(121-07-21) Auntie and the Tax Man
Auntie and the Tax Man
Summary: Alaeyna and Joyeuse are reunited; the tax man intrudes.
Date: 21 July 2014
Related: The Tax Man Cometh

White Stone Manse

This grand manse faces the prestigious Starry Street. The first story is protected by narrow high windows that stop people from seeing inside, but the big windows on the back wall and the four upper stories make the manse bright and airy over all.

The first floor's main hall is brightly lit with lamps to make up for the shortcomings of the street-facing windows. The white walls and polished white marble floors add to the effect, making it seem airy and bright. There's a grand dining room separated from the entry hall by broad doorway. The house is richly decorated and well-appointed, with luxurious furnishings.

Like almost all of the houses in Oldtown, it shares two walls with its neighbors on either side, but the servants quarters, kitchens, and servant's stairs buffer the house proper from any noise that could possibly leak through the thick stone walls. The grand staircase that allows residents and their guests access to the upper stories is of white marble veined with a pleasing yellow-tinged pink.

There's a pleasant walled garden in the back, viewed from the windows in the back wall and accessed through a glass-paneled door.

It's a summer day, the usually hot, languid air today cool and fair, so that a pleasant breeze comes in from the tall, open windows that face the garden courtyard of the White Stone Manse. The grand manse is the residence of House Martell at Oldtown and plays host to many of their visitors from Dorne, lending it a lively (if somewhat wanton) air for how many Dornishmen and women are housed within its walls.

Within the main hall this afternoon, a trestle table bears decanters of wine and an endless supply of goblets as well as trays laden with refreshments, delicacies from home. Folk mingle here, and out in the garden, and a musician plays a lively Rhoynish shanty for the amusement of those gathered. Alaeyna and her bastard brother Ryam are among those idling in the hall, chattering away. For her part, the Lady Fowler is dressed in cerulean silk skirts beneath a leather bodice, its cut demonstrating not only a bountiful amount of cleavage, but also a menacing looking slash of a cut across her breastbone, the trophy of some combat she has recently seen.

The custom may be to show visitors from Westeros into an antechamber of this corner of Oldtown which is forever Dorne; but the maid who has just shown in a caller for Lady Fowler of Skyreach has already lost control of her charge.

Upon quick, light feet, Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck detours into the main hall, trailing the maid behind her. She is a woman no longer young, but she has a lively, appealing confidence about her; and as she looks this way and that to admire the hall and seek one face in particular amongst the manse's inmates taking their ease therein, her mass of dark red hair, partly pinned up and partly braided, spills back over her shoulders and sways behind her, against deep violet 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 turns to address the serving-maid it suggests no end of possibilities beneath its smooth, flowing surface.

"Oh, but she's right in here! I did think she might be, you know, when I heard the music…" And straight away she takes two or three steps toward the woman in the leather bodice, who hasn't changed so much in ten years that she's beyond a once-fond aunt's recognition; and stops, brought up short, at the very end of her impulsive flight across half the city, by a sudden hesitation. Ten years, after all, and precious few letters after the first one or two. Her gaily-painted ivory fan stills in her hand. She draws in a breath, placing a certain unavoidable strain upon her bodice, and calls gently: "… Alaeyna?"

About to say something now, Ryam's words are paused by the arrival of the new arrival now. Turning to study the lady for a few moments, he offers a smile. Looking like someone trying to summon some memory from somewhere in the mind now. After all, there's something quite familiar with the woman.

The commotion is enough to pry Alaeyna's attention away from the cup of wine she's guzzling and the vaguely competitive nature of the banter she's engaged in with Ryam, so that even as Joyeuse comes just short of rushing right up to her, she's already turned to catch sight of that vivacious creature from her past, even before her name is breathed aloud. It's not often that the Lady Fowler is given cause to register surprise, and let's face it, in Oldtown there's not much opportunity for raw, unbridled delight, either. That is, until this particular moment. So stunned is she that when she flings her cup of wine in the general direction she perceives Ryam to be, for him to take it and alleviate the burden from her, she miscalculates altogether and ends up tossing the vessel to the floor, all the while never once prying eyes from the redhead standing before her.

"Joyeuse!" She gasps the name in an exclamation of sheer joy, exhibiting none of the other woman's hesitation when she veritably throws herself on her aunt, kissing her cheeks no less than three times each in her excitement.

When she hears that tone in Lady Fowler's voice, her aunt — well, her late uncle's wife — simply opens her arms to receive a whirlwind in cerulean skirts. Laughing with pleasure, and the relief of meeting with such a reception at the very moment when, foolishly, she'd been doubting it, Lady Hastwyck returns kiss after kiss, leaving each time a very very faint pink smudge upon the younger woman's skin, holding her closed fan tightly against her back to keep her close just a moment longer. And then, as inevitably happens when one meets an older relation, the older relation takes hold of Lady Fowler's forearms and leans away, beaming up at her, grey-green eyes shining. "Now, let me look at you," she sighs. Her eyes settle upon the evidence of recent combat. "Oh, you poor child, however did you get that? Are you quite all right? You know, when I heard tell an hour ago that Lady Fowler was in Oldtown, I could hardly credit it… Oh, but it really is you."

Alaeyna is just as content to linger in that reuniting embrace, and behind her, some enterprising servant darts in to mop up the wine she'd spilled with a cloth, collecting the cup once the tile has been restored to order. Her dark eyes are bright to look upon Joyeuse when they part to engage in that mutual inspection each of the other, and she seems at first confused when asked about her fresh scar, as if for a fleeting moment she's no idea what's being talked about. "Oh that? Fear not, I earned it well. A Gargalen knight asked me to dance, and my knife proved just as sharp as his." Ahh, recreational violence. There's that Dornish spirit Joyeuse may have been missing, here in the Reach. "And you! You're just as I remember you. This is redder, perhaps," she says, fingering a loose curl that frames the woman's face, flashing her teeth in a bright grin. "An hour ago, truly? It didn't occur to me you might be here at Oldtown." She teases, "I imagined you might be on to your seventh husband and living like a king in Braavos."

Blinking a bit as he hears Alaeyna's reaction, Ryam tries catching that cup of wine, but not succeeding, he manages to at least sidestep the splash of wine. A brief sigh as he looks to the wine on the floor, but then he turn to the reunion as well, stepping closer as he smiles. "As you know, it's a full time job keeping her out of trouble at times," he remarks, a bit lightly as he listens to the others now.

"An hour ago," the widowed Lady Hastwyck repeats, shaking her head. "And to think, I've been so close… My late husband built a manse for me, not far outside the city, on a cliff above the Whispering Sound… My second husband," she specifies delicately, "there have been but two." Plus one paramour, a legendary bastard of House Uller whose custom was to chew up and spit out twenty Westerosi knights for his breakfast each day, but who had another policy entirely when it came to a certain Westerosi lady. "And you… oh, Alaeyna, you beautiful child. Have you married? Have you children of your own? Oh, I feel so ashamed for not already knowing… Will you forgive me?" She blinks up at the taller, younger, vastly more fearsome woman, in appealing entreaty. It doesn't appear she's noticed Ryam, or anything at all beyond Lady Fowler's arms.

Alaeyna laughs. "Only two? I'm mildly disappointed. I much like the sound of seven better." The passage of time has done nothing to dampen their easy familiarity, as if they were resuming a conversation they'd began yesterday and not nigh a decade ago. "I've enough paramours to fill a pillow house, and between them they leave me no time at all to spare a thought for a husband. Do you remember Lorenzo? The Yronwood boy father entreated you to sway me away from in favor of his brother, a lifetime ago. He is yet by my side, and I have claimed him for my consort." Her smile is smug, to speak of having shirked marriage until now, and it deepens when she further brags, "I've a boy of six. He is at Sunspear." And then she waves at Ryam. "Do you remember my brother?" She's got so many bastard siblings, it's not a guarantee Joyeuse will have a memory of this one over any of the others, but she helps her along, "Ser Ryam Sand."

Ryam chuckles as he listens now, but doesn't say anything yet, as he steps a bit further towards the two as he's being waved at now.

"No, no, I really don't want to be a bother, good fellow," comes the sound of a wellspoken gentleman as he's led through to join them by a wary looking servant. "It's not vital but I don't like to hold things up any longer than absolutely necessary. I can't imagine having to go a moment longer without ones goods than one absolutely needs to… oh my word." This last from Lars as the ladies in their distinctly Dornish dress come into view, but it's a tone of awe rather than necessarily shock. He's not a badly dressed fellow himself, but there's none of the daring cuts or bright colours about his clothing, just good tailoring and quality Westerosi materials. "Well, if you could just point me towards… one moment." He pauses to pull a scrap of paper out and double check it, "Towards the Lady Widow Hastwyck? You're a jolly kind fellow, thank you."

"Oh! Yes," lies Lady Hastwyck, favouring the handsome Fowler bastard with one of her most charming smiles; "how do you do, Ser Ryam?" She releases her niece's arms at last, and unfurls her fan, swaying it gently in the air between them. There's a faint glow of perspiration about her; the heat of Oldtown isn't as stifling as a summer she once endured at Skyreach, but she did rather hurry here. Or oblige the bearers of her sedan chair to hurry. You know how it is. "And… oh, I do remember all those talks we had in the orangery about Lorenzo Yronwood," she confesses, her eyes again upon Lady Fowler. "Once you make your mind up, that's always been it, hasn't it? What's your boy's name? How tall is he? Does he look like you, or his father?"

Guilty! Alaeyna only smiles for the apt assessment Joyeuse makes, and after informing her of the requested particulars about her boy — his name, height, likeness to his father (the Prince Consort of Dorne, no less) — she finds her attention disrupted by the sudden arrival of a Reachman in the hall. Maybe it's Dornish sixth sense, but she casts a suspicious eye on the man, and though she overhears him asking after Joyeuse, she commands his attention by inquiring, "Yes? What is it?" It's the Dornish residence, after all, and she the ranking member of its nobility in attendance, her outfitting scandalous, perfectly befitting the southern climes from whence she hails.

To which suspicious greeting Lars simply gives a disingenuous smile and a short bow. "Lady Hastwyck, how do you do." Of course he addresses Alaeyna. She's clearly heard her name and is helping. Dornish. Always so helpful. "I'm so sorry if it's a bad time, I've had seven hells of a time trying to track you down, or I should have been here much earlier. It's just a minor matter, I assure you. Some… details… regarding one of your shipments. It should only be a moment, or should I find you somewhere at a more businesslike hour tomorrow?"

Offering a smile in return to Joyeuse, Ryam offers her a nod and a smile. "I'm quite well, Lady Joyeuse," he replies. "I mean, aside from not being able to keep my sister here out of trouble all of the time, but then again, who can?" It's said a bit lightly, before he adds, "I hope you are well as well?"

Alaeyna seems rather unimpressed by this creature and the manner in which he addresses her, and so she holds up a hand to cut him off before he can blather on too tiresomely long. "Halt," she says, her stern air managing to quash some of the lively, celebratory spirits the hall heretofore possessed, the exchange drawing the attention of some of the other Dornishfolk who mingle. "You enter the residence of House Martell at Oldtown, without invitation, without announcing your name, without stating your intention. Explain yourself."

The real Lady Hastwyck's eyes turned to the interloper in unison with her niece's; taking a cautious step back, she looks from one to the other, waving her fan gently, letting the confrontation play out however it might. After all, she's a guest here — Lady Fowler has every right to challenge an unknown visitor to this manse — and, well, when has Joyeuse Hastwyck ever dealt with a problem herself when there was someone else keen to do it for her? Besides — really — a shipment? She can't think what the fellow means.

Lars straightens, one hand subconsciously going to smooth his moustache and the other to straighten his clothing again. "I do apologise, Lady Hastwyck. I really don't want to disturb your splendid looking party." He even sounds sincere. "I'm sorry. Lars Costayne, at your service. I have the onerous task of working for his majesty's customs and excise, and yes, it really is as dull as it sounds. Really, if it's not a good time to bring up business, would tomorrow morning suit?"

"One might suggest you seek the Lady Hastwyck at her own dwelling, and leave the Lady Fowler, whom you presently address, and her countrymen to their diversions. If you make a hasty enough retreat, you might even find yourself spared the embarassment of it becoming known that his majesty's agent besieged the Martell residence and mistook a Dornishwoman for a Reachwoman." Alaeyna seems irritated to have had the company she was enjoying so rudely interrupted, and whatever business it is that the Costayne lordling brings to their threshold is evidently of no import to her.

Ryam keeps quiet for now, watching the happenings rather carefully, and studying the Costayne carefully for a few moments, before he offers the man a quiet nod.

Oh, Seven gods, but this is amusing. The lady for whom Lars has been seeking in vain all over Oldtown today — charting her progress from shop, to tavern, to tavern, to shop, to tavern, and at last, or so he was informed by an aggrieved sedan chair bearer who had moments before lost her custom to a rival, to the White Stone Manse — lifts her fan to hide her smile, but nothing can be done about her merry eyes. It's all still a mystery to her, and she can't help but look forward to clearing it up — but, oh, it's of far less (ahem) import to her than enjoying her niece's company for the first time in ten years. "Well said, Lady Fowler," she murmurs, just behind that lady, just below her ear.

"I'm so terribly sorry, Lady Fowler," Lars offers again, taking a step back, "I had no idea. I think one of the chaps out there carrying the sedan chairs must have a wonderful sense of humour. Well… I… ah… thank you so much for your hospitality. It's been a pleasure to meet you, and I do hope we might meet again under more favourable circumstances."

And now Alaeyna wastes no time in looking past Lars to the servant he'd brushed past in his rogue effort at gaining access to the main hall, beckoning him forward. He presently flocks the Costayne, solicitously at hand to usher the customs and excise agent along in taking his leave, lest he linger overlong. Returning her attention to Lars, her hostility seems at least fractionally mollified by his apology, but the question of whether or not he is welcome bears no different answer. "An error you shall doubtless not repeat," she says in turn, gaze drifting toward the exit hall as if to pointedly demonstrate what direction he ought now be heading. "Until we meet again."

There's a sound that enters the hall of this manse. A sound of boots and bells, and in steps a brightly-clad Dornishman of some (ill, no doubt) repute. His deep purple cloak jingles with an array of said embroidered silver bells, tossed over his shoulder lazily as he walks on in here, thumbing the brilliant emerald green of his lightweight tunic.

Parizad Uller has been lately rather scarce in this place, but he does make his presence known. He's armed — strangely enough. A longsword and dagger at his side, but no other weapons that one can see. "Hmmmph."

Oh, right. Yep. Exit. Heading that way, then. Jolly good! With another brief, admiring look around at some of the quality fabrics on display not quite covering things which are more usually covered in Westerosi fashion, Lars backs away and out.

The familiar auditory cues that precede the arrival of Parizad distract Alaeyna from the matter at hand, that in which she is presently forcing an intruder to take his leave of the hall, and turns her head in time to catch sight of the once-exiled son of House Uller as he enters. Merely looking upon him restores some of her good humor, and she crosses the floor to greet him directly with a kiss to either cheek. She bears fresh scars on much of the flesh left bare by her silken attire, and she leaves in her wake Joyeuse and Ryam, the former fanning herself aggressively to mask her features from the tax man before he finally takes his leave. Alaeyna is happy to see him go, and tells Parizad, "You've just missed a most tiresome encounter, darling. Come and see who's arrived to visit me." She takes him by the arm, of a mind to present him to Joyeuse.

The Westerosi lady in the violet-hued Dornish silks (so striking with her very, very red hair) struggles in vain to suppress a giggle as Lars Costayne is seen off the premises; she does however conceal its visible manifestations with that fluttering ivory fan of hers, above which her eyes follow the taxman with lingering interest. They'll meet again soon, no doubt, and she'll find out what it's all about, and perhaps all together it'll prove a delightful tale to tell over a few glasses of wine… At the sound of bells, she tilts her head toward the rakish newcomer; he has a familiar cast to his features, but, then, so does almost everyone in this room. Sandy Dornish colouring is so distinctive, and all the houses which bear it so thoroughly interbred over the generations. He's a guest of her niece's; she snaps shut her fan and transfers it to her other hand, and offers him her long-fingered, ruby-laden hand. "How do you do? I'm Joyeuse, Lady Hastwyck — once upon a time, in a very different time, Joyeuse Fowler."

Letting out a little breath as he sees the Costayne leave, Ryam offers a brief smile. "Now what was that all about?" he asks, before he looks over to Parizad, offering the man a smile and a nod, before he looks around for a few moments now.

The flamboyantly-clad Dornishman's black boots are polished to a shine as footsteps echo against the floor, turning his head to study the departing form of Lars with a quizzical glance. Still, Parizad makes no particular comment upon the man's departure beyond this, save a vulpine flash of teeth. This is likely more of a demonstration as his general amusement at someone else's discomfort, which is fast becoming a defining trait to those who spend too much time around the man.

Sand Dornish, indeed, Uller has all the look of a Dornishman who's got more Rhonynish blood than anything else, even though his odd manner of dress indicates something a bit different. As do his speech patterns. It's a Dornish accent but with very much a lilt of the Free Cities, touching upon his inflections here and there. Accepting Alaeyna's greeting graciously enough, he merely shrugs his shoulders. "Tiresome does not begin to describe many of these people. But for now he allows himself to be led along by Lady Fowler to study the new arrival. The crimson-haired one. "Ah — this is your kin, Lady Alaeyna? I am called Parizad Uller." There's a nod towards Ryam as well, and not a particularly familiar one but it is there, as he weighs the man's presence.

Alaeyna seems poised to make the introductions herself, but Joyeuse and Parizad make quicker work of it, each of them announcing themselves to the other in turn. "My uncle's wife," Alaeyna explains to him, when asked if the pair of them are kin. "Another man's wife since then, but no matter." The smile she wears is an easy one, and she says to Joyeuse, of the departing tax man, "I'll expect to hear the full story, where that creature's concerned, once it comes to pass. And if his face never haunts this hall again, well, all the better." Wine. Where's the wine? She motions a servant forth to see some served to the whole lot of them.

Wine? WINE! The widowed Lady of House Hastwyck withdrew her hand just before Parizad Uller could take it into his own; she lets her fingers close instead upon the goblet of wine offered her, though she stands stock-still staring at him for the span of another two or three seconds before she can manage to bring it to her lips and drink from it in a thoroughly healthy, uninhibited fashion. Thus restored, though her grey-green eyes remain wide as saucers, she recollects her manners and manages a very restrained, "How do you do, Ser Parizad?"

"Hmmph. Always the 'Ser.'" Parizad's voice rings out smoothly, and as smoothly as the bells that chime as he shifts his shoulders. "I will take it as a compliment, Lady. But I am no 'Ser'." The not-a-knight emphasizes as he straightens his tunic. "I imagine you have come to this city to partake in its endless throngs of Dornish visitors, no?" There's just something about the man that is infuriatingly smug, here.

Alaeyna is as grateful to have wine in hand as Joyeuse, and she tosses back her head in a gesture that's at once unladylike and unceremonious to gulp a goodly amount of it in one go. Her thirst sated, she wears a smug smile of her own to hear Ser in front of Parizad, amused by his aversion to the same. "Perhaps it's your manner of dressing as prettily as a knight does, darling, that so often gives people occasion to form the wrong impression. Did you two not know each other at the Hellholt?" She glances at Joyeuse, now, knowing her storied history with that great house and at least one of its bastards.

Two of its bastards, counting the one she bore herself. "Whether there are Dornish in this city," the Lady Hastwyck utters with considerable effort, after a moment's pause, "is a matter of indifference to me, save that one of them is my lady niece." She inclines her head toward Lady Fowler; and then lifts her chin sharply, summoning with a flick of her fan a servant to replenish her goblet of wine, which has somehow unaccountably become empty.

Nodding a bit as he hears Alaeyna's words to Parizad, Ryam is unable to hold back a chuckle now. "She may have a point," he remarks, a bit lightly. "I mean, you dress almost as lovely as me, after all." A brief smile is offered as he says that.

"Believe me when I say that I have had a number of years to ponder things such as fashion." To Ryam. But he elaborates more. "I won this cloak from a Volantine Sellsword." Parizad observes, chipper enough without elaborating what the contest was that awarded said garment. Or what happened to the Volantine. "Some of these Andal knights would have something to say about the things that went on that day, mm?" The smile falls a little flat here, now. "No — I believe your face is unknown to me, Lady…" He says towards Joyeuse but it's certainly a quizzical expression that Uller shoots the two women. "You know I have not been there in some time."

"Mmm, but nor has she, and so I thought perhaps…" No mind, Alaeyna is only too content to turn her mind to other matters, like how precisely Parizad won his cloak. "Very much about you would serve to scandalize those poor creatures. Knights and princes besides, as you've only recently proved." Rather than scold him for it, there's a sort of indulgence in her tone, like his habit of doing just the same is a source from which she draws constant amusement. Back to Joyeuse now. "Do you know, we've a delightful Dornish hall here in Oldtown that I'd very much like to entice you to join me at once evening hence for dinner and leisure. I shall even allow you to buy the wine as thanks for diverting that boresome man who came sniffing round here for you like a dog."

Her goblet once more amply supplied with a good Dornish red, Lady Hastwyck raises it to her niece (though without entirely removing her eyes from the Uller) and once more drinks deeply. "It was very well done of you, Alaeyna, seeing him off… I shall have to meet him sooner or later, I shouldn't wonder, but now I shall have a little time to consider what he could possibly want of me. And," her voice softens just a fraction, "you know I should be delighted to meet you again, very soon, wherever and whenever you choose. But will you forgive me, if I take my leave of you for this afternoon…? I have — recollected an appointment elsewhere, to which I really ought to attend." These last words are spoken with a degree of hesitance which marks them clearly enough as a lie; and scarcely have they left her tense dark pink mouth than the lady polishes off her wine and hands the freshly-emptied goblet to the same servant who, seconds ago, filled it.

"Of course," Alaeyna allows, when asked to pardon Joyeuse's leaving. She's either oblivious to or (most likely) chooses to be oblivious to the lie, moving to her upon-a-time aunt's side to offer her kisses in parting. "What an unexpected delight, to see you today. Now that I know you are close at hand, I might only imagine what mischief we might make for ourselves. May the remainder of your afternoon be markedly free of customs and excise men," she says, adopting a dry tone in particular at the last. Kiss kiss bye.

"I don't know if 'scandalize' is truly the proper term, Lady Alaeyna. I merely called the little princeling's faith and honor and devotion to his betrothed into question. And he did not hesitate to — well.." Parizad does not have words for what he is about to say. And so he does not say them. He merely tosses Joyeuse a bemused smirk, again with that damnably smug edge to it. And so, he watches her go.

Lady Hastwyck leans in without hesitation to return her niece's kisses, inadvertently leaving another faint smudge or so upon her cheeks. It's no more obtrusive than a touch of rouge. "Oh, indeed," sigh the Westerosi lady all alone amidst the fearsome Dornish; "I'll be sure to tell you his tale, when I know it myself. I'll write to you tonight, shall I? And let you know where I may be reached." She squeezes the younger woman's hands tightly, her fan held for that moment only between two fingers, and confesses, "It was such a pleasure to see you again." For Parizad Uller, she has a sharp nod, indistinguishable from those offered to two or three other half-familiar faces watching her as she extracts herself from a situation she can no longer tolerate, tears springing into her eyes as soon as she crosses the threshold of the manse and is at last on her own in the street.

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