(122-02-11) Asphodel
Summary: Prince Dhraegon brings Lady Marsei a gift and leaves her with questions.
Date: 11/02/2015
Related: None

Lower Garden - The Hightower Battle Island
Wed Feb 11, 122 ((Wed Feb 11 17:13:33 2015))
It is a summer day. The weather is hot and overcast.

The bottom two levels, giving some forty-five feet of height to the tower, are below, and the next tier of the white stone structure looms above. The second tier is narrower than the first, and the roof-space left behind supports this garden. It's a large ring, some twenty-five feet from the wall to the interior of the tower to the battlements at the roof edge. There's a paved walk along those crenellations, but the rest of the space has been floored in rich deep soil.

The garden has two winding path around the rings, twisting among beds of flowers and blossoming shrubs. They bloom profusely, and in every colour. A few small fountains are nestled amid the plants. The soil is not deep enough for large trees, so there are canopies of colourful fabric to create the shady spots. White stone benches and tables grace the shaded areas. Still, the rich earth is deep enough for small trees, and little plum trees and spreading berry bushes offer their sweets on some months.

There's a games court on the western side of the ring.

Dhraegon rides a long horn bull wearing garlands on his trip from the Dragon Manse, led by a rather scruffy groom, expression one of glee, and seemingly oblivious to reactions of the people he passes. He has the usual two Targaryen house Guards, who stay below with the Bull. Flox, his rather nondescript middle aged minder follows him upstairs for the meeting with the widow. Flox is carrying… is that a plant under a blown glass dome? It has spiky leaves and an even spikier white flower that looks halfway between a daffodil and chrysanthemum in shape. Dhraegon himself is perfectly groomed and dressed in blues, smelling faintly of lavender and vanilla. The big man looks bashful, like a child taken to meet another child he has barely met in an important setting with adults looking on.

It's a pity Lady Marsei did not witness the full scope of the prince's entrance. She's up in one of the gardens, where Dhraegon and Flox are led by a Hightower servant, past a guard in the Hightower colours by the entrance, as well as the demure dark-haired handmaiden who is typically as often in the lady's vicinity as Flox is in that of the prince.

Marsei's back is turned when Dhraegon arrives, offering her a view of the city beyond and he a view of her intricately braided, pinned hair. She's wardrobed prettily in one of her flowing gowns, a soft rose shade that gathers at a thin jeweled collar and leaves her shoulders free to the summer. Turning about, the redheaded Hightower is home in the splendid, lofty garden, matched not only with the bursts of cheerful colour but the way in which she moves comfortably along the path, as she has many times before. "It's lovely to see you, Prince Dhraegon," she says with warm cheer and just the right level of curiosity in her voice to still remain polite as she approaches. The curiosity's present even before she lays eyes on the odd little glass dome; then her inquisitiveness focuses, glittering.

Dhraegon looks like he is seriously considering hiding under a bush, but Flox clears his throat and gently nudges the Prince, who blushes and steps forward. He recites his prepared greeting without taking a breath, "It was very kind of you to let me come to pay a call on you Lady Marsei you look lovely today I have brought to a gift." He blushes to his ears and stares at his boots. I an obvious ad lib he says more naturally, "She's very delicate and needs lots of sun and water and sleeps if she gets cold." Flox steps forward and bows deeply, careful to keep the pretty decorative black and red ware pot level so as not to disturb either plant or dome.

The urging by Flox and Dhraegon's subsequent prepared speech has Marsei smiling all the more kindly, more softly. She reaches slowly for the gift, hands poised in delicate pause before ascertaining how to carefully hold it. She lifts it to examine the life within, her face lights up — a feat, given it had already been bright. "She's beautiful," she says, purposefully assigning the plant a gender since Dhraegon evidently has, "in her own little world. I shall be sure to take good care of her." She looks straight upon Dhraegon to state, "Thank you, Prince Dhraegon. A very thoughtful gift. I do so love flowers."

Dhraegon smiles like the sun sparkling on water, "They say they used to grow near rivers in the freehold, but her ancestor was collected at the mouth of the Rhoyne." The flower is about the size of four year old's fist, and close inspection will show pale orange stamens and a dusting of pollen of the same colour on the inner leaves from the trip across town. "She is best handled not at all, but if you must, best to use gloves. She needs the dirt to stay very wet as it would be in reedy area were the dirt is mostly mud, otherwise she will wither and sleep under the soil. Don't let anyone put her in their mouths. She can make people sleep, but it is hard to guess how long and for a child it is very bad. She smells lovely though, rich and melony and sort of spicy." He blushes and looks at his feet, "I like plants best. They make sense and if you know what they are, you know what they need and what they will do."

Marsei listens raptly, both with the intention to remember every detail and out of sincere interest for the whole explanation, her eyes widening once when he says 'Freehold'. "Remarkable," she says as she studies the plant once more, tilting her head to take in its delicate features from another angle, awed by its history. "I believe I could be friends with this plant," she says, and though there's a tone of gentle jest to her words, she sounds rather earnest — as though she sympathizes with its nature. "It's an honour, truly, Prince Dhraegon, and I'm surprised to deserve it." She smiles at him again, cradling the plant and its dome snugly. "I've never received a flower that still grows. Does she have a name?"

Dhraegon beams at her in a way that suggest that he takes her friendship with the plant seriously and approves, "Her House name is 'Asphodel.' She is very young, daughter of Nys, whom I brought with me when I came last June. This is her first flowering and so you might name her yourself, as she is to be yours." He looks at the flower, not her, clearly considering this a very intimate conversation indeed.

"Oh, my, goodness. I've never named anything before— except a kitten, once, when I was small," Marsei admits in a light fluster, taking the honour of naming the storied plant seriously as well without questioning a flower having a House name. "I'll have to give it thought." She gives the little plant's glass home a fond stroke of her thumb and looks about the gardens. A silence looms potentially around them, at least on the lady's part, so she speaks up, "Shall we take a walk about? It's a lovely day. There are no flowers such as this in the Hightower gardens, but they've been growing for ages. There are ever so many kinds."

Flox discreetly withdraws. Dhraegon looks relieved, "Yes please. Lord Ormund was kind enough to let me look about when… when I was to marry the Lady Lais, but I hadn't time to really get to know your plants. It is comforting to know that you have good gardens here, if I am to…. I don't do well without a garden, you know."

Marsei moves with ease into a slow stroll. The way is lined with resplendent flowering shrubs nestled beside a fountain that lends the sound of running water to the air. As cheerful as her demeanour remains, a hint of wariness marks the glance she gives the Targaryen before it's set upon the path ahead. "The Targaryen gardens here in Oldtown are a vision," she remarks before backtracking in a smaller voice to conscientiously pick from his words: "Was?"

Dhraegon says, "If you want to come have tea sometime, I could show you the rarer plants in the garden. We have two other types thought to be descended from the Freehold, very rare and special and you could meet Nys and her sisters…." He looks like he wants to flee, "I haven't a sister, Lady Marsei. My parents… had an accident, so there is only me. I thought…. They sent me to marry her to tie our Houses closer what with all the trouble in Dorne and… and elsewhere. She was a widow and it was thought…" He blushes to his ears, he mumbles, "Better not a Maiden to wed a Maiden…." he takes a deep breath, "She was scared as I was though, and, and…. She was very nice and sweet and she said she wasn't scared after she met me, but she… It is thought…. I am very bad at this."

Marsei takes on a manner of watching Dhraegon without staring, not wanting him to feel pressured under her inquisitive gaze. She has a hard time keeping the surprise and confusion from her face, however — especially at his mumble; the expressions come and go in flighty little bursts, interrupted by looking at the path and back again, trying to regally swallow her nervous energy. The unusual prince's blush seems to spread like a plague, leaping from his face to the lady's cheeks. "Marriage… and the engagement of it— is … it's a strange and difficult thing," she assures quietly. Knowingly.

Dhraegon is very, very interested in looking at the flowers, "It is. They have… they have explained what I am meant to do. Lord Ormund has promised sperate apartments, so that… so that my future wife might have her privacy and I have promised… if things do not go well, she might divorce me with no trouble when things are more safe and settled politically. I would not… I would not force a Lady of any name to do anything she would not… Including marrying me."

Marsei listens with interest, concern, and something less tangible. Her lips, as similarly rosy as her dress, tense at the corners. "That's very kind of my brother," she says, "and of you. You and Lady Lais are fortunate, to have such a generous arrangement," she says softly like a compliment, perhaps meant to be reassuring. For a brief moment, she looks thoughtfully down at the plant she carries, then drifts slightly ahead to touch a tall indigo-coloured flower, turning her head over her narrow shoulder to say optimistically, "And you can always come to the gardens."

Dhraegon sounds very distressed, and this next comes in a terrified rush, "She has fled. I am not a Prince out of stories…. I… I don't know who they will match me with next. She was very kind and didn't… didn't mind that I am different, but she very much wants children. Her husband died very young in a tourney, and, and… I do not know her mind, but I think… I do not know if I can do what I am meant to, though I want to be a good husband, and what if they pair me with someone who will laugh at me and… I _will not_ do what Jaeherys, even if he does look like the Old King. The real Jaeherys was kind and loved children and loved his Queen and wouldn't hurt women." He looks frankly terrified and is, in fact, eyeing the wall at the garden's edge with it's long drop to the black rock below.

Marsei's alarm is a slow-building, reserved thing, until she notes the true terror in the man. "Oh, Prince Dhraegon," she utters empathetically, frowning. She approaches in a rush, stopping short of collision, meaning to lay a well-meaning hand on his elbow, her other hand still careful to hold the special plant. "You're not… alone— in such fears," she says, earnest, yet quick to move on, "You are like the true Old King, loving and kind. I am sorry your betrothed as fled. I shall pray for you. Come, sit by the poppies." Her nods her head in the other direction to one of the garden's benches, well away from the edge. "Their orange colour reminds me of the Targaryen garden, all ablaze."

Dhraegon looks at her wide eyed, "I know that. I know it is terrifying for my young kinswomen and… and ladies in general. what if they get a brute or a monster or…." He is easily led, setting his hand on hers as she takes him there. He says a little dazedly, "I wish babies grew on bushes, it would be so much better and less frightening, though we would have to be on guard for ravenous birds and slugs and insects…."

"Wouldn't that be something," Marsei says— wistfully?— as she leads the distraught prince to the bench and takes a seat, looking at a nearby bush as if imagining its flowers were babies. She pats his hand once before clutching the plant in her lap. "Only needing water and sunlight and proper care. What's a little guarding against birds and bugs." Her smile at Dhraegon starts out a little sad, but gains reassurance.

Dhraegon breathes back with a more pronounced wistfulness, "Wouldn't it? The Mothers would be safe then and there wouldn't be… Life would be calmer and gardens held sacred, and it would be fun to watch them grow." He sits wit a daintiness unusual in a man this size, close to her, but not forcing touch. he smiles shyly at her, "If I were to marry, my wife would be… free to pursue her interests, be it in gardens or other things. She wouldn't… wouldn''t have to be frightened. I'd never harm her on purpose, though one can never promise no harm at all." He looks distressed, "There is always a chance of accidents."

Marsei is happy to drift into this strange yet comforting daydream about babies growing on bushes. The lady's thin sigh is so quiet it's mostly swept away by the breeze. Her hands fidget subtly around the plant. "I suppose … accidents do happen," she says thoughtfully, a touch discomfited; but it's nothing she visibly dwells on, looking at Dhraegon and saying instead, "You are rare, Prince Dhraegon." In more ways than one, but she means, "Most men, it seems … thinking upon their future wife, are only concerned that she'll be unpleasant to look at. Or cannot bear them children."

Dhraegon had been studying the flowers as he babbled, but her comment startles him into looking at her directly, pale lavender eyes distressed and oddly innocent, "But it is the woman most at risk and who has the least say in her fate, so clearly the most thought should go to her comfort, and… and how would I tell? If she be pleasant or fair, I mean. The flowers… I think they are all beautiful, from the humblest dandelion or thistle to my precious Nys, and women have many petals and I no one has explained to me clearly how I should tell which men think are buttercups and which are orchids. It is very confusing and I think… I think it is more likely I be the one at fault if no children sprout, nor would I blame her for finding a more skilled gardener to till her soil, though perhaps it be best if the gardener were fair of hair as it would raise fewer questions…" He blushes to his ears and looks down at his hands, squirming."

A whole series of expressions flow this way and that over Marsei's gentle face, from perplexed to sympathetic, shocked to, by the end, scandalized, a hand coming to rest at her chest to quell it. Her light eyebrows jump up, animated. She laughs, light and airy, and not at Dhraegon; rather, mystified and warmed by his nature. "You have a purer vision than the rest of them, I think."

Dhraegon looks at her worriedly at first, but her tone and comment calm him. He lowers his voice to confide, "I know I am different. The Maesters at King's Landing aren't sure exactly what is wrong with me, though there are many theories…. You have a good heart, I think, and are sensible. I… would you consider letting me court you? I do not think I will be very good at it, and I could never be the sort of husband you deserve, but I would try very hard not to frighten you or inconvenience you if at the end you chose to accept." He looks at the plant in her lap. "Better a woman who knows what she is getting into and has some say, than they drag in some innocent girl even more frightened of the wedding night than I am."

A fine thread of anticipation has been winding its way around Marsei's heart for some time. It tightens, now, squeezing, and she can scarcely breathe. His question has sent the well-spoken lady into a daze. It may be the shifting of the clouds, but her skin seems more pale, her cheeks more ruddy, and her eyes darker as she stares at Dhraegon. Wide-eyed much like the innocent and frightened girl she is not supposed to be in this proposed scenario. Gone in a flash; she smiles modesty, with graciousness, and tips her chin downward, gaze following. "I— thank you." It's not a yes or no; what it is is quiet and small and polite. Courtesy reigns above all. "H-have you spoken to my brother or father."

It is hard to tell what those so pale eyes take in exactly. The Prince says gently, "I will not be offended if you say you would not like my Courting. You are in full flower and the Winter is in my hair and I can not promise you… what people expect from a husband. I wanted… to see if you were interested in being courted before I spoke formally. Once I speak to Lord Ormund it becomes… difficult for you to say no if he says yes. I would not… corner you." He waits, eyes as blank and empty as a cloudless sky.

Marsei is grateful that he waits, for she takes awhile to summon a reply. While Dhraegon's eyes are clear skies, hers are full and deep with thought. So much thought. Calculating and wondering and thinking, thinking, thinking. She swallows at long last, ponderously smoothing one side of her skirt. She tips her dimpled chin back up, determinedly gaining more of her composure back. "You've spoken at length on how kind you'd be, what you would allow of your wife, what you don't mind, or notice, or want— " Her gaze travels up to Dhraegon, wondering on his gaze in a very precise way, "but since you too have to be married… what would you want in a wife?"

Dhraegon is startled by the question in away that suggests he's never really contemplated a wife at all until they told him his marriage was arranged and that beyond his real fear of the marriage bed and that she might be cruel, he hadn't given the specifics of what he would like in a wife the sort of thought a man given a choice normally would. He takes several deep breaths and stares at the member of House Asphodel, with his mouth hanging open while he thinks. Hopefully she is patient, because it is sometime before blushing he whispers, "I would like her to be kind and patient and not prone to yelling. It would be good if she like gardens and cakes and… if she were clever at politics and trade negotiations it would be a huge help."

She smiles, with half-parted lips, as though the expression is a surprise to her face. Again, her gaze tends down in thought, but her anxieties, subdued as they are to begin with, have gentled. She tucks a free loop of red hair behind her ear. "Can I think on it?" she poses in a low volume. "I will come to your gardens for tea so you may show me the flowers," she adds with her quiet cheer, "Regardless."

Dhraegon gives her a goofy, childlike smile, "Of course you can, Lady Marsei. That is why I asked you first. If you say no there is no harm done and if you say yes, there is… there is lots of time before you must decide if we should really…. It is a big and terrifying thing and you should have lots of time to consider…. I would like to show you the gardens very much and we can have cakes and if you say no I would still like to be friends. Is that all right?

"Of course!" Marsei's optimism seems full-fledged and glowing once again. The bright, reassuring smile makes another appearance. She nods, reassuring herself as much as Dhraegon. "I would enjoy that. We haven't finished our walk— come! You should see all the colours of roses around the bend." And talk no more of marriage until another day.

Dhraegon smiles back all wild relief and released tension from a task as terrifying as riding a destrier. He eagerly follows along, exclaiming at the best specimens and asking knowledgeable questions about soil drainage and the like.

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