(121-07-19) Peaches and Wine
Peaches and Wine
Summary: A man, a woman, a garden, a peach. No wonder these two chance-met cousins soon find themselves in pursuit of a bottle of wine — and spilling any number of confessions.
Date: 19/07/121
Related: None

Maidenday Gardens

The Maidenday Gardens are perhaps the loveliest of Oldtown's public gardens. The gracious footpaths are paved in white stone and lined with with flowering trees and rosebushes bearing pink and white blossoms. The beds alongside them are thickly planted with narcissus, lily-of-the-valley, trilliums and wood anemones. An occasional arbor arches over the path, supporting a clematis or wisteria, a virgin's bower or a honeysuckle. Most of the flowers are pale or blushing, but splashes of bright yellows, purples, and blues are not uncommon. True red is all that is absent. In the evenings little lamps hang from slim iron posts to light the paths.

There are benches here and there, and pavilions enshrouded with flowering vines. There are also shrines to The Maiden throughout the garden. They feature statues of stone or wood, some painted, some plain, some large, some small, some dressed in real clothing. All are beautiful and all have a little altar before them. While this is a public garden the rest of the year, on Maiden's Day it is closed to all but maidens. Those girls who feel the ritual at the Sept is not enough to express their piety may, under the watchful eyes of the Septas who maintain this place, light candles at these altars and sing more of their songs of innocence.

Dusk is slowly casting its mantle over the Maidenday Gardens; and beneath the spreading branches of a peach tree a woman is laughing richly, voluptuously, as she reaches up to pluck a fruit which has caught her eye. She is no longer young, but she has a lively, appealing confidence about her; and as she tilts her head back to sink her white teeth into her stolen peach her mass of dark red hair, partly pinned up and partly braided, spills back over her shoulders and sways behind her, against a backdrop of deep green silk. Her gown is in a style far more Dornish than Westerosi; she's covered from neck to ankle to wrist, and yet as she whirls around to address the maidservant in attendance upon her it suggests no end of possibilities beneath its smooth, flowing surface.

"Oh, but it's delicious!" she gasps, reaching up with her other hand to arrest the progress down her chin of a trickle of peach-juice. She laughs again, and bites into the fruit once more, closing her eyes, perfectly at peace with herself and the world around her in this heavenly, impromptu moment.

One can say that Thadeus does not regularly visit the Maidenday Gardens. Which is on the other hand a surprising fact, given he is so fond of the fairer sex, the virtues of which are so impeccably summed up in Maiden. But then, these virtues may differ from those he holds in high regard, and the reverence in these gardens can only be an insubstantial, theoretical one, whereas the Tully prefers a more practical approach.

However, the Bull Fish is here today, for whatever reasons, attired in a doublet in red and blue along with a fine pair of dark blue breeches, mayhaps venturing here after an official visit to either the Tyrells or the Targaryens, who knows? He is not alone of course, as a small crowd of three retainers, one of them a knight, trails after him at a leisurely pace. The fine view of the many colourful flowers is soon ignored when a more colourful flower comes into view. Grey-blue eyes narrow at first, then widen and follow that trail of peach juice down that long and comely throat, and after stepping closer a handkerchief will be offered by the extended hand after a moment of hesitation, when the Tully manages to resist the temptation to remove that moisture from the woman's neck himself.

"Good evening," Thadeus offers with a politeness that is in a way mingled with curiosity and fascination, along with an incline of his head, "mayhaps this here could help your dress from… getting stained, my lady." Assuming she must be noble from the servant hovering about.

Oh, an unknown gentleman accompanied by an extensive retinue? Joyeuse Hastwyck, caught in the shameful but irresistible act of licking peach-juice from a fingertip, colours slightly and reaches out to accept his handkerchief. "Goodness," she laughs gently, "am I such a spectacle…?" And she dabs at her chin and at her throat, while frank grey-green eyes find Thadeus's. "Thank you, my lord." The necessary task accomplished, she retains the handkerchief, held tightly between the long fingers of a hand which has never known any labour heavier than this. Either the lady he has named her; or a woman who has done well for herself, one way or another.

Looking not that offended by the display, the Bull Fish's gaze may linger a bit on the fingertip and the tongue that licks the peach juice off, while one of the corners of his lips curls slightly upwards. "And such a fine one," he replies to the woman's remark, his eyes following the handkerchief - his handkerchief - as it is permitted to touch areas he maybe very much would like to explore himself. It takes a bit of effort to have his gaze shift back to her face after a moment of attentive study of her attire and perhaps what is hinted at below.

"You are welcome," Thadeus adds then, when she expresses her gratitude, and after a moment: "I do not believe I have seen you before… Have you just arrived in Oldtown? And, if I may ask, what is your name?" Not introducing himself at this moment, at least not yet.

Whilst he speaks Lady Joyeuse bites once more into the peach; and she chases its juice with her borrowed handkerchief, wiping it carefully away from her skin, which, it must be admitted, in this fading light, bears a certain resemblance to that of the fruit. Past its first bloom, certainly, but ripe beyond question. "Oh," she grants him at last, when she's swallowed, "I took up residence in Oldtown some weeks ago — may I ask your name?" She lifts an eyebrow, conceding him nothing till she can place him.

The Bull Fish continues to study the woman attentively, his stare barely managing to remain within the boundaries of propriety. But he manages somehow. "How odd our paths have not crossed before then," is the answer to her remark, before Thadeus indeed will reply to her question with a faint smile. "Ser Thadeus, of House Tully." Inclining his head ever so slightly, before his gaze shifts back to her and he raises his brows. "Enchanted to make your acquaintance,…?"

Lady Hastwyck fails to interrupt his introduction only because her lips are parting in an astonished 'O'. "But then you're my cousin!" she exclaims. "I'm called -" she inclines her head toward him, lifting her eyebrows as though to say 'What a nonsense it all is!' "-Lady Hastwyck; but my mother's name was Tiriana Tully." She beams at him, as though inordinately pleased by the coincidence. "I'd offer you my hand, but…" She lifts the remaining part of her peach, and then his juice-stained handkerchief, and shrugs her shoulders helplessly beneath green silk. "I'm a trifle occupied. In a minute? Is that all right, do you think?" And her teeth sink again into the fruit; she sighs.

The astonished "Oh," will soon find its echo, when the lady introduces herself. "So you're Lady Joyeuse?" Thadeus certainly must have heard of this infamous cousin that was sent off to Dorne. His gaze is drifting once again over her attire and he nods. "Aye, you must be." His handsome face twists into a smile, a soft chuckle the response to her declining to offer him her hand. When the Lady Joy's teeth dig once again into the peach, he will take her other hand that still holds his handkerchief. The stubble on his chin may tickle as his lips brush the back of this hand in a kiss.

Her lips manage a smile of their own as she chews her mouthful of peach behind them; her fingertips squeeze his gently at the touch of his imperfectly-shaven chin. She swallows, and then she can't help but laugh, because it's really too remarkable, to meet such a charming cousin in the middle of a garden, when one hadn't suspected at all that such a thing might happen today. Really, if one had known, one might have worn something prettier. "I am," she confesses gaily; "Joyeuse Florent; Joyeuse Qorgyle; latterly Joyeuse Hastwyck. A woman's life has such twists and turns, don't you find? Or are you the sort of fellow who takes it all rather for granted?"

"Your life seem to have had some," Thadeus replies with a smile. "Twists and turns that is. Last I heard you were married to that old lord." It certainly must have been a topic. "How is he, by the way? In good health, I hope?" Exchanging a brief glance there with his retainers, who stand at a respectable distance, before he turns his grey-blue eyes back to meet Lady Joyeuse's gaze. "I've experienced some twists and turns as well, as my dear wife died on me two years ago. And now I am to marry again, which is an… occasionally disturbing prospect."

And his new acquaintance's cheerful demeanour… deflates, softly, as he reveals the tragic passing of his wife, and the present necessities of his life. "My husband," she murmurs, "Lord Hastwyck; he passed away some months ago." Her shoulders lift in another tiny shrug. "A fever took him, and left me quite alone in the world." Though, really, can one imagine a lady with such a curvaceous shape beneath her silks, such brightness in her eyes, being entirely alone?

The Bull Fish certainly cannot imagine such a thing as the intrigued sparkle in his grey-blue eyes suggests. "My condolences," Thadeus offers after a moment of lowering his gaze. "So… is this the reason you came here to Oldtown? To look for a new husband?" he inquires casually, as he walks over to the peach tree, bringing a bit of distance between himself and the lady as he leans against the trunk, his arms crossing before him. "And… where are you staying? With the Florents?"

The lady doesn't answer him till she has taken and savoured another bite of her peach, bringing the handkerchief held between her fingers up to brush another trickle of juice away from her chin. "I don't know," she confesses, "that I'm in any sort of mood to marry again; but mourning all by myself in the country was only making me maudlin, and so I came to Oldtown in search of colour, and scent, and diversion…" One shoulder lifts, quite helplessly, as though to say, how could a woman like this manage without? Her strong white teeth bite yet again into the peach — she has got all the way round it now, leaving only scant morsels to be nibbled — Thadeus's handkerchief is employed yet again, to protect her clinging green gown from the inevitable dripping.

"I can understand you perhaps better than you think," Thadeus replies with a smirk. "I felt little inclined to engage in any serious bond again; as diversions tend to be so much more satisfying - and non-committal. Alas. The heir needs heirs," he sighs softly, rolling his eyes in mock desperation. "My father made that perfectly clear. So… here I am in Oldtown, betrothed to a Targaryen, and in a way… forced to linger here as I wait for the big day to come… Waiting can be tedious at times, I assure you." His gaze briefly shifting to his handkerchief as it is once again applied to her chin, and he smiles. "That peach is quite tasty, I trust?" That smile maybe a touch ambiguous.

"Oh! It's delicious," the Lady Hastwyck assures him at once, and proves it by sighing as she nibbles a tad more of its sweet, juicy flesh. She swallows; "I couldn't resist it," she confesses, "it was so ripe, and so ready to be plucked from the branch… I don't know whether one is allowed to eat the peaches here, but I just couldn't help it." Both shoulders shift; there is, however, no chance of those green robes slipping away from them. They're held too closely by the gold-threaded girdle round her waist, and the twist of fabric just below her throat. "You're the heir?" she inquires softly. "Of House Tully? I suppose I ought to know, but I have been living so quietly in the country, you understand, with my husband…"

One brow moves upwards at the reply about the peach. "Is that so?" Thadeus inquires, wondering perhaps if she speaks about the peach - or herself. "But aye, if not plucked, it would wither. And if you worry about if it is allowed… take it home with you to eat it there, far from any possible witnesses. As a sweet little secret, my lady." A wink is tossed her way. "I am the heir to Riverrun," the Tully confirms next. "I have two daughters, and a son who died after his first year." And a couple of bastards.

Rather than taking the peach home — a home the nature of which she has not yet confessed, though he did inquire — Lady Hastwyck nibbles around it, enjoying every morsel her teeth can catch, mopping her chin with his handkerchief, whilst she considers what he has said. "Oh," she murmurs, "I have two daughters myself… But, I suppose, in Westeros, two daughters are not enough, no matter how you may cherish them." She sighs. One shoulder lifts. It's hardly bridgeable, is it, the difference between the two cultures? She has a certain sympathy for his loss, revealed in the softness of her eyes, the hesitance before she speaks. "You must have a son — a living son, to succeed you in turn."

"Indeed," Thadeus says, lifting his brows briefly. "That is the reason for me to marry again." Alas, legitimacy is required! "Your daughters are here with you, in Oldtown?" he continues, now on a less risque terrain. "Mine own are in the care of my mother Lady Tully, at Riverrun." His own retinue is remarkably silent as they remain unobtrusively in the background.

Lady Hastwyck's maidservant, a woman some years older than her mistress, has receded likewise into the background, beyond the peach tree; she doesn't appear to be paying any attention at all to whatever might pass between the two nobles. "Oh," breathes Joyeuse, "no, not at all; my daughters are well taken care of, far from here." How unspecific. And yet, given her Dornish connections, her presence in the Reach, probably for the best. "You had best sire a son soon, I imagine? Oh, cousin. You must be surrounded," she laughs, nibbling at the last the peach could possibly give her, "by eligible sixteen-year-old virgins, each with her eyes wide and her heart pounding."

"They are with the family of your first husband then, of House Qorgyle?", comes the polite question to the information, before Thadeus meets Lady Joy's amused laughter with a soft chuckle of his own. "Indeed, as my fate has already been sealed, there is only one 18-year-old noble maiden, which I trust, is still in possession of her maidenhead who fits that description. Princess Cerys Targaryen."

The lady takes a step nearer him, rather unconsciously, as she nods. An affirmative answer to what he's just said, or merely a sign that she's listening; one or the other. "Oh, you did say, didn't you," she sighs, nibbling at the very last of her peach and swallowing with a small, appreciative sigh; "your betrothed, a Targaryen… my congratulations, cousin, upon such an eligible match. No doubt very soon you'll be raising little dragons with gills and fins, and wondering how you ever got along without them." His handkerchief is employed again; she looks about her, brightly, cheekily, and drops the pit from her peach into a bush. There, the evidence has been disposed of.

"It is a prestigious match, and my father is for once proud of me for being able to catch the princess's interest," Thadeus remarks pensively, shifting a little in his stance against the trunk of the peach tree as his arms move from being crossed before him to his sides. A slightly amused chuckle comes to her remark of little dragons, his grey-blue eyes clinging to her as Lady Joyeuse approaches. "But, Seven Hells, even though young maidens do have their charms, their innocence and ignorance… in certain things, make them in a way less appealing to an experienced man such as I." His gaze follows the the pit of the peach as it is dropped into the bushes, before it flits back up to meet her grey-green eyes. "How would you like to marry a young lad that has never yet tasted the pleasures of the matrimonial bed? You would have to teach him everything. Now, wouldn't that be tiresome?" The attempt at polite conversation is already failing, when the Bull Fish's true charm returns, his somewhat innocent impertinence.

The woman before him, red-headed and pink-lipped and bright-eyed, takes another almost unconscious step nearer, as though to draw him into a more confidential chat. "Oh," she giggles, inclining her head toward him as she dabs belatedly at the final drops of peach-juice upon her lips and her chin; "I should think— but, Thadeus," she sighs, shrugging dramatically, "oh, my cousin. Really. What a thing to ask a lady you hardly know, here in the gardens where anyone might overhear her answer—! I hardly dare to say a word."

"Forgive me, was my question a bit too forward?", Thadeus mutters, his brows raising in mock innocent concern. "But I catch your subtle request for getting to know me better, to share such secrets? And you are right, this may not be the ideal place." A sparkle of mischief enters his eyes as he pushes himself from the trunk he had been leaning against. "Mayhaps we could seek out the Golden Maiden Winery, for a fine vintage. We are relatives after all. There is nothing offensive in sharing a bit of wine and chatter, don't you think?" He will be paying, of course!

Thadeus's mockery of innocence is nothing compared to Joyeuse's, as she raises her eyebrows and laughs gently. "Well," she murmurs, "I daresay it's rather the thing, isn't it, for two cousins to take a glass of wine together, when the sun has sunk so low…?" One hand lifts to indicate the duskiness of the garden about them. "I'd be delighted to be your guest this evening, Ser Thadeus; and to hear more of your branch of the family, and all you've been getting up to in the years in which, I regret to say, I've known so little of you…"

"Indeed," Thadeus smiles and moves to offer her his arm. "As I am most eager to hear of your 'adventures' in Dorne…" His nose wrinkling ever so slightly when he mentions that part of Westeros. His gaze will follow the handkerchief as it is tucked away by he handmaiden and he chuckles. "Is this some kind of token to keep me near, my lady? When will I see it returned?" the Bull Fish inquires with a touch of amusement in his tone, as he leads Lady of Hastwyck off, his retinue following in his wake.

The lady's hand curls round his forearm, quite unconcernedly, as though it were the most natural thing in the world for a gentleman to offer her such support — which it is. She answers at once: "Why, you'll see it returned as soon as it's laundered, my lord."


The way down into this winery cellar is via a broad stone tunnel. After emerging through the archway at the bottom one is welcomed by the heady fresh scent of damp earth, rock and mosses as well as the sweet undertones of the wines and oak casks they rest within. The whole of this winery is underground, with walls and floors of stone blocks. In wet weather, water sometime weeps from between the stones. Some centuries ago, these chambers were likely above ground, but more of the city has been built atop them.

Near the entry tunnel there is a sitting area for people to gather with chairs and benches sorted round. At the far end of the main chamber there's another entrance, this one a dock to the Honeywine river. Grapes are brought in by barges. Often enough the finished wines sent out the same way, sparing the cost of transporting enormous barrels by wagon. There is a large and stained desk for the master vintner to keep her records, positioned such that she can see all the comings and goings from both street and river.

Other areas of the large winery lead off like an underground hive, pocketing around, some set up at higher areas which are accessible via stairs, walls harboring racks and racks of casks containing wines in various stages of fermentation and processing, along with vats for crushing of the grapes. The whole of the area is softly lit by candles and torches, lending a ethereal quality to the damp walls.

Upon their arrival the Tully heir and his company had been showed to a table at the back in one of the smaller areas that can be reached via a few stairs. With his three retainers withdrawing to another table more to the front too far to overhear any conversation, but close enough to interfere in case of trouble. That is if some villains were suddenly to threaten the Tully's life.

At first uncertain where to bestow herself, the maidservant who has followed close behind Lady Hastwyck bites her lip and takes the fourth place at the table claimed by Ser Thadeus's men. She, the eldest of them all, ensures that she has a seat facing her mistress, but after that is rather quiet, admitting only that, yes, these sorts of situations do tend to arise, when one has the honour to serve &c.

Lady Joyeuse greets the woman whose duty it is to serve customers here with a broad, friendly smile; "The '11?" she inquires, slyly, naming an unaccountably fine vintage known only by habituees of the premises. "Have you," she sighs, leaning her chin in her hand, "just one bottle left, for Ser Thadeus Tully…?"

There may be a twitch of his brows at the widow's request of wine, for even someone not that versed in the deeper secrets of oenology can truly understand the importance of age when speaking of fine vintages. And so the Tully does not object but shifts his gaze from Joyeuse to the serving girl, offering her a charming smile, after letting his eyes briefly wander over her frame. Old habits. "Have you?" he echoes, putting more emphasis behind that request, at which the serving girl cannot help but mutter: "I will check," after a quick and rather half-heartedly executed curtsey, only to disappear in the labyrinth of large wine casks and stairs next.

After she has left, the Hastwyck widow will have Thadeus's fullest attention, as he studies her in the flickering light of the torches at the walls. "You are quite comely, if I may say so, Lady Joyeuse. I trust you will not have a hard time finding someone to keep you company - or to marry you." The latter added a bit hastily, as if to bring some propriety into his remark.

This seems to entertain the lady no end, as she folds her hands upon the table between them and leans her head back and laughs, exposing the length of her throat to his eyes. "Why, Ser Thadeus," she giggles, lifting a hand to her lips and then dropping it again, "I've no thought of marrying again — my late husband, you understand, was a very good man, very tender to me, and I can't imagine finding his like again."

"In that you seem to have been fortunate then," Thadeus replies with an amused smirk, clearly enjoying that view of her exposed throat as Joyeuse laughs. "How about your financial situation? Does it not require you to take another marriage into consideration?" He leans back in his chair, letting his gaze drift briefly over the place, before he inquires: "I am confused, my lady. Out there in the Maidenday Gardens you complained about being alone. So it is conversation you seek for diversion, and to acquire new friends here in Oldtown? Instead of looking for someone to spend your days with?"

That bottle of the fabled '11 eventuates, so swiftly, and a pair of goblets; Lady Hastwyck lifts hers swiftly and offers a toast to her companion. "To family, then?" she murmurs drily, as the rim of her goblet touches that of his. She drinks deeply and then confesses, "My late husband left me comfortably established, as far as money is concerned." She sighs, shrugs a shoulder, and sips her wine again. "I have only myself to please, really, my own wishes to consider… I came to Oldtown because, yes, cousin, I'm in a mood to make new friends, to fill that unfortunate void in my life… You do understand?" she implores, lifting her long eyelashes, meeting his gaze. "You've lost your wife, I understand…? I've lost two husbands; we have that in common."

"To family," the Tully echoes as he raises his goblet as well, carefully tasting the fine vintage, to find it meets his taste. "A good choice of wine, if I may say so," Thadeus remarks with a smile, before he falls silent to listen to Lady Joyeuse as she continues about her wealth and wishes for the future. His eyes narrow just a touch to shoot her an intrigued glance next and his lips curve into a lop-sided grin. "I see, and I know of this void you speak of. It has haunted me ever since my wife's passing, and still does, occasionally." His gaze shifting from her eyes a bit down with a slightly pensive expression, engaged in thoughts, or perhaps in admiring contemplation of the widow's cleavage.

Not to say her attire offers him much to admire; her silks cling to her, but they undoubtedly obscure, suggesting only that fortunate must be the gentleman whose right it is to remove them. "Oh, does it?" Lady Hastwyck breathes, offering a poignant sigh as she leans her chin in her hand, and her hand upon her elbow. "When I think how the Tully heir must be pursued, the opportunities he must enjoy — I can only think he's a fellow who placed a high value upon his lady wife, who understood that she could give him more than any other." Her eyes look into his, grey-green into grey-blue; she gives a small sigh of regret for all they have both lost. "Still," she points out, "she wouldn't wish you to pine and be lonely all your days, would she…?"

Thadeus tilts his head a little to the side as he cannot help but smile at both the veiled promise of curves and Lady Joyeuse's reply. "Indeed, it does.", he admits scratching his chin briefly, with a bit of a guilty sparkle in his grey-blue eyes. "I will not be so bold as to claim, not to have attempted to fill this void now and then." He's a man after all, and additionally, one with a reputation. "And… ahem, my lady wife may not have always been that content with my endeavours to stay true to her…" Now, that's a scandalous admission. "So, knowing me as well as she did, yes I would think she would not expect me to pine… overly much. Nor want me to."

Lady Hastwyck receives this admission with a grave face — but an undeniable sparkle in her eyes as she regards him over the rim of her already half-empty goblet. "I see," she murmurs. "New words, for the younger generation of House Tully — Try, and Try Again!" And she favours him once more with that rich laughter which first drew him round a corner in the garden to find her beneath the peach tree. "Oh, I'm sorry, I oughtn't to tease you, cousin. I'm certain you truly were, in all seriousness, seeking a suitable bride. Whatever else you found along the way, well, you can hardly be blamed," she declares. "Will you be very good, cousin, and pour me another drop of this rather marvelous wine? I remembered the earthiness well, but I'd forgotten…" She closes her eyes and breathes out a dreamy sigh. "The hint of cherries. I'm sure these must have been such happy grapes, don't you think?"

Thadeus chuckles softly. "The truth of the matter is, not I, but Lord Tully were insisting I should find a bride, which is a difference, if you catch my meaning there…?" More wine is poured, and oh, the Tully heir certainly enjoys the drink as much as Lady Joyeuse does. And while the fine vintage is certainly to his taste, the beverage or maybe the easy manner of the merry widow manage to loosen his tongue even more, beyond the degree that would be prudent for an heir. "I've preferred to look beside the way rather than try to valiantly reach its end," the Bull Fish admits, looking amused. "And aye, the wine is good indeed. They say a fine vintage has a fuller taste, provides much more thorough enjoyment than a young wine, which often tends to be sour, and not the real treat, I fear."

Oh, what a neatly-placed compliment. The lady signals its receipt with a lifted eyebrow, an amused little smile for her charming cousin. "This wine," she murmurs, looking down into her goblet and then up into Thadeus's eyes, "is perhaps a little young, you know, it was laid down only ten years past — but it has some exceptional quality, I find, which lends it the flavour, the stature, to stand beside the more mature vintages of my acquaintance. I do quite like a taste of it, just now and again, though so many others have a fondness for it as well that the supply seems to be drying up — it's difficult now simply to call for it and expect it to be there; in another year I suppose it may be impossible." And, having uttered this impromptu masterpiece of flirtation to a highly-ranked, highly-sought-after younger man who will soon be married, she lifts her goblet to her lips and drinks deeply and nonchalantly.

He isn't really that young anymore. After all Thadeus's oldest bastard, going by the name of Hedda Rivers is already sixteen, and serves his family as a handmaiden at Riverrun. Still, his lips curl into a smile as they continue to use the deeper secrets of oenology as a thin veil for offering each other compliments. "So you mean, one should better seize the opportunity while it's there, and not risk missing out on that… exceptional taste. As that would be a… shame indeed…?", the Tully inquires with an innocent blink of his eyes, as he leans a touch forward, his elbows and lower arms resting on the table now as his grey-blue eyes lock with Lady Joyeuse's grey-green ones.

The lady leans forward likewise, placing some small strain upon the bodice of her gown, and murmurs with an air of innocent mischief: "Well, certainly, we ought to finish the bottle, don't you think? Considering we both find the taste so agreeable, and who knows when we might sample it again? And you'll need more than a goblet or two before you'll confess to me which appalling stories you've heard about me — and I'll need more than a goblet or two before I'll tell you whether any of them are true. Besides," and she leans back, the rather large ruby ring on her finger flashing as she picks up her goblet again, "I'm agog to hear more of my Tully cousins. Why, it's been years since I was last in the Riverlands!"

"The question is, where to finish that bottle, Lady Joyeuse," Thadeus replies, the sparkle in his eyes definitely intrigued but also showing a bit of mischief. "Because while the type of vintage to enjoy is of course of great importance, the setting is as well. Imagine an… expensive and rare wine being consumed in the gutter, no… that would not provide the best possible enjoyment, I'd say… And be an insult to the wine itself." He leans back as well now, slowly finishing his goblet as his gaze continue to linger on the widow. "As for stories about my Tully kin… I would love to share them with you, as so many… other things."

"Oh, but don't you find this room quite charming?" the lady inquires. "To me it's — oh, a marvelous underground cavern of secret scents and tastes." She tilts her head, affecting to look this way and that, to peer into dark corners. And then of course she raises her goblet again, and wouldn't you know she's nearly emptied it a second time? Of course it's hardly as though she were imbibing so freely in the company of a strange man — he's her cousin. "I did say, cousin, I came to Oldtown seeking diversion. And it's everywhere, it really is, if one keeps one's eyes open to the possibilities."

A light shake of his head comes, along with another chuckle in response to her suggestion. "Indeed? It is charming, but maybe a little…", and here Thadeus's gaze shifts towards his retainers further away. "… lacking of privacy." The thought does linger in his mind though, it shows in the way he studies the conversation of his retainers from afar, mayhaps already calculating their degree of attention. "You mean," the Bull Fish muses pensively, "that we could deepen our acquaintance in a lightheaded moment of carelessness…?" Moistening his lips, as his gaze drifts from the other table towards their own and more importantly, to his enchanting company. "It is not that I lack the appetite," the Tully admits, pouring them both another time. "So, maybe I am taking this daring suggestion of yours into consideration." His grey-blue eyes follow her gaze now, towards one of the corners, luckily enough in a place that can be hardly viewed from the table of their retainers, nor any others, or so he hopes.

The Lady Joyeuse laughs lightly, not the least taken aback by the optimistic construction Thadeus has put upon her words; and, having examined the chamber to her satisfaction she proceeds to examine her goblet more closely, or its contents, at least. "Well, and so you should, cousin," she declares, "for I suggest only that you keep your eyes open wide — appreciate every moment of your life, every place where you might find yourself, for its own worth — and perhaps even grant a degree of charm to, oh, a little underground winery which I think you must just secretly be thinking isn't quite worthy of a Tully's patronage." She winks at him. "Though I seem to recall it was your idea that we come here; have you tired of it so quickly? Was it not quite what you remembered?"

"And here I thought you were hinting at some frivolous entertainment," Thadeus replies, looking a touch disappointed. "Forgive me if I got you wrong there, but… regarding your infamous history, like… loose morals you may have acquired in Dorne. I admit some stories have reached my ears. Also about some 'diversions' at the seat of your late husband. Lies perhaps, but if they are, just tell me and I am willing to apologize," remarked with a bit of a hurt ego, as the Tully drowns his slight displeasure in another long sip from the vintage. "I suggested going here, as it would allow us to converse in a slightly more proper setting. I do enjoy the conversation, but to a degree that would make me want to either withdraw, or take what you may or may not have offered, in a short moment of blissful folly." Going now for another route obviously, that of confonting her with his honest thoughts on the matter, the Bull Fish will continue to look towards the lady over the rim of his goblet, drinking on as he does.

"Oh, well, here we are," sighs Lady Hastwyck, lifting one shoulder, smiling at Thadeus in amused resignation. "I'm sure some of the tales you've heard of me were lies — and others, true." She lifts her hand in a graceful gesture of concession: yes, she has on occasion been, by the standards of her caste, a naughty girl. "From the time of my first marriage," she murmurs in a confidential tone pitched only for his ears, as she leans her forearms upon the table, silk sleeves falling away from softly rounded flesh, "I understood that I was to make my life in Dorne, that it was my duty to my husband to become a woman of his land… In Dorne, of course, this game in which you and I have been indulging is a popular one; and men and women are considered to be equal players, with an equal right to seek pleasure. You owe me no apology for thinking what any man of Westeros thinks of any woman of Dorne — or for expressing it more charmingly than most." Her eyebrow quirks at him again. He must be able to imagine the approaches a woman with her reputation has been met with by men without the Tully's good manners. "I offered you nothing, cousin; but will you let me confess myself rather pleased that you leapt so quickly to thinking I had…? I like you, I do; you weren't wrong. The admiration in your eyes warms me as it would any woman. If you think you might like to court me, you may, of course you may — you're quite right that I shan't make of it more than it is, or expect the ring you could never give me." She shrugs elegantly and brings her goblet to her lips, to imbibe another generous mouthful of that fine and earthy '11. "But I am in Dorne no longer; I must be wary of… sudden impulses. You understand?"

"So I was not entirely wrong?" Some of the displeasure fades from the Tully's features as he puts his goblet down - emptied as it is. "And I am glad I did not offend you either. So, what is this game you play, my dear lady Joyeuse? On the one hand you refuse me, while admitting on the other hand that you are oh so flattered? How are we to proceed in this, I wonder? I might consider courting you, and of course, if so, it must happen in secret. Forgive me, but I am convinced I have to be even more wary, for obvious reasons." He chuckles softly as his gaze flits briefly down to the empty cup. "You are quite good at this game, and I may not be used to such a skillful player. So forgive me if I may seem blunt or forward. I have never been called the 'refined fish'." A smirk sneaks into Thadeus's mien, "So, to put it bluntly, is there any hope for us to reach the stage where actions follow words, or will all of this delightful teasing remain a theoretical little diversion, a consideration of what might be, but never ever will actually take place?"

It is, in the lady Joyeuse's estimation, her turn to pour: she takes up the bottle in both her long-fingered hands, and divides what little is left scrupulously between her goblet and the Tully's. "Of course there's hope, my dear Ser Thadeus," she replies, inclining her head of dark red curls in his direction as she lifts her goblet to him; and then for a moment she's purely occupied with the '11, rolling it about on her tongue. She sighs and sets down the goblet, her fingers still playing about its stem. "I don't imagine," she confides, "that you often fail, once you take a fancy…? Though I suppose you've little time to pursue such fancies; I can't imagine your Targaryen princess would take kindly to… diversions, from the path you and she must walk together." She lowers her chin, her eyes gleaming, her smile one of mock gravity.

Grey-blue eyes follow Lady Joyeuse's hand as it moves to pour them both what remains of the fine vintage. His own goblet is raised to meet that of his charming companion in a toast. "True." This the reply to her assumption of him rarely failing. "But on the other hand, I have not dallied with beauties of noble birth lately. Even a Bull Fish understands the delicacy of a female's reputation, which, forgive me, you have appeared to have little left of." A slightly amused chuckle there, with a hint of tempered mockery, after all Thadeus is not aiming to put the merry widow off. Some of his amusement fades, leaving a temporary somewhat sobered expression on his face, when the topic of his Targaryen betrothed is addressed. "Little time indeed. Even though we are not married yet." Although considering that, he may already have strayed from the path before, judging from the smirk that suddenly returns to his features when he takes another sip from his wine, his gaze once again locking with that of the Hastwyck widow.

… Who is more than sipping the wine; the flavour of it, that vaunted hint of cherry, appears to agree no end with her palate. She sets down her empty goblet — well, to be fair, there was little enough left in the bottle when she poured it — and folds her hands upon the table before her, leaning in again to make another of her confidential remarks, putting again that rather appealing strain upon her bodice. "Reputation… Ah, it's a lady's treasure, isn't it? Yet one can do so little to control it — and if one worries with every step one takes, with every word one utters, what awful interpretation the gossips will place upon it, well, that's all one's comfort and pleasure spoiled, isn't it? I've done nothing in my life which would discredit a Dornish lady of the highest birth, nothing of which I feel ashamed — I decided, years ago, not to fret about what people think of me. Reputation, you know, is what others know of you. Honour is what you know of yourself."

Thadeus leans back in his chair, his gaze straying from Lady Joyeuse's comely face to where her curves strain against the fabric of her dress when she leans forward, and the view does entice him for a moment. "So you seem little concerned with your reputation then, my lady?" he inquires softly, when his eyes are once again raised to meet the widow's gaze. "I do think you are honourable enough. And regarding reputation, I have one of mine own. Tis true this is not Dorne, and we shall both continue to use discretion, shan't we?" His eyes drift towards the empty bottle and he sighs. "Now, I fear we've shared the bottle we came here for. The hour is late, and I believe we both should retire for a bit of rest." Grinning lopsidedly, he adds: "Each to our homes or quarters. Which brings back the question of where you are staying, my lady. I didn't get a reply earlier, but then again,… maybe you would like to make a mystery of it?"

Well. Lady Joyeuse could hardly miss it, could she, when he finds it difficult to look her in the eye; and so there's another of those little amused smiles upon her dark pink lips as she opines, "It's not so late… Oh, there's no mystery, cousin; I've taken rooms in --." And she names a respectable, prosperous quarter of the city, not too far away. "I do prize my independence, you understand. I'm a grown woman; I don't like to have to account to anybody for what I do, or where I go, or whom I receive. And I'm not," she admits, "too terribly concerned with my reputation; for so many others are concerned with it on my behalf," she raises a droll eyebrow, "and I shouldn't like to deprive them of their fun."

Thadeus raises a brow. "Not that late? So what would you suggest, Lady Joyeuse? To share another bottle? Or some more intimate delights?", he inquires with the charming bluntness he is known for. "Or do you require an escort to accompany to your home? I cannot allow you to venture through the darkness outside with little more than your handmaiden there for your protection."

"… Another bottle would be welcome," the lady confesses after hardly an instant's thought; "I can't quite bear to relinquish that heavenly taste! And then, oh, I should be most grateful to accept your escort, cousin. It was rather naughty of me to go out today without my guardsman, but I sent him upon an errand which seemed at the time so awfully important, and I thought, oh, a walk in the garden could hardly be very dangerous… Perhaps I reckoned without you, and your desires?" And she lifts her hand to the base of her throat and tilts her head back slightly as she laughs, fingertips stroking that silken fabric.

"So who am I to deny it to you," he replies to Joyeuse with a charming smile. A hand goes up then, when Thadeus waves the serving girl over and orders another last bottle of the '11. "It is still not that late, you are right.", he says when the serving girl hurries off the get more of the desired beverage. Her remark about dangers in the gardens clearly amuses him. "So you would think me dangerous, then? Now is that a compliment or a complaint, I wonder…?", the Bull Fish inquires with a smirk, as he empties his cup, as it will be refilled soon.

Without a drop left to drink Lady Joyeuse has nothing to do but prop her chin in the palm of her hand and smile across the table at the Bull Fish. "Oh, well, cousin. I hardly like to assume which stories you've heard."

It is a good thing then, that the serving girl soon returns with another bottle and pours them both. "I haven't heard that much," the Bull Fish replies. "But is it true you had a paramour while you were married to that Qorgyle?" An impertinent question perhaps, but not really, given how far Thadeus and Lady Joyeuse have already proceeded in their conversation.

The lady is already drinking from her fortuitously replenished goblet when Thadeus asks his question; she takes another mouthful, widening her eyes at him, and makes a small sound of amusement as she sets her goblet upon the table. "It's true," she says plainly. "Have you heard of a Dornish knight called the Hand of Hell?"

Do those grey-blue eyes widen a touch at the mention of the name? It seems the Bull Fish is almost choking on the wine, and he puts his goblet down. "Who hasn't?", he replies, his mien sobering for a moment. "I've heard tales of his, um, deeds." His gaze shifts from his goblet back to that fine pair of grey-green eyes and he shakes his head in light astonishment.

"Well," the lady remarks, pausing only to sip her wine, "his deeds were always remarkable; and for the last six years of his life, he thought of no woman but me. Does that satisfy your curiosity? Reassure you of, oh, my disrespect for holy wedlock? I'm not certain," she confesses, "what it is you were hoping to hear from me; I can only give you the truth, cousin. I followed Dornish custom; I followed my heart. You can't pretend to me, can you, that your own history contains no such tale…? You've already admitted as much."

"It is not so much the fact you took a paramour, my lady, far be it from me to take offense in that, but, considering the trail of blood this particular Dornishman has left among us Westerosi, I wonder, how you could associate yourself with such a man," Thadeus is swift to reply. As for his own admission of infidelity, he shrugs. "I am what I am, and have never denied it, until my father tried to force me to. Alas, it is known, that the Bull Fish's desires may be too much to handle for one single woman." And he laughs, clearly amused at his own boisterous remark, whilst keeping an eye open for the widow's reaction. Clearly, the effects of the wine do kick in.

At his boast the lady's eyes widen, yet remain steady upon his; she buys herself a moment to consider her words, by drinking a little more of the wine. Her goblet is almost empty again, can you imagine? "Why, cousin, it's very simple," she sighs at last. "I loved him, I cherished him, more than any man I've ever met. He slayed any number of Westerosi knights; but any Westerosi knight worth considering has slain any number of Dornishmen in his turn. In short, with family on each side of this conflict, I'm damned whichever way my fancy falls. Why oughtn't I, then, to follow the dictates of my heart? What better guide would you suggest?"

"I can hardly hold it against you then, as I understand you must have been torn." Thadeus concedes after a moment. "And I am hardly in the place to impose any judgement on you. You followed 'the dictates of the heart'. Hmm. Fine then." Another sip of the vintage is taken. "So there only was this paramour and your husband, or were you having more sources of diversion whilst in Dorne?" Curiosity and impertinence now finally breaking through again in the Bull Fish's bearing, as manners are somewhat dimmed when being as far into the cups as he is at the moment.

In which case he must have been imbibing freely earlier in the day; for the lady opposite him appears none the worse for drinking rather more wine than he. Granted, she's inclined toward frank speaking, but wasn't she from the first? She leans forward again to ask of him: "Well, cousin. Has there been only your lady wife, and your lady betrothed, or have you found other such diversions yourself, in your father's great keep, in the ancient city of Oldtown…? How many women? How often? … You see," she murmurs, shrugging a shoulder at him as she takes up their bottle of wine to pour — for him first, to show there aren't really hard feelings — and then for herself, because fending off the Tully heir is thirsty work, "it's not a question for an hour's acquaintance, is it, cousin?"

It had been early evening already, had it not, when Thadeus encountered the merry widow in the Maidenday Garden. The fine vintage here at the winery has certainly not been his first alcoholic beverage today. Grey-blue eyes follow Joyeuse as she moves to pour them, while his lips curl into a smirk at the question she has for him. "Certainly not a question for an hour's acquaintance," he quips with a grin, "as an hour would not suffice to answer it in all accurate completeness. As you already may suspect, Lady Joyeuse, there have been plenty." Leaning forward now again, to bring his eyes closer to hers she may already spot a bit of slightly drunk honesty glaring back at her.

"It started in the Twins, where I squired for Ser Jeynos Frey and earned my byname already quite early on. It is no secret, really, that it is there my first two bastards were fathered, Hedda and Jacob. I was 16 when Hedda was born." Suddenly looking a bit astonished himself when he admits that with a light shake of his head. "Seven Hells, I was so young and innocent back then…" His goblet is raised before he takes another sip of the wine, as he remains in his posture, elbows on the table, his gaze locked with the widow's, as he studies her comely features for a reaction to his words.

It may be the Dornish in her, but Lady Hastwyck isn't the least bit scandalised by the news that the heir to House Tully has known many women, or even that he commenced rather early in his life the popular knightly pursuit of fathering bastards. She looks upon him with fond sympathy, sipping her wine now and again whilst he speaks; and allowing, then, that, "I was sixteen myself and married a year and some months, when I bore my first child. A daughter for my husband, Darion Qorgyle. It's no secret in Dorne that getting her wasn't an easy task — my lord hadn't," she lifts an eyebrow at him, her lips (stained pinker by the wine) curving into a wry smile, "much of an inclination to seek any woman's bed. There were always young men in our house, a great many young men." There; she has answered honesty with honesty, given him an admission for an admission.

Thadeus himself prefers it that way, being honest whenever he can, and at the moment his own tongue is becoming less and less reluctant to share information - an effect of his slightly drunk state. After taking a good sip from his goblet, the Bull Fish will put it back down onto the table. A brow is raised at her admission about her first husband's preferences and a light shake of the head is given, along with a low snort. "You must have felt very unfortunate in that regard, with a husband who does not offer you the admiration and attention you certainly must have deserved even back then," he remarks with a bit of a frown, before that fades and he looks at the widow, slightly surprised and impressed at her candid confession. "It seems we two have not been that different then, in a way.", the Tully heir smirks. "Just imagine what would have happened should our paths have crossed in that time…" A notion that clearly intrigues him, as his gaze shifts from Joeuse's face ever so slightly, and his imagination turns to wild thoughts of what could have been.

"You, a bold young squire; I, a shy young wife, with an enormous belly and aching ankles… Oh, Thadeus, much better to meet now, I think," the lady laughs. She's still enjoying her wine at a prodigious rate, and it appears the second bottle will be empty soon, if she has anything to do with it. "Now, when we both know what we're about, and how to manage it, mmm?"

Whatever had engaged his imagination, he returns to the here and now at Joyeuse's remark and he smiles. "True," Thadeus replies as he takes another sip from his goblet, almost emptying it, and his gaze flickers once again over the comely form of the merry widow. Before he adds: "It is getting late, is it not?"

Oh, look: a drop left in the bottle. The lady dispenses it, laughing softly, holding it upended long enough to be certain no more enticing droplets might lie in wait within. "Oh, I suppose so. After all, we're to be discreet, aren't we? You wouldn't wish to be seen lingering over wine with me any later than this, would you, cousin Thadeus?" She winks at him and offers a toast, without specifying what it's in honour of — he'll surely understand.

Thadeus leans back in his chair and his gaze shifts from the emptied bottle to Joyeuse. "We have already had wine enough, I would think," he admits with a chuckle. "And of course, you're right. I would not want to scandalize my betrothed with any unfounded rumors, would I?" Joining her in that mysterious toast the Bull Fish will drain his goblet and put it back onto the table.

"Shall we?", her inquires as he already moves to rise from his seat.

Lady Joyeuse sees him polishing off his wine and disposes of her own with similar aplomb; she's steady, graceful, as she stands up across the table from him. Her maid, who has been keeping a weather eye upon her all along, is the first to rise from the table of retainers, and hurries to her mistress's side, inspecting her for any situations which might require a hairpin or a handkerchief. None detected. She follows the lady with hands folded as the latter steps round the table, agreeing with her cousin: "Oh, we shall. Have you a carriage at hand, cousin, or will you find me a sedan chair…? I think I'd find it a little too far to walk, at the end of a long day… You do see what I mean," she murmurs gravely, lowering her chin yet raising her eyes to the Tully's face.

"Oh,… indeed," Thadeus replies, a bit baffled by the request at first until he realizes the benefits of such means of transport. His own retainers are rising from their seats as well, and to one of them the Tully walks over to exchange a few muffled words. And while the retainer leaves through the door to acquire the sedan chair, the Bull Fish will turn and cast a gaze back at the merry widow, watching her as she prepares to leave. Then offering her his arm to accompany her out, with a mischievous sparkle in his grey-blue eyes.

For the second time this evening, the scarlet lady tucks her hand through the Bull Fish's arm, contentedly accepting his escort. Her skirts sway about her as she walks and brush occasionally against his ankles as well as her own; "Thank you, cousin," she murmurs, tilting her head to look at him, sidelong and upwards, with a promise in her eyes such as, it must be admitted, he has frequently been offered by the fairer sex. "I'll feel much safer for you and your companions, you know. Perhaps it was a little foolish for me to be abroad so late in the evening without my own guards, but, you know, I'd not have done so alone — it's only that I was so tempted by the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a cousin."

His own head will turn and look down into the captivating face of that comely woman beside him, responding to that promise in her eyes in the way he usually does, with a look of anticipation and determination, as he certainly is not the man to shy away when such kind of diversion is offered. "I am obliged to see after your safety, my lady," Thadeus replies. "And to see to it, that you reach your home." A smirk appears at her remark of being tempted. And so they step through the door, retainers in tow, and find the sedan chair already waiting for the lady.

"Truly," the lady remarks, catching her lower lip between her teeth as she makes a small sound of amusement in her throat, "I'm in your debt."

And, with the Bull Fish's thoughts no doubt revolving largely around the idea of collecting upon this debt, the two cousins set off into the well-lit Oldtown night — the lady in her sedan chair, the knight walking beside, their combined retinue at a discreet distance, and any number of flirtatious remarks exchanged through the curtains and trailing off into companionable silence, or laughter.

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