(122-02-23) Even Terms
Even Terms
Summary: In the library, Camillo finds Marsei and they puzzle over the Dolphin Tournament; a game is played, and a request given.
Date: 23/02/2014
Related: The Dolphin Tournament

Library - The Hightower Battle Island

This expansive room serves as the library for House Hightower and their guests. While its book collection does not compare to what the Citadel might offer, the space is entirely admirable, and well suited so socialization as well as study.

Tall shelves line the walls. The ends of the wooden bookcases are carved with the Hightower sigil, an image of the very tower that holds this room. They are painted, and the flames of the beacon-fire covered with bright gold leaf. While the carvings are largely the same, the paint-jobs are each different, some showing the tower at night, some at dawn, some in rain, and so forth.

The shelves nearest the door hold, not books, but games of various sorts, most in wooden boxes. There are several large round tables to facilitate play, surrounded by chairs plushly padded with silk, some in silver and some in red.

Further back, the bookshelves are not pressed against the walls but arranged in stacks that divide up the space into small, semi-private areas. Hidden there are more tables, these ones small, as well as single chairs and plush couches.

The room is windowless, but kept well-lit by many lamps.

Lady Marsei is nestled away in the library of the grand Tower, taking respite from the Dolphin Festival. While the celebrations have been lovely, they are also rather endless for the Hightower noblewoman, who has been expected to keep up appearances throughout. The library has a timeless feel, windowless, and the warm lamplight brings a kind of studious peace. She sits in the back, on one of the single chairs tucked next to a small table, rather than one of the more plush pieces of furniture in plainer sight. A wooden box, containing a game, sits on the table unopened, and in front of her is a rather hefty tome, displaying a page of old text and an ink drawing of a lighthouse. It's the drawing the lady stares at, doing so rather dully, looking rather faraway in a daydream than fixed on any reading, her dimpled chin in her hand and her elbow on the table like a child who's drifted away mid-study.

Camillo comes in with a skin of oil to replenish the lamps. The library doesn't receive constant use, so perhaps he had expected to find the place empty. Or perhaps he came specifically because he knew the lady was here. He steps in and, seeing a lamp lit already, looks Marsei's way and lowers his head in greeting. "My lady, pardon me."

Marsei drifts out of her daze comfortably, as if waking from sleep, gentle focus coming into her eyes as she realizes it's Camillo. Surprise hits her a good deal late, when she realizes her rather childish, cozy lean over the table and sits up proper. "Hello, Camillo," she greets in her sweet manner, "do not let me interrupt you." She remembers the book in front of her and pushes the corner of the page slightly as if she might turn it, but lacks the enthusiasm once she gets a glimpse of the next one. Her table has the atmosphere of being half-abandoned, what with the game and the chair across empty but untucked.

Camillo looks a little sorry to have disturbed the lady into a less comfortable posture and retreats a bit to fill the lamps. "Are you enjoying the festivities, my lady?" Ordinarily, he is not one to speak out of turn to a noble, but perhaps Marsei's kindness has encouraged familiarity.

"I am!" She's happy to answer. "They are particularly lovely this year, what with the wedding. Still, it's nice to take a break from so many celebrations." To sit with a book and not read it. It might be a history book of sorts; the lighthouse drawing is marked as Battle Island, and the content on the accompanying page is about the Hightowers. "Have you been enjoying them as well? I thought I glimpsed you briefly at the tournament."

"It must be very tiring, to have to attend everything," Camillo sympathizes, neatly filling one lamp and getting the wick set properly into the oil. He looks up from his work. "Yes, my lady, I have," he says, then pauses briefly before he adds, "The tournament had incredible moments. Ser Malcolm Storm's performance was impressive. I thought."

"It was," Marsei agrees, but admits, "Though I'm afraid I'm not especially good at judging. Tournaments can get so violent. I do love his horse." She smiles, ever-so-slightly sheepish, thinking herself silly for saying so, but not really minding. "I thought it was sweet when he gave his prize to that old woman."

"It's very…" Camillo pauses to search for a word to describe the horse. "Beautiful," is the best he can come up with on short notice. When Marsei brings up the prize, he takes a step closer, looking a bit puzzled. "Why do you suppose he did that, my lady? Chose a lowborn old woman instead of…"

"I thought it a charitable decision," Marsei replies, a more thoughtful tone to her voice now that Camillo is questioning. She looks faintly puzzled herself. "In the spirit of the Mother's compassion. I grant you, it was a rather bold decision…" She gives Camillo a quizzical little study. "What do you think?"

Camillo looks even more puzzled when Marsei unexpectedly asks his opinion. "I don't know, my lady," he admits. "I think others mostly competed for the favors of well-born ladies they wished to win the pleasure of. Especially if they are unmarried. But…I suppose Ser Malcolm is known to be pious," he mentions quietly.

Marsei considers, pressing her lips together. "Well," she says slowly and thoughtfully, as if solving a sum in her head. "That jewelry will likely support that poor old woman and her family for a good while. Such an unusual act of kindness on Ser Malcolm's part would win him my favour." She smiles, laying her hands upon each open page of the hefty book. "Or perhaps," she says with growing, good-natured jest, "there is a conspiracy."

Camillo seems to think all of this over quite seriously for a moment before he remembers to smile at her joke. "No, of course I wouldn't think that, my lady. But…" He trails off without finishing his thought. "So you think the family will sell it? Do you think that's what Ser Malcolm would want them to do? It seems a shame, rather, that fine piece lost to Seven-know-who."

"I would think so; elsewise I'd fear the woman would become a target for thieves. Gods be good, I do hope that doesn't happen," she says, sincerely worried by the thought though she doesn't know the lowborn old woman from any other face in a crowd. She considers seriously, as Camillo has, but her highborn living shines through, propelling her to say optimistically, "It was a beautiful piece, but others just as beautiful can be made." Empathetic as she may be, there are always more riches upon demand in her world.

The thought of this seems to be one that is rather alien to Camillo, but he considers it carefully while he busies himself with another lamp. "So you think," he seeks to recap, "That he would want her to sell it and he would not expect to see it again."

Marsei watches Camillo tending the lamps, growing more quizzical and less firm in the scenario she had thought out. "That is what makes sense to me…" she determines softly, "But I … cannot truly speak for Ser Malcolm, of course. Why would he expect to ever see it again?"

"He wouldn't," Camillo acknowledges quietly. "But. Most anyone else would, if they received the necklace and gave it to a sweetheart. It is very selfless to give away a thing won so hard to a stranger and know that even they will not keep it long." He frowns at the wick he is setting. "I think he may have been injured in the melee."

The Hightower lady frowns a little, casting her gaze her and there on the table as she ponders, "I know the tournament champions love … but I suppose I've always thought men truly fight more for the sake of fighting and fame than for the love of women." Perhaps a cynical attitude for the normally optimistic lady, though no such attitude touches her voice itself. "I'm sure that's not always the way," she's sure to add in cheer, "but perhaps Ser Malcolm thought in the same way." She pauses before querying, "Do you know him?"

"It's hard to understand," Camillo says softly. "Fighting for the sake of fighting." He finishes with the lamp and glances up. "No," he says, then amends, "We met once. And…he led the force on the poisoners' house, where I was injured." So that would be twice, at least.

She's beginning to nod her agreement, and equal puzzlement, over the concept of fighting for fighting's sake, after already professing some distaste for violence; Camillo's further words, however, put a stop to that. She widens her eyes on him instead. "Poisoners' house?!" she questions, startled, sounding concerned. "What adventures did you get into before me, good Camillo?" she inflects amusement into her voice, but it's thin in comparison to that worry.

Camillo turns to face Marsei more fully. "This was before the Hightowers were so kind as to take me on," he says. "No one much knew me here, yet. But there was a bad element that needed clearing out. I joined the force to go, perhaps foolishly: I am no soldier. I was leading the back force. We thought to infiltrate, but were surprised by some toughs and two skilled fighters. I was hurt in my shoulder and stomach and would likely have died, but Princess Faelyn appeared and finished off the second man." Which may mean that Camillo killed one.

Marsei slowly lifts her hands and curls them beneath her chin, her elbows tight to her chest as she absorbs the story and attempts to fill in the details in her own mind. It's clear, the way her eyes become vivid with thought. "That … sounds a terrible affair. I am glad the gods and … Princess Faelyn saw fit to see you through." She squints slightly, close to wincing, as if asking endangers her in some way, yet does so all the same, "Who did these people seek to poison?"

"I'm very grateful," Camillo is sure to acknowledge, nodding. But her own question makes him look a little uncertain. "To be honest I…had not heard the details of the matter. They needed to raise a force quickly. I did not ask. And then afterward, recovery was… I never thought to find out. But someone will know, if you ask. The…Maiden's Knight was there." It would take someone of Camillo's sort to risk his life for a cause he does not quite understand.

Marsei leans back against her chair in order to look at Camillo with a raised chin, giving him a gentle-eyed but nevertheless precise assessment. "You are very selfless, I think, Camillo," she says as a soft statement, nods as if to punctuate, and looks away over the small assortment of items on the table. "I hope it has all been long since amended. Poison is…" She hesitates; quiets uncomfortably. "Cruel." She closes the history book. Her hand is small and white compared to its cover. She indicates the wooden box, turning subjects. "Do you know how to play this game?"

Camillo seems embarrassed by that assessment of hers, more embarrassed than he usually is by all the many other things that embarrass him. "There are some exceptions, my lady, but…I think…most people who appear selfless are just selfish in a way that others don't readily understand." That said, he quickly adds, "Yes, they were all stopped then. Between our force and the front force I believe we got them all." He looks at the game, approaching slowly. he wipes his hands on his clothes to be sure he doesn't have oil on his hand when he touches the cover, then lifts it off gently. "I think perhaps I've seen people play it before. It has to do with…moving the tokens amongst the trays." He furrows his brow, trying to recall.

She's distracted from reply, dwelling rather heavily on Camillo's earlier words, very nearly sending her into a faraway look once again; a more bothered bout of reflection than her prior daydream. As ever, dreary looks are not long for her face; she brightens, putting it decisively out of mind. "Yes!" she says. "I've only just learned this one, and I readily admit I am terrible at it, but it occupies the time. Siva normally sits with me in the library, but she was feeling ill, so I sent her away. Unfortunately, now I'm left with little to do while I've a spare moment." In a library, surrounded by books. Point being— "Can I convince you from your duties to humour me for a few minutes, Camillo?" She could demand it; instead, she looks up with glimmering hopeful eyes.

"Of course, my lady," Camillo says, looking at those hopeful eyes with faint surprise that she would even ask him so nicely. Faint only because of who she is. He carefully closes and sets down the skin with oil in it, then helps himself to a seat. "If you wish. But I have played only rarely, myself." At least he doesn't claim he's never played a game in his life, though with his usual hangdog demeanor, one might expect him to.

Marsei sweeps the book to one side of the table to make room for the game, reaching across to pull it out of the box herself and lay it in the middle. The oblong board is finely carved in dark wood, and polished to a shine, although the worn spots in the indentations where the pieces go show its age, whereas the red and gold designs along the edges must have been re-painted and re-painted over the years. "With any luck, then, you will be a poor a player as I, and we'll be on even terms," she suggests, upbeat. "I believe the simplest of the rules aaare…" she searches for the cover, but gives it to Camillo. "… etched on the inside of the box. I'm always forgetting them, poor Siva."

Camillo takes that box cover and looks at it thoughtfully. Is there anything he doesn't do with such solemnity? "We put the pieces one by one in each of the spaces clockwise around the board, putting a piece in our own pit but not the opponent's pit," he says, "Then we take turns moving all the stones from one cup, dropping one in each in the same way until we run out. If you land in your own pit, you get another turn. If you land in an empty cup, you take all the opponent's pieaces in the opposite cup," he explains. "The game ends when one side is empty. You count up the remaining pieces in your pit and on your side, if there are any." After having recited all of that, he nods once, then starts dividing the pieces evenly, and takes his turn at 'sowing' pieces.

Marsei listens to the rule recital intently — all the rapt attention of a child memorizing their lessons or else — but once her memory's refreshed, she's all smiles. "I think that may have been the most words I've ever heard from you at once," she remarks as she merrily goes about her turn.

Camillo lifts his eyebrows at the comment, but then he allows a small, sheepish smile. "It wouldn't be right for a servant to go on talking all the time to high born people," he says. "But. In honesty, other people also say that I don't talk much." He watches her make her turn, then picks up a couple of pieces to move from one spot to another. No points change hands with that move.

"You better not take it easy on me because I am highborn and you low," Marsei says, the warning hardly that and nothing but pleasant, a jest in the spirit of the game. She keeps her eyes locked on the board, hesitating a great deal over her next moves, which do little to change the dynamics once she does move her pieces.

"No, my lady, that woudl be disrespectful. …Unless you were an ill-tempered knight with a large sword." See, Camillo can joke. That was a joke, wasn't it? His eyes scan the board as she makes a move. On his move, he takes two pieces and uses them to make an easy move to claim the pieces opposite by landing in the space he just vacated last term. Nets him a few pieces, but not too many.

A joke! She certainly takes it as such, smiling just shy of freeing laughter. She's quiet and contemplative about her moves again, taking her time until she settles upon moving one of her former pieces to score just one. It's little reason to be triumphant, but Marsei doesn't seem competitive in the slightest, anyhow; she simply enjoys playing. "Will you be attending any parties during the Dolphin Festival?" she asks casually, out of the blue. Thinking the question odd once she's posed it, she apologetically explains, "I know they crop up around the city, and… well, I worry for Siva who I know has been invited here and there…" she expresses worry alongside this knowledge of her handmaid, "and some sound rather rough to me."

Camillo seems to think over his moves mostly while Marsei is making hers. But then, he so often looks like he's thinking hard about things, so he can be hard to read. He looks up from the board. "Private parties, you mean?" he wonders, blinking. "…No, I haven't been invited to any," he replies. "But if you worry for your handmaid, I could follow to make sure she remains safe, my lady." It's a very respectful offer of stalking that he makes.

"Would you?" Marsei is happily bolstered by Camillo's respectful offer of stalking. "It's not that she is unwise. She was born of a lower rank than many attendants, and tends to make friends who are…" Lowborn, like Camillo? She trails uncertainly off, picking up, "Yet she's been by my side for so long, it's my world she knows. You've my gratitude."

"Yes," Camillo agrees, bobbing his head. "But… What would you like me to do if she should…go off with someone…unsuitable? Of her own choice?" he wants to know, looking at Marsei's face and ignoring the game board for now.

The question strikes Marsei by surprise, and it takes her a moment to quell the conflict from her face; still, there's a distinctively uncomfortable set to it as she gives this peculiar situation thought. She studies the board, as if it holds answers or, at the least, distraction. If only it was her turn. "I… if it is her own choice, I suppose it is suitable." She looks up to smile. "I only want to be certain she avoids trouble not of her own making." A pause. "And boats! She gets seasick on boats."

Camillo seems mildly surprised by that response, but he nods once. "Then I won't interfere in anything of her own choice," he promises. "But I will see to it that she comes to no unlooked-for harm. Or…sailing," he says.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License