vimmy.' Such expectations, Amadys. I might crack under the pressure." A dark eyebrow lifts. "Lady… Sera Florent, I'm sure. I've heard." Her dimples appear on both cheeks, then, and she narrows her gaze at him over her cup. "And who says such things of my predilictions?"

The Baratheon stretches comfortably, twinkles in those dark blue eyes that, in fact, uncannily resemble the Lady Valerity's. "I thought you were a Redwyne, my lady? In name, at least, though in truth I've begun to suspect there's a touch of…venison…to your fine, admirable high spirits. And looks. But in any case, I'd expect a daughter of the Arbor to have heard of the grapevine. Look over there, at all those fools with whom I spend my few - honestly, fairly few - hours of leisure, when I can't find a soul so beauteous as you, instead. Fools they may be, but they like to talk, and drink, and do the both some more, and there's not one idiot among them but as hasn't heard your heart was ajangle in this regrettable trial. And not, I think, just for our innocent Pwincess's sake." A rare example of a pointed lisp…

"Hm," says Valerity, dimples deep and eyes merry. "I will admit that your vixen has a cousin whose… ears I don't find nearly so off putting as at first I did." She bites the corner of her bottom lip and rolls her eyes, comdedically self-deprecating. Annnnd then she's done. "But if marriage is a barbaric institution, then love is a natural disaster. I may not be able to escape the first, but I will thank the Seven to spare me the other."

"So they have spared you thus far, our seven merciful gods, from that…natural…misfortune?" Amadys persists with his perkily inconvenient, and most definitely and ironically Arbor Gold fuelled, interrogation. "Folk have said all kinds of queer things about the tale behind your…residence…here, and most of 'em are love stories, of some more or less tragical kind. Then again, to some degree, I know that quandary of reputation grown in the telling myself. I never quite know whether to deny having tupped my good-sister or not. The prudence of doing so seems to depend a good deal on the audience…but not at all upon the truth…"

Valerity leans across the table, glancing about conspiratorially. "I have an idea that is absolute madness," she shares, eyes agleam. "We… should take wine — lots of wine — and go wandering. And play a game of truth." She waggles her dark eyebrows roguishly, shaking with silent laughter. "Think of it! With you being you, and me being me, and both our reputations being lies, scandals, and legends… if either of us told, who'd ever believe us? We can be each other's merry confessors, secret for secret, until we pass out blind."

She's leaned perilously close in her excitement, and Amadys is quick to mirror her, linking a free arm through hers without an instant's hesitation, as he cranes to whisper vinously, stagily, directly into the delicate ear that protrudes from her raven mane, - again, not so unlike his - … "Done. Of course. Can't think why we haven't started as much already long, long since." And he releases her to loll back and drain down his present cup of gold with a wild, jagged grin.

Valerity laughs, her grin wide and bracketed in deep dimples. "Then I'll go dismiss my poor, long-suffering Left and Right… and procure the wine. You put your prodigious intellect to where we'll wander… and I'll meet you just outside." So decided, she, too, drains her wine, then goes to have a word with her men.

Amadys waits without the tavern, his eyes in the gathering dark flickering especially bright, until his new accomplice emerges…alone. Then he sidesteps nearer, raises a dark blue hood, and mutters from the edge of his mouth, "Thought we could do worse than to wander southwards down the river, towards Starry Street. Takes us towards some…fascinating…patches of the docklands…but also close enough to yon Hightower's…benign…shadow. What could possibly go wrong?"

He offers the lady an arm…while his other hand produces a small but costly looking bottle of strongwine hitherto swaddled in his cloak. Always as well to be prepared!

What could go wrong? "Everything," says Valerity, laughing as she draws her swirling smoke wrap up into an impromptu shroud. "All the things, Which I believe is the point." There's a soft gasp at his genius as he produces the flask, her smile gleaming in the dark. "Oh, I should be quite afraid, I think, if I possessed an iota of wisdom. You're already too good at this." She hands him a wineskin — backup — and takes the offered arm.

Towards the Hightower

They begin at a gentle and fairly straight stroll, passing the skin with the lighter red from hand to hand, throat to throat. The Baratheon's laugh brushes the night air like fur against pine-needles. "Well, by all accounts I've heard you've had longer, keener practice, my lady, and I am but a raw beginner, in this as in many arts. Who is to pose the first gambit, according to the strange rules of truth in the Reach? And no," he insists with a grin, "that one doesn't count."

"I shall," volunteers the Redwyne lady. "Unless you'd rather. We might turn it into one of those games I've heard described — Never Have I Ever — but really, I think there should only be two rules: For each question, truth, and for each truth, a drink." She slides her gaze sidelong at him, all veiled lashes and flashing teeth. "It all depends on commiting to the truth. It's not any fun unless it's dangerous." She lifts an eyebrow. "Do you think you can?"

Well, that's an easy one. The Baratheon acolyte grins broadly enough to be fleetingly noticeable in the dark…then swigs deep! "I await your first sally, then, my lady!"

Valerity twines herself close to his side, humming softly as she considers her first attack. "We'll start simple." She pauses a beat. "Did you really tup your goodsister?"

A decent, direct question, but of all questions, this is the one most calculated to send Amadys's vinous grin packing. "I…" He pauses uneasily. "Does the truth still earn us our gulp if it is a disappointing one? Strangely, you're the second noble damsel to ask me that this week, as I recall. And I must, alas, render the same drab answer. No. Do I get a drink to toast the dryness of chastity?" He is smiling again now, but with a good cheer that feels rather more forced.

"And no, that doesn't count either," the Baratheon adds hurriedly. "You…discombobulated me…into fumbling the rules again, my lady. Most cunning, and cruel. So…my turn…whom did you upset…at the tender age of ten and four?" Not yet why or how, just who, exactly…

"You do," says Valerity, her smile oddly gentle. "All the truths get drinks, titilating or not." She quirks a wry smirk and sighs. "Mm. My father. I thought I was dead to him, until he decided he might get some use out of me in sealing a trade pact with Castamere." She reaches for the flask.

Amadys, according to his latest instructions, takes another glug - at the strongwine this time, looking somewhat as if he needs it. But Valerity Redwyne's first reply seems to calm his temper a little. "Ah, well, that's hardly very surprising. Fathers, eh. Though my own, for all his hulking, martial tedium, was indulgent enough to me while he lived. But I race too far ahead, let my hapless guard sag down already…your turn!"

Valerity drinks her share, glancing again at Amadys as they stroll. "Why did having to answer 'no' unsettle you so?" She hands him back the flask. "And that is my question."

"I have a reputation to keep up," Amadys responds brightly, picking up the pace of his stride a little, and seeming almost to leave it at that…until he shrugs and slows. "But no. That isn't sufficient to earn my drink. I wanted my brother to think his wife had deceived him, in part at least, and it might be the greatest part. And I think I may have…" He bites his tongue and winces slightly. "I think that natural disaster you mentioned earlier may have entered into the affair. On my side anyway. I could not speak for Lady Baratheon. Enough, for now, if you'll let it rest at that."

He raises the wineskin a little questioningly as he asks, teasinglyoffhand in tone, "What colour had the eyes of the first man you loved? Loved as a natural disaster, I mean! I won't be content with hearing about your father again this time!"

"You loved her but never loved her," Valerity says, considering the detail as though it were something melting on her tongue. "Huh." She chuckles. "Strangely, this is the first time I've wanted to kiss you." She uncorks the strongwine, reflecting in silence before answering, "Brown." She squints at the darkness, peering back through the veil of time. "I never favored brown, at all. Such an ubiquitous color, so common — wood, dirt, the fur of beasts, the water in the harbor… all brown. But of course, he was different." She drinks, recorking the flask as she goes on, "I thought I saw streaks of gold in them… so it wasn't brown after all, but amber. Dark, dark amber. Honey in the hive, where sunlight doesn't reach, a deep, sweet secret."

The Baratheon at her side laughs yet again, but now distinctly wryly, at her pun, and it is a mirth of which he does not seem to be in utter control, a kind of light convulsion that makes his whole, lanky frame shudder tangibly; not least when she admits to a touch of quickening…sympathetic…desire. "The singers say the truly noble lady must possess a gentle heart, must feel pity for her ailing swain. 'She loved me for the perils I had passed, and I loved her, for that she pitied them.' It might be that my lady of Baratheon, the nightingale of Caron as she was born, felt something of all that. But somehow, I suspect it's all more than a little different with you, my lady Valerity. Well, wash down your brown amber with a little bloody ruby. I do believe you've earnt it…"

She takes another sip, though it might be her second for the question — who's counting? She licks her lips in consideration. "And why, if you loved her, did you want your brother to think she was untrue?"

There's something a little sulky, more than a little hangdog and ashamed, too, perhaps, in Amadys's latest shrug. "Well, I was young, impulsive, …selfish…a bit of a fool. Still am, I suppose. My father lay quite freshly stripped in his vault, my half-brother was newly lord and…scarcely a friend. I felt deeply, inwardly envious in a way I was not quite fool enough to show…so I wanted to make him feel jealous and look ridiculous, in turn. I felt myself the worthier wooer, no doubt, too, and I think our new Lady Baratheon preferred, perchance prefers, my conversation…but no. It is a mean truth, this, but a truth. I wanted to hurt my lord and brother as…intimately as I could. I thought no further forward. I…rarely do."

He drinks quicker and deeper, like a stranger lost in Dorne. "This brown-eyed drop of amber of yours…he was not, I think, nobly born…?"

Valerity leans her shoulder gently into his, sliding her hand down from the crook of his arm to interlace their fingers. "Ah, no," she chuckles with rue. "A valid assumption, but quite wrong. He was a Tyrell." She takes another sip, swallowing slow. "They used to come spend the hottest months of the year at the Arbor. Probably still do. Winds off the water on all sides, you see. It's lovely." She offers him the strongwine. "Have you ever loved another?"

"A bloody Rose?!" Amadys snorts magnificently, spattering red wine over his pallid, close-shaven chin. "Doubt he realised his luck. Probably got sozzled on hippocras and thought you were his squire. If you'll pardon my disrespect, my lady," he adds with softly mocking courtesy, "to the Lords of the Reach, and the memory of first love." Valerity's next question elicits a merry, full-throated chuckle. "I should think so, my lady! Of course, there's love and there's love, but one should never dishonour fine, grateful memories, as I say. I'm sure I had an honest enough affection for the poacher's daughter by Stonehelm who did me the service to make a very young man of me. I am not unmoved by certain fair countenances in this city, no more than you are. And, then there's someone else, someone distinctly fascinating, who speaks and listens like the sweetest temptation of all the hells, or heavens, for all I care. Can you guess where she might be now, my lady, or what noble name she graces?"

With all a stag's elegant subtlety he strokes the hand she has enveigled into his, his signet near prickly as his touch is delicate… "And that one does count!"

Valerity laughs at his outburst, the little rant startling a peal of bright laughter from her, something far more like giggles than the smokey chuckles she often tends toward. At his further treatise on love, however, she rolls her eyes. "Alas, and now we stray from truth to philosophy. What is love? Does it not come in shades, in degrees — how can we so besmirch 'honest affection' by denying that tender conceit its place at the table, along with agappe and all the rest?" She reaches to take the wine skin from his fingers. "I hardly think that answers earns a drink." Or an answer to his newest question, it seems.

"A cruel vine indeed, who would rather wither and waste than quench the keen thirst of one of her most devoted scholars," Amadys persists, with more ardour than coherence, but after a pettish writhe of his mouth, he seems to relent to a degree.

"Well, you did say, and you said it rightly, that I loved a certain lady who may or may not be married to my brother in one way, but not in the other. Rest assured I have loved in…the other…often enough; though I admit but rarely with noblewomen, let alone such charming and candid ones as I have walked beside this eve. Since you press me, I'll admit a little more. Baulked of your natural disasters…I'm pondering the barbaric institution, after all."

"Are you? Good Gods." Valerity stares a little, then hands over the skin. A man on the verge of considering marriage clearly needs a drink. "I didn't think Maesters married."

Amadys's chuckle acknowledges her hit, but not with overmuch gravity. "My neck is near as slender as yours, my lady, but two links scarce fit about it, all the same. A certain lady seems prepared to bet against me finishing the rest of the chain. For myself, I remain divided…but being divided is the only constant in the life I lead. Mayhaps it's time for another question, if you'll forgive a selfish one." Behind his joviality some genuine ruefulness lurks. "Reckon I'd cut a poorer figure as a maester or a husband…?"

Valerity cants her head, considering the question with a subtle, sweet gravity. As though it were important. "I think the Citadel's the path of least resistance, until it asks vows of you. I think the pursuit of rings is a thing of vanity, not love, for you… and safe. You could be a terrible Maester and still be a Maester. Many are." She rubs her lower lip absently. "I think you'd be a terrible husband, if you used a wife like you use a tower of books." Then, finally, "I think you could be splendid at either, if you decided you really wanted to be. And to be brave."

Amadys does not bother to deny either verdict, nor exactly rally to the concluding exaltation to his willpower or courage. He just grips onto Valerity's forearm a fraction tighter, and sways his head more in dizziness than affirmation. "'M not doin' too well at this, am I, my lady? All that spilling my heart and guts, and all I have to show for it is the tale o' some errant rose or other. Ask me to answer a question about y'self now in turn, if you would - I need help catching up!"

Valerity seems to be doing substantially better on a number of fronts, but Amadys probably has a substantial head start on her drinking, for the day. She gives his arm a squeeze. "I'm not even sure I understood that set of instructions." She guides him to a little bench overlooking the water — they're closer to the High Tower, now, and the harborfront is more scenic. "Sit with me, sweetheart."

Valerity seems to be doing substantially better on a number of fronts, but Amadys probably has a substantial head start on her drinking, for the day. She gives his arm a squeeze. "I'm not even sure I understood that set of instructions." She guides him to a little bench overlooking the water — they're closer to the High Tower, now, and the harborfront is more scenic. "Sit with me, sweetheart."

<FS3> Amadys rolls Carousing: Good Success.

"That wasn'a question," the scholarly acolyte objects, "'twas an imperative." Nonetheless, he settles down beside her obediently, and indeed gladly, enough. Just as the game seems to have paused, so too has his steady glugging; but though the wineskin of lighter red is all but emptied, the strongwine is still about half full. Amadys stares into that oceanic night, but swerves without hesitation to peruse his companion instead. "Fair's fair, and s'fair view, yonder…but it's nothing on Storm's End…and this eve at the least, I'd swear our draughty old boxin' glove of a stronghold itself is nothing on you."

Valerity squints at Amadys in merry bemusement. "You're daft," she tells him, fondly. Then she asks, "What in the world would you do with me, if you ever caught me?"

"Is that a real question?" Amadys retorts. "…I thought it was established we both knew the answer to it, at least, if little else! In truth, if one could wed for joy…if you were very rich, or Lord Baratheon was profoundly heirless…I could conceive of us taking as much pleasure as we gave shock. Only if we could wed, mayhaps, there'd be no shock…and so, just possibly, no pleasure. What a queer joke the world is." He laughs, and his spirits, by that timbre, seem to have soared unexpectedly. "What's the best you hope for in your dreams, my lady, if you permit yourself any? Does it surpass defying the whole lot of 'em, and taking to the road with a song and a stack o' debts? That's what I start to scheme upon, when I look at you, and drink with you, and speak with you, and look more, and drink much more, and speak I scarce care what! We could live this night, until we died. They'd not forget us in a hurry, 'tany rate!"

She smirks, lowering her lashes, accepting the honest answer. Strangely, it touches her, and she strokes fingers back through his hair… and kisses his forehead, sweet and lingering. "To forget us, they'd have to have known us in the first place," she says softly. "And they don't, sweetheart. Not at all." There's a question posed, though, so she hands him the strongwine for his answer, and settles in to consider the moon on the water, and how she might answer, herself. "Anything at all…" she muses. Then, laughing, "I'd likely run off with a bunch of mummers. Music. Bard's tales. Enchanting a room from the stage — or a convenient table top, I'm not picky. And then," Valerity considers… "Hah! And then I'd probably marry for love, like every other fool."

"And then, only then, you might let yourself love a fool, too," Amadys muses in an oddly far away voice, before he swills back more of the strongwine and, exuding its heady odour, begins without very much further ceremony to nuzzle Valerity's throat with his lips and tongue, a tongue which has found infinitely more attractive enterprises within its ken than mere questions, apparently…and even than wine, at that…

Valerity — sits bolt upright, all wide eyes in the dark, like she's sat on a tack. She doesn't dissuade him immediately, insteady eyeshifting over as though there might be some alternative explanation for his tongue that she's not grasping. Then she just bursts out giggling, hunching a shoulder to prevent access to her neck. WIth a gentle, firm hand, she pushes him back into his own space. "Who is this lady you're thinking to wed?"

Amadys collapses backwards with exaggerated, comedic forlornness, but his eyes, wide but downward cast, now echo the lady's in their solemnity. A pause settles, before the Baratheon answers in impeccably respectable tones, "A gentleman never tells, my lady…"

Valerity groans, rolling her eyes elaborately and taking the strongwine in sanction. "Game over. How positively boring is that?"

As the strongwine slips like a smuggler's vessel beyond the young stag's reach, Amadys's hastily assumed cloak of high and lordly pomposity mysteriously finds itself fraying. "…I spoke merely by way of education. Poor gentlemen, eh? They have quite a barren time of it. What, er, ah, what do you recall being taught about the North, sweetest lady of strongest vines…?"

She eyes him. "The North?" Then her eyes widen, and she gasps, turning toward him with a leg tucked up girlishly beneath her, in a rhapsody of shock and glee. "You mean it…!" Valerity gapes, then hands the strongwine back to him. "You do need this if you're thinking to marry the She Bear. She'll break you in half!"

"Maybe I'm stronger than you think," Amadys mutters sullenly, not for a moment sounding it, before accepting the bottle as if he's in his last moments. Several fruitful glugs later, he avers, "Lady Maera is…near…as beautiful as she is valiant. Marriage to her would more than satisfy my lord brother, while delivering me a measure of power and stature for very little effort." So why does the current acolyte sound so uncertain…and drink so fast?

"I suppose," says Valerity, shrugging. "If you don't mind being decorative. And… cuckolded. And basically useless." She rolls her eyes. "Not that I have anything against cuckolding, mind you. It does seem to be the way to survive marriage, if one must."

"In my family, we bear our horns with pride," Amadys declares with all the harshness of someone very, very far gone. He has inflicted a valiant assault on the last of the strongwine when he passes it back over in a long, limpening hand, drooping himself as he does so across Valerity's back, but this time, it seems, more in a flagging search for consolation than amorous intent. "Marriage…it was always the trap. Love was the game. You could end all that, you writhing, slippery vine. It'd be glee and drink for the rest of our days. Valerity. Such a pretty name." And all of a sudden, innocent and noiseless as a well-weaned bairn, Amadys Baratheon soundly sleeps.

With a tenderness she would likely never show him awake, Valerity twines Amadys up in her arms, letting him rest against her. She, in turn, rests her cheek atops his hair… and sighs. "Poor, sweet boy…" she murmurs. And so they remain to watch the sun rise. One of them, at least.

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