(121-05-11) The Flower of Oldtown
The Flower of Oldtown
Summary: Ser Harrold Arryn meets Veronica, The Flower of Oldtown
Date: Date of play (11/05/2014)
Related: None.

It's a beautiful, clear evening in Oldtown, the doors and shutters of the Quill & Tankard thrown wide to allow a silken, summer breeze to drift through. There's an assembly of minstrels on the slightly raised stage, playing favorites new and old with acceptable skill. The music more underscores the pleasant mood than providing its own point of attention. In the common room, at a well-appointed and assiduously attended table a bit apart from the rest, is Veronica, golden haired and adorned in silks finer than some ladies. She dines delicately on quail and sips Arbor Red, speaking quietly and graciously to the proprietor who hovers nearby. After what appears to be some nervous fretting, the proprietor asks what appears to be some kind of boon — and Veronica lowers her lashes, breathing an abashed laugh. Her nod of assent sends the man hurrying up onto the stage, clearing his throat and clapping for the attention of the room.

"Friends! Good patrons! The Quill & Tankard has the honor to be temporary residence to Mistress Veronica, the Flower of Oldtown, while her home is undergoing extensive renovation…" he beams and gestures to the woman's table. "And she is kind enough, this evening, to grant us a song."

Among the patrons of the Quill & Tankard this evening, Harrold Arryn sits near the stage, enjoying a mug of brown ale. He seems to be enjoying the music as he idly glances about the room, sitting alone for the time being. A time or two, his charcoal gray gaze even comes to settle on the golden-haired young woman whose name he will learn when the proprietor of the place introduces her, admiring briefly without staring at her overlong. The hint of a grin touches the man's dark features when that introduction is made, and he lets go of his mug in order to applaud along with the others, even if there is no recognition in his eyes upon hearing the name that has been given. His attention is more noticeably upon her now, as no doubt most of the room's is as well, an expectant look on his face.

The Flower of Oldtown, as it seems she's called, mounts the steps to the stage with precision and grace, a breath of night-blooming jasmine scenting the air in her wake. She stands before the room with her lashes demurely lowered, faint dimples framing a dulcet smile. A word from one of the musicians is met with a simple shake of her head. When she begins to sing, it's without instruments to back her; she lifts her chin and her gaze, looking over the heads of the crowd as though seeing something in the distance.

My young love said to me,
My mother won't mind
And my father won't slight you
For your lack of kine,
And she laid her hand on me,
And this she did say
It will not be long, love,
'Til our wedding day.

It's an old song in a minor key, and her voice seems to caress the melancholy tale. The notes are rendered clear, so sweet they're near aching, and that gorgeous intonation suits both the painful passion of young love and some foreshadowed tragedy. There are verses that praise the sweetness and beauty, the purity, of the girl the singer loves. And then, a few verses later and without explanation, there is this:

Last night she came to me,
My dead love came in,
So softly she moved
Her feet made no din,
And she laid her hand on me,
And this she did say,
It will not be long, love…
'Til our wedding day.

Harrold is no doubt among many whose attention is focused on the stage as her song begins, or more appropriately focused on Veronica herself, appreciation in his dark gaze. He may stand out a bit, for his height, for the clear signs that he is highborn, or even for the falcon crest embroidered at the chest of his tabard in a color close to that of his eyes…but he is far from the only one enjoying her song. When the verse comes up speaking of the singer's dead love, the Vale knight's lips curve into a grim smile of sorts, and he lifts his mug of ale toward the stage in a silent salute before taking a drink from it, keeping his eyes upon the singer over the rim of it even then.

The singer lowers her lashes again as the last note dies away, leaving the lover alone in the moonlight, beneath that ghostly hand. The room erupts into applause and whistles — and, alas, some cat calls — as Veronica dips a genteel bob of a curtsy, then turns to quit the stage. The proprietor stands at the steps to offer her a hand down, as though he were a gentleman — or a footman. Either way, it's a temporary elevation in station that leaves him glowing.

The knight of the Vale joins in the applause and the whistling, at least, rising to his feet to show his own appreciation for the song that Veronica has shared with them all. Sitting once more as she is helped from the stage, Harrold's eyes remain on the golden-haired young beauty, even if others are beginning to return to conversation with those around them. Finishing off his mug of ale in short order, he then waves over one of the serving wenches. Upon her arrival at his table, he not only asks for a refill for himself, however, but tells her to deliver another glass of Arbor red to the table of the Flower of Oldtown as well.

The wench hurries off to do as she's bid. Soon enough, Harrold has his refill, and a goblet of Arbor Red is whisked to Veronica's table. The golden-haired woman's eyebrows lift, her head canting in question, blue eyes following to the Vale knight's table. The corners of her curl up, putting dimples on her cheeks, lashes sweeping down once more… then she lifts her gaze and her chin, raising the cup in thanks. She speaks softly to the serving girl, sending the wench fluttering back to Harrold.

"Begging your pardon, milord," says the wench, smiling wide. "Mistress sends her thanks and's invited milord to her table, if y'wish."

Harrold's gaze follows the wench for a time, inclining his head slightly in thanks when she returns with more ale for him. He looks on as well when she takes the glass of wine over to the singer's table, where the sight of her dimpled smile causes his own lips to curve a bit higher. Raising his mug in her direction in reply, he then takes a brief sip before the wench can return to his own table with a message for him. "Thank you," he tells her, before standing up from his table and making his way toward Veronica. There is something of a swagger to his step as he walks, and once he reaches her table, he greets her as he comes to stand behind the chair sitting across from her, his free hand resting on the back of it, "I am not sure I have ever heard a voice that matched the beauty of the woman it came from so thoroughly. A lovely song, from an exquisite woman."

Veronica laughs softly, lashes low, a blush delicate on her cheek. "You are very kind, Ser. I confess, I chose a song that's kind to my voice, rather than something more complicated… however much I enjoy a challenge. I am too vain to risk falling on my face in front of such company." So she did notice the tall, clearly noble man at the fore, after all. She looks up, inclining her head to the seat he stands behind. "Will you be kind enough to join me?"

"I would be happy to," he responds to her invitation, pulling out that chair and lowering himself into it. Once settled, he goes on, meeting her blue eyes from across the table with the smile lingering on his lips, "And there is nothing at all wrong with a bit of vanity. Anyone with eyes can see that you are certainly entitled to a bit of it. Knowing little of singing, I am not even sure what sort of song might have been difficult for you." As he speaks of the vanity to which she is entitled, Harrold's dark gaze rakes down over her briefly before going on to ask her, "So, by your nickname, I would guess that you are a native to the city?"

"I am," Veronica confirms, a dimple settling comfortably alongside her smile. She sips her wine, returning, "Judging by your signet and tabard, I would guess that you are not, Ser…?" she trails off a little, delicately prompting for a name. Other than the obvious.

Her own guess prompts a nod from the knight, and he takes another drink from his tankard of ale before he introduces himself, "Ser Harrold Arryn of the Eyrie, cousin of Lady Jeyne Arryn." Setting the vessel back down on the table, Harrold continues to watch her with enjoyment written in his dark features, and after a moment, he goes on, "My mother was a Hightower before her marriage, however, and this is not my first visit to the city. It has been some time, however…a few years since the last time, and I have only been here for around a month or so."

"Ser Harrold," Veronica echoes, approvingly. "Welcome back, then, to our fair city." The laughs softly once more, looking down for a moment before observing, "I fear introducing myself might be redundant, after all that, but…" She lifts a slender shoulder, her smile charmingly abashed. "I'm Veronica. It's a pleasure to meet you, Ser Harrold." Another sip of wine, then, "How long do you plan to be in town?"

"Thank you. It is good to be back, though it would be better had I returned in the spring or autumn rather than summer. I am still unsure how you bear the heat down here," Harrold responds, a hint of mirth in his tone. He listens to her own introduction, however, and chuckles softly at her abashed smile. After another sip from his own drink, the tall Vale knight tells her, "The pleasure is quite mutual, I assure you Mistress Veronica. I am not certain how long I will be here, though. My family received holdings here in the city as part of my mother's dowry, and my brother and I have come to make certain that they are being run properly, among other things. So it could be a month, or a year. Right now, we are just assessing the situation."

Veronica chuckles. "Well, to hear our displaced Northmen tell it, we wear fewer clothes," she says of coping with the heat. "The poor wolves and bears, so attached to their pelts. They do suffer." She cants her head in curious, polite interest, eyes keen as he speaks of his family's holdings and the administration thereof. "That is quite a responsibility. I can only admire the combination of broad perspective and attention to detail, as well as the foresight, that goes into managing an estate. I had to employ a castellan even for my own, small house here in the city."

Harrold laughs as well as she speaks of the Northmen in the city. "Well, I am sure that you do wear a bit less fabric and especially fur than they do. Even we from the Vale probably do the same, if not as much less. Our own winters can get quite cold, after all, if not as bone-chilling as our northern neighbors," the knight muses aloud. When she looks on him with admiration, he smiles back at her and nods before saying, pride clear in his voice, "It is, but as heir to my father's holdfast, I've had to learn about such matters. I may not have the eye for detail in that regard that a maester would, but I know enough to spot discrepancies or mistakes."

"It must make you a formidable opponent," says Veronica, taking a small bite of quail from her neglected plate. "So many knights have powerful arms and indefatigable endurance, but a fine mind — it must be a very satisfying thing, to see the discrepancies and mistakes your opponents make, on the field. Like cyvasse, but with such visceral stakes."

"Well, the bandits and hill tribes of the Vale have certainly come to fear me. Unfortunately, I have had little opportunity to prove myself against more dangerous or important enemies. Even against those with such…inferior training, though, seeing their mistakes and knowing how to capitalize on them /is/ a wonderful advantage to have," Harrold answers her, the smile remaining at his lips as he speaks. Leaning forward somewhat and keeping his charcoal gray eyes fixed on her enchanting blue orbs, he goes on to add, "And you are as skilled a flatterer as you are a singer. I wonder what other surprises the Flower of Oldtown hides amidst her petals?"

Veronica leans forward, as well, dimples deep as she regards the Vale knight through her lashes. "Thorns, perhaps. Or something with a sting. What a boring flower, otherwise, and common — too easily crushed and bruised." She lifts her eyebrows in just the hint of a comedienne's waggle.

His gaze dipping down again briefly as she leans forward too, delight gleams in the knight's dark eyes at her answer and the waggle of her brow as he meets her eyes once again. "A bit of a sting now and then is necessary, Mistress Veronica. It reminds us that we are alive. And it would certainly be a shame to see such a beautiful bloom crushed, after all," Harrold replies to her, before once more lifting his mug to drink from it.

"Paradox," says Veronica, with relish, sipping her wine. "Grapes are sweet and tannins, tart. Pain whets pleasure. Crushed petals smell sweeter. Everything has its bright and dark sides — so much to experience."

"Everything does, indeed, and how can you know one without the other? Bright without dark, pleasure without pain, sweet without tart…each would lose meaning without its counterpart, wouldn't it?" the knight asks her, the interest glinting in his dark eyes becoming more intent upon her. Passing his tongue briefly over his lips after another drink from his mug, Harrold goes on to remark, "It is rare to find a woman who understands that, at least well enough to express it so well. Most noblewomen lack the experience, and most commoners lack the tongue."

Her dimples deepen, lashes low again, winsome wisdom in that demure expression. "Now who's the skilled flatterer, I wonder — or, at least, the flatterer of greater skill." She gazes at him through her lashes, over her wine, her smile languid and warm. "There's something to be said for simplicity, of course. It's… soothing. Which is an excellent quality, if one wishes to sleep." She takes another sip from her cup, savoring. "I prefer to be awake and alive."

Harrold grins into her blue eyes when she calls him a flatterer in turn. "That is a very good question, which of us is more skilled in such matters. Court, even in the Vale, lends itself to the learning and practice of such skills," the knight tells her, watching her gaze through her lashes in turn. Nodding when she speaks of the soothing quality of simplicity, he goes on to agree with her, "Awake /is/ far more interesting, after all. While sleep, unless one has terribly vivid dreams, can be a rather dull affair."

Veronica laughs softly, "At least it seems to pass swiftly." She reflects for a moment, looking aside, giving him a view of her profile and the slender curve of her throat. "I used to dream. When I was a child. I was very sheltered — and perhaps a little lonely. Growing up in a fine house and a walled garden, I suppose my mind turned to wild fancies in order to flesh out the rest of the word." She grins, glancing back at him, abashed. "I used to dance with fairies, you know. I had a pet manticore, and a unicorn pony." She nods. "They were best friends."

"Yes, that it does. One moment you close your eyes, the next you are waking, or so it would seem," he says with a nod, looking on with appreciation as she turns her head, gaze dropping slightly to follow that curve of her throat. Listening to her talk of her time as a child, another sound of mirth passes his lips when she mentions the fantastical creates she was "friends" with. "Of course they were," Harrold replies, watching her eyes once more, "Though it is difficult, to see one so beautiful and charming now, and picture her ever being lonely. It takes a good deal of imagination, I can assure you."

"I was beautiful and charming, then, too," claims Veronica, mirthfully, though the compliment brings about another of those lovely blushes. "The fairies thought so, anyway." She smiles at him, sunny and warm, inviting, "What of you, Ser Harrold? You mentioned a brother, and a cousin — are you close? Did you all grow up together, clambering over the peaks of the Vale?"

The reappearance of the color in her cheeks clearly pleases the knight, who laughs softly again when she speaks once more of the fairies. "One could become jealous of these fairies quickly, Mistress Veronica. Apparently, they were the first to see the beauty and charm that no doubt leaves so many jealous and wanting," Harrold says, looking on at the smile that blooms on her face. Her question about his own childhood, however, has him considering a moment before he answers, "Raymun, my brother, and I are close, and did a fair amount of clambering in our youth. Some of our cousins joined us, at times, but not the one I mentioned, Lady Jeyne. I did not come to know her very well at all until later in life."

"I've never been to the Vale, but it sounds positively beautiful, to hear it told. Rolling green valleys and riots of wildflowers; cold, glassy lakes mirroring tall pines and peerless sky; white and purple mountains wreathed in clouds." To her Veronica speak it, one might think the Vale were her home, instead. "No wonder you grew to be such a powerful presence, with that as your childhood kingdom."

"It is beautiful, just as you describe it, even if I could likely not put it quite so poetically. Your words remind me much of home, of days long in the past," Harrold tells her, his tone becoming wistful for a moment as a sort of testament to the verbal skill he mentions. Raising a brow for a moment at her compliment, the knight's dark features display his pleasure, and his eyes drift downward over her again for a moment, as far as the table between them will allow, before he remarks in reply, "You will have to see it, sometime, that kingdom I grew up in. I suppose it is the sort of place to groom strong personalities. I was certainly surrounded by them as a child."

"Someday, perhaps," says Veronica, with her own drop of wistfulness drawn from a different well. She glances down at her cup, taking another sip before her hands move with fluid precision to decant more wine. "What is it you're drinking, Ser Harrold? May I order you another? Or something to eat? I fear I've been a very poor hostess, letting you charm and flatter me so without seeing to your needs."

Glancing briefly at his mug, Harrold then answers her, "Just ale. I've found that the local brew is quite good, and I've no objection if you wish to order the next round. But there is no need for anything to eat, on my part…I ate before I stepped out, and flattering you is too easy for me to have worked up much of an appetite again already. There is no need to be quite so hard on your hospitality." He then brings the vessel to his lips to drain the rest of the golden-brown liquid from it, his dark eyes remaining on her over the top of it.

Veronica laughs, smiling sweetly. "Am I so easy to flatter?" she wonders, taking a slightly perverse twist on his words. "I shall have to raise the bar especially for you, then, Ser Harrold. You strike me as a man who bores quickly, if not properly challenged." She only has to look for a server in order for one to appear, hovering as several of them are, likely under stern instruction by the proprietor. "Another round for Ser Harrold," she says to the girl. "And dessert for me, please. Chocolate creme cake, and pepper-spice tea."

"The words come to my lips easily enough, simply for looking upon you. Perhaps you are not so easy to /impress/ with flattery, as I am sure you've likely heard more than your share of it, but that is not quite the same thing," Harrold answers her, grinning into her eyes as she smiles across the table at him, "I am pleased to hear that you are so concerned with holding my attention, though. If I'm right, I am not the only one at this table who might bore easily, after all." Her dessert order causes him to raise a brow once more, and once the server leaves to fetch what was requested, he comments, "That sounds an interesting combination, if pepper-spice tea tastes like it sounds."

Veronica does her very best to look innocent at the intimation that she bores easily, rolling her eyes and looking off to the side. She fails comically, dimples giving her away as she glances over, the pantomime melting into wicked mirth. "It is," she says of the combination. "Interesting. It returns us to the beginning, doesn't it? The hot, savory sting of black peppercorn, and the dark, sinful sweetness of chocolate."

Laughing at her attempt to act bored, Harrold shakes his head slightly. "I see teasing it among your skills as well. Perhaps part of the sting you mentioned earlier?" he suggests, his own tone somewhat taunting in turn. Nodding at her response to his comment about her dessert, he looks up briefly to see the server returning with his ale, along with her cake and tea. Taking the mug, he goes on to ask her facetiously, "Now, what can such a sweet, delicate flower as yourself know of being sinful, Mistress Veronica?"

"Why, nothing at all, Ser Harrold," replies Veronica, with an ingenue's bat of her eyelashes, taking a bite of her dark, decadent dessert. It leaves a touch of chocolate creme on her lower lip, which she removes with a deft sweep of her tongue. "Any more than a sept-anointed knight might know of being wicked."

"Of course not," the knight replies to her answer of his question, delight dancing in the depths of his charcoal gray eyes. Harrold's dark features display at least as much enjoyment as Veronica herself takes from her dessert, and her talk of sept-anointed knights elicits another laugh from him. "No more than that? Such a comparison makes me wonder just how many sept-appointed knights you know," he teases back, after watching that sweep of her tongue with keen interest.

Veronica drizzles honey into her tea and instills the black infusion with cream. "And I wonder, by the same token, how many flowers you know, Ser Harrold," she replies, gazing once more from beneath her lashes. "Even on the reddest rose, every petal's a slightly different hue. You may have met an entire garden, but until you start peeling back petals — until she blooms for you — I submit that you barely know a flower, at all." She lifts her cup and blows gently on her tea.

Harrold drinks deeply from his mug as he listens to her question his experience with flowers, amusement still reigning in his dark gaze. "I have known my share…enough to have experienced just how right you are, Mistress Veronica. Peeling back petals, as you put it, is one of the greatest pleasures I have found in life," the knight tells her, before lifting his mug once again to finish off its contents. Passing his tongue over his lips as he sets it back down, he inclines his head to her and adds, "I must take a break from it for the moment, sadly. There are matters I must attend at home before I sleep tonight…part of that responsibility we spoke of earlier. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to admire a few more of the Flower of Oldtown's petals soon." With this he rises, smiling down at her as he prepares to depart.

She rises as he does, this time to offer her hand in farewell. "So lovely to meet you, Ser Harrold," Veronica says, warmly. "I do look forward to seeing you again, soon. Sleep sweetly, when you do… and have pleasant dreams."


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