(122-01-09) Carrying On
Carrying On
Summary: The Fossoways arrive at the Hightower, headed by Lord Owen Fossoway, who's set to wed a Manderly in the eve. He's welcomed by Lady Marsei — his (former?) goodsister. They have the loss of his brother, her husband, in common.
Date: 09/02/2015
Related: None

The Hightower

The great tower is all of white stone, ancient and beautiful. This lowest tier is quite wide and grand enough for any palace. There are two stories of this widest and lowest one. The tower has a narrower tier above, and a circular balcony-garden on the roof-space left unoccupied.

The ground floor is dominated by this grand receiving hall, and the great main doors lead directly to it. High windows let in light that reflects off the white stone walls and makes the space airy and bright. It is here that the Lord of Hightower holds his local court, from a large chair on a tall wooden dais. Both chair and dais are carved with images of the tower itself, and with dolphins and sea-dragons. They are inlaid with stones of white and grey, and decorated with silver-leaf. There's space for the Lord's councillors to sit alongside him, but visitors seeking audience must stand.

Past this grand hall there is a wide gracious stone stairway allowing access to the higher levels. Hidden behind the wall behind it and to and on one side, ramps allow wagon-loads of firewood for the beacon to be hauled up.

There is a bit of a hustle and bustle as guests arrive at the Hightower. Lord Owen Fossoway's entourage arrives bearing gifts of cider for the Hightower. It is only several day's ride to the Hightower from Cider Hall. The Fossoway nobles and their attendants are a bit dusty from the road, but they do not look overworn from it.

Lord Owen himself leads the entourage into the main hall of the Hightower, and tips his head back slightly to look upwards with a bit of a ponderous look on his face. He peels off his gloves, and shoves them into his belt.

Faces are there to greet the entourage, noble bearings and those in service of them in no short supply. Although the lord of the Hightower isn't presently at his seat, there's another Hightower of high blood there to greet the Lord Fossoway: his widowed goodsister, sister of Ormund. Standing on the sidelines of the great hall, Marsei appears uncommonly startled to see Owen even though she knew of his arrival before this moment; knew, even, the moment he stepped foot on Battle Island, more or less. Yet as the shocked deer look melts from her bright gaze, and her familiar figure steps out to greet him. Dismal shades of mourning are gone in favour of silver and white in her favoured elaborate, soft fashions.

The distraught woman mourning over her suddenly deceased husband still exists behind the prettied, put-together visage; only it's not a visage, and even in mourning she was pretty and put-together. Now her mourning is simply quieter, a forlorn look behind her eye. The true heaviness of her soul is harder to see when every one of her motions is as light and airy and elegant as ever. Her smile speaks of relief and nostalgia over seeing a familiar face, though it has not been long since they saw one another. Her husband has not been long dead. "Lord Fossoway!" she greets, joyous but for her hushed respectful tones. "What an honour it is to receive you in my home, for a change."

"Receive you in my home?" Owen Fossoway is scarce with his smiles. It's as if they have a finite quality to them, and he's afraid of using them all up. Yet, he manages a faint up ticking of his lips for his good sister. "I never received you in my home. You were family. Still are." He gives her a respectful bow of his head before asking in a lower, more discrete voice, "How are you, Lady Marsei?" It's a simple question, but much more specific than what he says out loud.

So much freer with her smiles, Marsei's is nevertheless particularly for Owen, seeming to affirm his sentiment of family. It takes on a sad quality upon his query; she visibly tries not to let her smile turn into a frown. She bows her head of styled curls and chooses her words carefully. "… I am carrying on." As best she can goes unspoken, but it's there; that subtle melancholy. "You and your men should like to rest after your ride," she says — offers — as she looks up, "There are of course quarters prepared, and food and drink only a word away."

"As you should." Owen says encouragingly, "Jarvas would want you to carry on. I'm sure your family will find another suitable match for you once your mourning is over." He says this as if it were a practical inevitability. Life must go on. Marriages and alliances must be made. They certainly won't stop for the death of a brother and husband. "I would be most grateful, My Lady." A pause, "Have the Manderly's arrived, do you know?" An uncomfortable look crosses his face, but he quickly smooths out his expression into something more neutral.

Marsei survives a small fit of fluttering lashes and string of tension in her slender neck, timed just so to the talk of suitable matches — then she too smoothes her features out in order to respond, "They have. Change certainly is in the air for all of us, isn't it?" she comments, sweet, casual, nothing like the prospect of arranged marriages. "Would you prefer to retire above now, or sit for a meal first— I could send for the Manderlys— " she looks aside, singling out those in service of the Hightower who linger nearby, whatever Owen so chooses just a request away.

If Owen notices the tension or fluttering of lashes he makes no indication of it. His face remains it's usual stoic mask. "I suppose it is." His tone lacks excitement or dread. "A meal would be appreciated." At the question of if he'd like to meet the Manderlys he shakes his head. "No. It's most unusual. Lord Manderly has requested that I not meet the Lady until we are wed. I do not mind if she is plain." One would suspect he would prefer it, actually. Owen loves plain, boring things. "Perhaps they are afraid she will catch sight of me, and bolt?" The wry change in his deep voice indicates a joke.

Delicate eyebrows lift as Marsei hears of Lord Manderly's interesting request, and jump further at Owen's jest, followed by a bright, encouraging smile. "I suspect that is hardly the case," she assures. "Come with me, then, to the dining hall. It's meant for such grand occasions, yet as a child it felt grander to sit in it when it was near empty and you could truly see its splendor," she shares, merry, or at least choosing to be merry. She touches the lord of Fossoway briefly by the elbows in a kind familial gesture before swiftly moving off to have quiet words with a servant on the sidelines, rather than commanding them from afar. A dutiful, efficient scurrying of the Hightower-employed occurs.

"Perhaps it is some queer Northern practice. The Manderlys follow the Seven, but who knows what they've adopted in that time." A Reachman at heart, even if he doesn't make merry like most, he openly expresses his distain for anything that isn't similar to the Reach. He follows Marsei into the Grand Dining Hall, and surveys it in a quiet fashion while she calls servants over to serve him.

"Unfortunately, I've not yet caught a glimpse of your bride, so I can give you no hints," Marsei says lightly on the way. "But I do hope she is as well-suited to you as you deserve!" The fine slippers she must wear hidden under long skirts make only a breeze of a sound in the spacious hall. Already ahead of them, a servant is neatly pouring wine enough for any who so want it at a long table that's served many a guest over the years. Marsei chooses a seat for herself, not looking at the wine; she tracks only Owen with a look of soft concern. "And how do you fare?"

"Well enough, I suppose." Owen says as he sits down at the table, and takes a glass of wine. He has a sip, and is quiet a moment as he relishes the taste along with the calm of the empty hall. "I miss my brother more than I thought I would." He says frankly, "We bickered often, but we've been doing so since we were children. I feel as if I've lost my sparring partner."

"I…" Lady Marsei, who'd been watching Owen so closely, who so often has a kind word for every circumstance, can't look nor speak. Her dimpled chin dips, her gaze lowered to the level of the lord's cup of wine; she can't seem to look at that either, as it turns out, and stares down, troubled. Her hands, elegantly folded on the table, part so that her thumb may worry repetitively over an imperfection on the table that doesn't exist.

"I'm so sorry, my Lady." Owen says quickly. "I forgot that as much as I miss him you must miss him more." He glances at her hand briefly, as if he thinks he ought to take it to comfort her, but chooses not to. It would be improper, and possibly do the opposite of what he wishes. "I did not mean to make you sad. If you need to be alone I more than understand."

She shakes her head at once without lifting it, simply a soft toss of her hair. "So few here knew him as we did," she says. "I haven't been long gone from Cider Hall, yet it … seems an age and no time at all, at once. Every day I remember he is gone is an eternity to endure, yet it seems only yesterday he was talking with me and drinking wine as you do, now." Marsei looks up, her eyes pooled with moisture that she manages to contain, pain so earnest she nearly shines with it. She takes a breath, pauses, and through it all, smiles insistently at Owen. "I am glad for your presence."

"He had his charms, didn't he? Despite being difficult at times he had a keen sense of humor." Owen says this as if he had a sense of humor of his own, and not so serious that at times it seemed as if nothing could cause the Lord of Cider Hall joy or mirth. "He was warm when you would least expect it. And a damned good horseman. No one had a better eye for horseflesh than Jarvas." He says this as if reassuring her that her husband was so good at something so unimportant should be a comfort. "I wish I could give you back what you lost, Lady Marsei. What we both lost."

Owen's words seem both a blessing and a curse to Marsei. For every beginning of a fond smile of remembering, there's a gentle wince, as if it hurts to think too deeply on her deceased husband. "Thank you, my lord," she manages. It's a forced politeness, but it's somehow no less well-meant. "As much as I wish that you could — that I could — I know the gods can't give us the gift of life-giving. Not … not that way." Not another way, either, if the fact that she never produced any children with Jarvas is taken into account — as it may be by Marsei, who's uncomfortably reflective for a moment before going on, heartfelt, "What I wish more than anything is that I could have stopped it from happening. I know I've said so before, but…"

A meal must have been at least nearly pre-prepared, for platters of food are brought from the kitchens in short order, quieting the distraught Hightower, who takes the moment to sit up straighter and compose herself. The meal is a modest offering only by grand standards — which is to say, it could feed a poor smallfolk family for days.

"You cannot blame yourself, my Lady." Owen says as Marsei trails off, and the plate of food is placed in front of him. His face cracks a bit, the first showing of genuine emotion in Owen Fossoway excluding his pretty words. "Jarvas was always melancholy. Morose at times. I never saw it until after his death, but I suppose he was unhappy. That sort of unhappiness cannot be cured by anyone else." That said, he attempts to get some food down as quickly as one can elegantly. With the wedding in the evening he still has to make ready.

"Do you think?" Marsei sounds— hopeful, all the more given her light sweet voice that would seem so youthful to the ear if not so cultured and intelligent. She leans slightly toward the table, clinging to that sentiment of Owen's. "I was well-acquainted with his melancholy— he'd often confess his frustrations with life to me, yet I never wanted to think that he'd…" As she trails off, her face struggles with emotion. "Well. I suppose we shouldn't be talking about such things today when you're to be wed." No tears fall; she cuts one off at the pass with a neat swipe of her finger. She smiles determinedly at Owen. "It is a good day!"

"No. Today's supposed to be joyous. I suppose we should not let rumination of what we could or could not have done darken the day." Owen gives Marsei a genuine sympathetic look before he tucks in to his meal.

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