(121-05-06) Magnificent Beasts
Magnificent Beasts
Summary: The ladies Mormont and their cousin discuss stolen kisses, blatant propositions, marriage, and other disasters.
Date: 06/05/2014
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

A single sequence of notes is repeated for about the two hundred and thirty-second time, the chords lingering now hours in the largest room of the Sailmaker's manse. Lady Ulyka Mormont's fingers are already staining the strings with tiny driplets of red, yet she keeps plucking them with emphasis, more and more eager to come closer to perfection even if it is nothing but stubbornness win over the blisters. Neither the smell of the freshly baked bread, nor the warm invitation in the steam over the soup seems to be able to draw her from her place beneath the window colser to the table.

"I'll come and eat in a second. Let me just get this right," she half huffs, half explains over another attempt to master the complex set of tunes.

New to the Manse, Maege took some of her the recuperating time to walk around and get used to her new surroundings. Now, however, she dips her bread about her soup and glances at Maera. "Feeling better?" She should be by now, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

"If she spent half the time on useful things as she does on that damned lute…" Maera murmurs between bites of soup. She lets out a long-suffering sigh, and spoons more soup into her mouth. "Physically? Fine. I feel like my pride has been shattered into a million pieces."

The repeated line of music is one that Maege is mostly able to tune out, though she will turn an eye to her youngest sister every now and again. "You've been practicing for hours, Ulyka. Come and sit with us. Surely a few minutes to eat won't set you back?" Plus, it would be nice to have some quiet. To Maera, she gives a small, reassuring smile. "Your pride will grow back." Her voice lowers just slightly. "Anyway, I'm sure I was the only one who saw."

"Saw what?" asks Harry, sweeping in from the kitchen with a bowl of ripe black cherries. She sits at the table and props her chin in her hand, frowning at Maera in concern. "What pricked your pride, cousin? I was just telling my goodbrother, Loryn, how magnificent you were, earlier today!"

"I don't even know why I did it. He's not not handsome. In fact, he's somewhat funny looking." Maera takes a swallow of her beer, "And he thinks he's far funnier than he actually is. Ugh. Men!" She sniffs before tucking into her soup again, choosing not to answer Harry's question. Instead she rolls her eyes at Ulyka, "Enough! Come eat."

"By Mother Bear's six hairy tits!" Ulyka growls as the seed of imperfection seemingly still cannot be banned from the next repetition of the tunes. With a hearty, frustrated growl she tosses her instrument aside, lifts her fingers to her mouth and joins the other women at the table.

"M'lute'suseful'nough," she mutters, sucking the pain out of her forefinger and spreading a disgruntled look. A disgruntled look that grows more fierce as apparently another man is the subject of conversation. Now her hand is lowered to make room for suspicion: "Who thinks he's funny?"

Harry puts her hand over her mouth, staring at Maera with wide eyes. "Oh. My gods. Did you…" she sort of leaves it vague. Fill in the sin, people! "With who?" She pops a cherry in her mouth and chews, looking delightfully scandalized. "I'm the worst. Chaperone. Ever!" And not even a little sorry, either.

Maege lets Angharad glean what Maege might have seen that caused Maera to be so embarrassed. If her sister wants to tell the full tale, she will. Instead, she takes a bite of her bread and glances between all three Northerners. "He seemed nice enough. If a little ridiculous. It was the heat of the moment after a battle. It's understandable." She grins and takes a bit of a deep breath now that the same notes are not being repeated over and over again.

Maera sits her spoon down, and gives Harry an astonished look, "I didn't do /THAT/." She flushes pink, and glances down at her bowl. "…Oh Others take me! You know what's worse is I told him I'd help him with an Ironborn issue he seems to be having." More beer is swallowed down, and she puts her face in her hands and lets out a groan.

"Who?" the youngest Mormont sister now having refrained from repeating notes seems to have found a new litany to get started with. A litany of questions.
The single word in Ulyka's throat seems is spoken darkly and with a chill that seems to chase away all the cosiness from the bread scented meal.

"What?" she adds and seems to ban all the warmth off the beef and barley steam.

And finally, with a metallic voice every stern judge could be proud of she asks:"When?"

Well. There was only one funny, funny-looking, Ironborn-issue-having man worth kissing at the wildling skirmishes, really. It doesn't take a Maester. "Maera MORMONT!" Harry gasps, beaming, only technically aghast. Where's the wine? Harry pours herself a cup and drinks. "It's all right," she tells her demoralized cousin. "He turned me down, too."

Once Maera's head is in her hands, Maege mouths 'Riderch' at Angharad and Ulyka. If the Ironborn issue is not be clue enough as to who the person may be. It seems that Angharad has figured it out, so it is for the benefit of Ulyka. Her tone, however, is serious when she says, "It may be best to get it over with and face him while you have a common issue to deal with. Plus, I will be there to help and, maybe, make things a bit less awkward." She slides her own cup over for Angharad so that while she's pouring she can add to Maege's glass. "See, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. Angharad isn't embarrassed."

Maera ignores Ulyka with a slight roll of her eyes. She's in no mood to deal with her younger sister's judgements. She picks up her spoon to have another bite of soup, and almost chokes on it at Harry's words. She washes it down with her beer before staring at Harry, "When did you have time to be rejected by him? Harry, you're still married. If you run around gallivanting with men the Tyrells will throw you into a Motherhouse, and throw away the key!"

Harry pours for Maege, nodding. "And unless you mounted his lap, pressed his head to your bosom, and cried, 'Take me, Blackwood, you magnificent beast!' I'm sure you couldn't have behaved worse than I did." She rolls her eyes, too. It's a family trait. "It was very discreet gallivanting, I promise."

"You did what?" Maege's eyes widen as she hears Angharad's tale. She takes the glass of wine and abandons her soup for now. It seems as if this is now the time for drinking and less the time for eating. "How is that discreet?"

Ulyka's reproachful eyes slowly trickle down on Maera, before they slowly sink into her soup. She doesn't add another word when at least part of her questions are answered, but her teeth scrape firmly over one end of her wooden spoon, while the other is soaked with blood from her fingers.

As she hears Angharads elucidations she almost looks hurt. Defenselessly and aghast she nods at Maera's words. "Harry, you… they… Maera is right."

"Trust me. Nothing is ever completely discreet. Someone /always/ finds out." Maera lets out a little sigh, and shakes her head. "No. I just kissed him. And he didn't move, and said, 'That was…ah, nice?' after it happened. And I realized he didn't want it or me so I sort of ran away, and got very drunk. It's all very embarrassing." She sighs, "I'm just lonely, and the only man who seems remotely interested is that horrible little Baratheon acolyte. I don't think I want to marry him."

Harry laughs, sitting back and shaking her head. "That was a little bit of hyperbole, ladies. Please, everyone unswallow their tongue." She explains to Maege, "It's discreet because no one knows anything about it, or ever would know, save that I told my loving Mormont cousins in confidence. And solidarity," she adds to Maera, fondly. "I only… discussed with him. His thoughts on discreet affairs with married women." She blushes, then, just as embarrassed, now that she's said it out loud. She drinks. "He did basically the same thing. Told me I was lovely. But he's in love."

Almost automatically, Maege reaches out and pats Ulyka on the shoulder. However, most of her attention remains on Angharad and Maera. She gives her elder sister a sympathetic look. "As you just described him as horrible, no I would not think him a good choice. As for the Blackwood, you did not declare your love for him, nor did you attempt to crawl in to his bed. You kissed him after a hard fought battle. There is no harm in that. In the meantime, we'll find someone more suitable for you." Maege Mormont - matchmaker. This will most likely not end well. To Angharad, she shakes her head. "Except for the people involved. We, certainly, will not tell, but he may make a stray comment to someone else. You have to be careful, Angharad."

Like a house made of thin twigs in a storm, Ulyka sinks down at the table.

"Of course I won't tell a thing, but… yes. Again, Maera is right here. The Southern ladies, as graceful as they are seem to have ears everywhere. When their men are barely able to handle their swords, they are more than able to pluck rumours like some bloody flowers from their pretty gardens. Love is a sickness that could cause death down here, they say," she explains feebly. "I don't want you to die."

"I am — I will be. I promise," Harry tells Maege, more earnestly, not without gratitude for the concern. "I wouldn't have dared, but that I believe him to be an honorable man. And kind. For all that he's a little strange." She sighs. "He was bloody magnificent in the field. I can understand entirely why Maera was overcome." She melts a little for Ulyka's speech, leaning over to hug the most musical Mormont. "Sweet Uly. No one's going to die. At least not for a very long time."

Maera reaches over to put a hand on Ulyka's shoulder, "No one is going to die." She gives her youngest sister a light squeeze before looking back to Harry, "No affairs. Please. Nothing like that. They will ruin your life. The Tyrells are not good people, Harry. They'll throw you away so Laurent can have another wife if they can find an excuse." She looks to Maege, and lets out a brief, bitter laugh. "Maybe I'll go home and wed a bear like the other women on the Island whose children have no fathers? I am beginning to dislike men and the idea of binding myself to one more and more."

"It will be fine," Maege also reassures Ulyka. To Angharad, she frowns. "Even kind and honorable men say and do things they should not. They will make mistakes just as the rest of us." Though she does not know the Tyrells or much of the makeup of the politics in Oldtown at the moment, she will allow Maera to make the proper advice. With a bit of a teasing grin to her sister, she tells her, "We did pass a few grand bears on the march down. Perhaps I could ride back to make the introductions." Though, more seriously, she adds, "But, if you are lonely, I am sure we can find someone agreeable." Nothing about marriage spoken here.

Harry's hug is answered with the well-known Ulykaian reluctance: with a huff (this time a milder one, almost the most lenient of all huffs) she says "Harry, Maera - I don't think you take me seriously. I'm neither a child, nor a dimwit, believe me." Disappointedly she shakes her head.

"At times I wished you would follow your own pieces of advice sister, yet I still think it is too early for you to marry a bear. You are an often admired woman and the head of a house… pick a husband and you should have a good one. Maybe neither that Riverlander, nor that terrible stag, though. And… how can you feel lonely right among us? I know how you breathe when you sleep, I can even tell whether your dreams are pleasant or haunting by the mere sound of your breath at night. I… once you're married I won't be able to listen to that anymore." Ulyka says, swallows and lets her usually fierce eyes wander weakly to the last ribbon that still remains of her lilac linnen.

"Of course we take you seriously, Uly," Harry says, not very seriously. But at least affectionately. She shakes her head at Maera. "Cousin, sweetheart, not long ago you had more men vying for your attention than I could shake a stick at. I think you're still far out from having to ride a bear. Chin up." She drinks, a thoughtful swallow, and ventures, "Would that be such a terrible thing? If Laurent put me aside?" She rests forward on her elbows. "Not for infidelity, but for something no fault of my own."

"You're a girl of four and ten. Not even flowered yet." Maera /tries/ to say gently to Ulyka. As usual, her words come out more bluntly then she means them to. "And women of our Island have had lovers and romance before husbands for centuries. We don't do things like these southerners, and you need to get that in your head. Stop shaming me for doing what we've always done."

She lets out an aggravated sigh, and looks to Harry, "Sweetling, he can't put you aside unless you do something wrong. Under their Gods you will always be his wife…unless he can prove you have been unfaithful, and force you into a Sept as a Septa, or worse into the Silent Sisters. There is no happy ending for you if he puts you aside."

"We do," Maege tells Ulyka more seriously. "We are worried for our cousin, just as you are. And Maera's loneliness has no reflection upon us. It's…" How to properly explain to a young girl? "It's a bit different." To Maera, she adds, softly, "I do not believe Ulyka said anything that might shame you. She said she would miss you once you were married and no longer living under the same roof and that you could have your pick of a husband, should you want one. Angharad agreed." At least about the pick of her men. But, she has to agree with her sister in regards to Angharad's future. She frowns, takes a sip of her wine and nods.

"I have it on fairly good authority that there's another way," says Harry, looking down into her cup. "A man can set his wife aside if she's barren. It just means… that no one else may ever want to marry me." She shrugs and drinks. "And that's fine by me." Well, not entirely fine. But better to her, it seems, than the alternative.

"Yes, Maege. Yes. I just told Maera, I would bloody miss her if she you chose to sleep in a bloody bear's cave or Riverlander's swamp or whatever. I've slept at your side since I was nothing but a naked, crying bundle. But I also know how well most of those romances ended this far, and if I was to chose between one of those hairy men our ancestors chose as their bed-warmer I would thankfully decline." Ulyka says, raising from her chair.
"And for you, dear Harry - there is a reason there are no songs about beautiful but barren ladies, but more than just one story about how they swapped their bright gowns for the plain grey ones of a septa. Be careful about what you say."
Her spoon is now set aside and left behind as she turns towards the stairs. "I am not hungry anymore. "

"But you're not barren. You only lost your babe because of that bastard…." Maera trails off quietly before getting that 'I have an idea' look on her face. She laughs suddenly then. "Oh, goodness, I have a good friend who could help us out with this, I think. And it won't end in you becoming a Septa or a Silent Sister. You'll just remain with us."

Maera pointedly ignores Ulyka's dramatic departure.

"Ulyka," Maege now turns to her sister with a frown. "There's no need to sulk, stay with us. Don't you want to hear of Maera's daring plan to rescue our fair cousin from her horrid husband?" Perhaps phrasing it as if it were an adventure will tempt the young Mormont to return. Her attempt done, she returns her attention to the table. "Well?" she asks with a smile.

"Uly…" Harry sighs, not ignoring said departure… but not going after her, either. She looks after the girl for a moment, then blinks a few times at Maera's laughter. "You do?" She stares. "Well… don't just sit there smiling! Tell!"

"I'll learn about it soon enough." Ulyka grunts moodily as she turns at the tread, takes a step in to fetch her lute and finally disappears climbing up the stairs.

Only a heartbeat later the persistent repetition of notes starts again from above.

"I happen to be close friends with the Valyrian Archmaester, who happens to have been born a Manderly and is a follower of the Old Gods." Maera smiles at Harry, "…He is also a skilled healer, and might be persuaded to declare a woman of the North as barren if he thought it was for her own good."

Harry stares few beats longer, having forgotten to breathe as she processes this news. She reaches for Maera's hand with a gasp. "Do you think he would? Oh, Maera, that would be… just — astonishing!" She laughs, as well, exhaling in a rush. "I doubt Laurent would even bother to question it. He'll be glad to be rid of me and have someone less… more…" She seems at a loss. And bleak. Just for a moment. Finally, she decides, "Someone else." She reclaims her smile, though it's tarnished.

Maege frowns at Ulyka's reply, but lets her young sister go. With a sigh, she takes a spoonful of soup and listens closely. "Which, it would sound, would not be a hard sell, as this certainly will be for her good." She straightens at Angharad's response, smiling. She reaches out to pat her cousin on her hand at the falter and says, "I do not know your husband, but it certainly does not sound as if he is worthy of you."

"I think he would." Maera says with a nod to Harry. "I'll go visit him tonight, even. We'll have to meet with Laurent, I'm afraid, and make sure he returns your dowry to you so you might have enough funds to be comfortable." She frowns, "I did challenge him to a duel. It might not be best coming from me."

"He…" Harry sighs, covering Maege's hand with her own for a brief squeeze. "He's not a very good man. But I loved him terribly." She smiles without joy. "I will probably always love him terribly." She blinks at Maera, then laughs and shakes her head. "I'm not sure why I'm surprised. No, probably best not from you, then." She hesitates only a fraction of a moment. "I'll do it. If — once the Maester has agreed. He — Laurent — will probably be… less than kind… but. I want to. I feel as though I should. Be the one." She nods. "It will be goodbye, after all."

"You challenged him to a duel?" Maege glances to Maera - not that she does not believe that she wouldn't, but still surprised. "I would gladly go. I have done no such thing. In fact, he would not know me from a stranger. If Harry does not wish to see him, I'll deliver the news." Then, however, she nods. "If it is you, you do not have to go alone. If he is going to be a bastard, it might help to have us there to support you."

"If he's going to be a bastard then he will come here, and I will be present. This is his fault. He will not verbally abuse you, and if he does so in my presence he'll regret it." Maeras shrugs, "There's no reason for you to live uncomfortably because of his fault." She says to Harry, "He will pay for this."

"I don't want him to pay," says Harry, simply. "I want what's mine — Gods know the Tyrells don't need it — and to be done. I can't…" She takes a breath. "I can't give him children. Though I can — I just… can't. I don't know what it's like to lie with a man who despises me. I don't ever want to know."

"And we will make sure that never happens," Maege tells Angharad firmly. "Maera will talk to the Archmaester and then you will be free of him."

"He will support you financially, I mean. He'll pay you what is your due." Maera says to Harry. "We need to make sure you are financially comfortable on your own."

Harry nods. "That's practical," she agrees. "I certainly don't want to be a burden." She pops another cherry into her mouth, chewing slowly. Then, dimples on her cheeks, she asks Maera, "So… was he a good kisser, at least?"

There's a snort that raises from Maege at the question, but she then hides it in her wine glass. She can't, however, hide the grin. "There's no harm in telling us now."

"No." Maera says with a scoff and a little roll of her eyes, "He didn't even try kissing me back. It was a giant disappointment." Her eyes roll, "What's worse is I recall him screaming about some silver haired lady. So, apparently his love is some useless pretty little Princess who he'll never have a shot at." She shakes her head, "Men are lothesome."

Harry sighs, looking as though she feels a rather sorry for the man. "Gods. That would make sense." She shakes her head and stands, leaning across the table to kiss both her cousins on the cheek. "It's a terrible thing to want what you can't have, isn't it? Yet all of us do, at some point." She looks into her cup. Drains it, then pours it full again. "I've had too much wine." And she intends to have more. "Time for a lie-down. You, my sweet ladies of the North, are magnificent. We all are." She raises a glass to herself and her kin, drinks, and swans off in a fairly straight line.


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