(122-03-09) To Understanding
To Understanding
Summary: When Marsei finally meets Dhraegon in his garden, it means a decision that will have lasting effects.
Date: 09/03/2015
Related: Asphodel, others

Walled Garden - Dragon Door Manse Starry Street

The Dragon Door Manse has a large walled garden behind. The tall stone walls have iron spikes topping them to prevent climbers, and a heavy double oak-and-iron gate leading into the alley behind. It's quite solid, though there is a little door in it that one might open to look out. Near that gate is the stables, with an attached mews on one side and kennels on the other. There's a small paddock for the horses behind the stables, and in front of it a space for training at arms, with a simple pell as well as a more complex practice dummy that can pivot when struck. These utilitarian areas are separated from the rest by a lower, and gateless, wall. Orange trumpet-creeper grows over it in most places.

Between this wall and the garden is a great fire pit, ringed in glossy black stones, each cut to interlock with the next and engraved with the image of a dragon. They're all in slightly different poses.

Nearer to the Manse is the garden proper. Its has winding stone paths and is planted thickly in flowers and trees. Most of the blooms range in colour from fire-orange to blood red. Deep purples are also included in the garden's otherwise limited palette. The pride of the plantings is an enormous flowering quince tree, some thirty feet tall — not large for a tree, but vast for one of its type. Clearly it has been pruned for generations to take on this form, single-trunked, with its branches curving up and then down in a fountain shape. Each of them nearly touches the ground and is heavy with bright red-orange flowers. One can step through them to stand hidden under the umbrella of blossoms, shaded and cool.

Most of Oldtown's grand manses have a fountain at the center of their gardens. Here there are only a few small ones, here and there along the paths. At the center there is, instead, a black stone pavilion, standing in the open and unshaded by any trees. It is seven-sided, with arched doorways on its East and West walls. It is otherwise glazed, including its domed roof. The glass is black and clear and red, pieced together to form the three-headed dragon sigil of House Targaryen. The image is repeated on the floor inside, in red jasper set into the black marble. The pavilion houses long curved benches of that same black stone. It gets tremendously hot inside.

Dhraegon has had them set up a fancy tea with cakes and mint tea and lemon water and meat pasties. There are toy boats floating in the fountain and paper lanterns set up. It is twilight, the perfect time to catch the day flowers before they close, while the night blooming jasmine is just starting to perfume the air. The Prince is both sober and dressed soberly for him.

The moment she takes in the whimsical details that have transformed the gardens to be even more magical than they already were, Marsei is easily caught up in the atmosphere. Her expression shines, made up of wide, shimmering eyes and her gentle rosy smile. Her gown of various shades of soft pink, its delicate shoulders seeming woven together with gems, is anything but somber. As engaged as she is in the loveliness of the gardens — even the paper boats — she finds herself not entirely sure what to do with all this beautiful whimsy, and her smile has turned from awed to nervous to polite with the prince. "It is lovely to see you again, Prince Dhraegon."

Dhraegon gives her a bright goofy smile and attempts to take her hands, "I practically live in the garden you know. Shall I show you the blooms or would you like to eat first? I…" He blushes bright pink, "I was worried I had shocked you so much with my…. my proposals that you might not want to come to see the garden."

Marsei's hands are easily taken, and she's eager to take his, for she's eager to apologize, "I— " Her face brightens and falls and brightens as contrastingly as sun and shadow flickering between leaves. "I apologize," she says smiling, painfully sincere, "I was so worried I'd troubled you by not coming. I wanted to come, I almost did, several times! But with the Dolphin Festival, and…" And, and. She beams instead, announcing, "I should like to see the blooms first."

Dhraegon simple lifts her hand to give her knuckles a shy kiss, his soft lips barely brushing the skin, "Then let us forgive each other and and I will show you the flowers." He attempts to take her arm with one of his massive paws and walks her around, pointing out the rarer blooms tucked in with the more mundane ones, giving each a house name and a personal name, as if they were people, and pointing out the slug straps he has set here and there under the bushes with the pride a man might use at pointing out hunting trophies.

Marsei is infinitely more fascinated by flowers than hunting trophies. Her engagement with the flowers is not an idle one, as she learns about each bloom; she gets in close to them as they're pointed out, leaning here and there, even crouching here and there with her fine dress pooled around her to get a better look at the rarer varieties before returning to Dhraegon's arm. "I now expect the beauty of this garden is due in no small part to you."

Dhraegon kneels with her, obviously pleased by her interest, "It is a small garden, but a fine one. I…I am happiest surrounded by plants. It is exciting to watch them grow and they are patient in a way people often are not, and happier, I think." He looks at her with rather the same expression with which he looks on his favorites amoung the plants. It is not a romantic sort of expression, but it is a fond sort of delight never helpess. "I use beer as bait. They fall into the little cups and can't get out and die too drunk to know that ought is happening to them. it is not a bad way to go for a slug, I think."

Marsei is keenly interested even when talk turns to slugs, although her smile does fade in contemplation for their beer-soaked little fates. She looks on the garden with a similar delight and, too, a fondness that is not so different when she looks up at Dhraegon … if touched by a faint wisp of sadness. Perhaps for the slugs. "Do you get a lot of birds in the garden?" she asks with a suddenly vested curiosity.

Dhraegon is all joy at her question, "We do! Those vines over there have flowers that attract hummingbirds and we get lots of other types coming to eat our berries and worms. Worms are very good for plants, you know. I like to stay very still and watch them flit about. If I… if I stay here, I will get more plants in for the birds." He looks at her, pale lavender eyes very serious, "Have you… have you thought about things?" He squirms, blushing to his ears, pale skin hiding nothing. "I imagine you have more suitable men lined up at your brother's door…."

"There are not many— there aren't any, save a few hopeful mothers on their sons' behalf, else my brother has been keeping me blissfully ignorant. I know there will be. I am … the sister of the queen, after all…" There is no pride in such a statement, no entitlement; her voice becomes smaller and thinner. Emotion is kept at bay — she is poised — but it's especially evident in the conflict in her expressive eyes when she looks up to the prince. "But… none of them would be like you, Prince Dhraegon. You are something different." Marsei looks down and touches the edge of a flower petal, trying and struggling, albeit elegantly, to gather her thoughts. "I have given it … much thought," she admits, so quiet her sweet voice is delicate, "and I think. I think it would be all right."

Dhraegon giggles and looks down, "I am certainly different. I know it is not the sort of different a woman generally wants in a husband, though there are worse kinds, I think." He glances towards the house, expression clouding over for a moment. Then her final words sink in, his tone is as earnest as his expression, "Then I may court you openly if your brother approves?"

Increasingly nervous, it appears to take a great deal of strength for Marsei to stay still just now. To nod her head is comparable to lifting stones of lead; with both her chin and gaze tucked down, she does so, hurried and laboured, as if coerced or encouraged at length although it's truly been nothing but Dhraegon's sincerity and the silence that followed. Yet she's smiling when she looks up again, timid but warm, sincere. "… earlier today I was at the Maidenday Gardens and I saw a bird by a statue of the Maiden," she shares. "A dove. It was injured and… something came over me; I took it home. I was told… perhaps I would receive a blessing." She looks faraway, not quite clarifying, simply thoughtful. Then decisive. "Shall we eat, then?"

Dhraegon listens, his expression gentle. When she finishes speaking, he lifts her hand to his lips for another ghost of a kiss, "You are truly kind to a very unworthy suitor, and I am honored beyond words." He turns towards the table, "There are jam cakes and lemon cakes and those new Dornish spice cakes…. you understand that my… whatever it is can't be healed with a splint, that if I were ever to be normal the Maesters would have managed it my now. I would… very much like to make you happy, but I can not promise to be other than I am." He blushes again.

Marsei is shy about the kiss to her hand again, as scarce and chaste as it is; she looks away, briefly, though her expression remains kind. She starts toward the food that is laid out for them, but turns to speak in her gentle way. "If you were normal, you wouldn't be Dhraegon, and I expect … you wouldn't be as kind, or as understanding," she says slowly, carefully, bit by bit. "I expect… I wouldn't like that Dhraegon as well. Just the other day, someone told me— they said, the easier a person's life has been, the easier they judge others. I don't know that your life has been difficult or easy, but I know that it has been different than others, and I think that you could understand me. And I shan't judge you."

Dhraegon gives her a smile like the sun peeking out on a cloudy day, "I would like to understand you, Marsei. And… and I would like to make you happy if I can. I will try very hard, though you will likely have to be… very clear with me." He pulls her chair out for her, oddly graceful for such a large, overweight man.

Marsei sits neatly, smiles graciously. "I will," she acknowledges. "I…" she starts but dismisses with a more carefree shake of her red head. She wastes little time in reaching for the food, as that is what it's there for, going straight for a lemon cake with enthusiasm. She's a bit enthusiastic to change the subject, as well. "Are you coming to the ball tomorrow? Are you close with Princess Visenya?"

Dhraegon sits, helping himself to come jam cakes with childlike enthusiasm, "I though I might wear my Phoenix costume…. Visenya is a sweet girl. I think young Rhaegor will likely be a good match for her." He wrinkles his nose, "Better than some of the others planned for her in the past, I think."

It's Marsei's turn to wrinkle her nose, though the expression is barely visible, her skin too smooth. She hesitates over her next bite of the lemon cake to say regretfully, "There may be some trouble, there. With Rhaegor. I am not fond of absent-minded gossip," her pale brows shoot up as she insists the latter part. "But Visenya has become my friend, and I do worry."

Dhraegon looks surprised, "I thought it was settled…. Are they hoping to marry her to a Dornish prince again?"

Lemon cake neatly devoured in the interim, Marsei replies, "No, the other way around; Rhaegor." She lifts a hand as she clarifies, as if she could have meant anything else, "I mean, to Dornish princess." She tries a jam cake. "It did not sound firm," she says optimistically, "Perhaps it will be sorted. At any rate, the ball tomorrow will be a lovely distraction for her. I hope to see this phoenix! I adore costumes."

Dhraegon nods, "I will see what I can do." He looks at her with pale, pale eyes, "Peace with Dorne is important. It's why I mentioned the trade negotiations. That's the point, you see. Men are less likely to fight if their money is entwined, if they know people from other places and like them, if their personal comfort is harmed by the fighting. It's why we made the Sapphire eyes as a test. I was negotiating with Dorne to build a joint trading fleet, but they all fled the Plague and I have not had any luck luring them back to talks, though I have financing and builders lined up for building our half of the fleet. I know it is not… very heroic, but I have hopes of it building long term frriendships if we can get the ships in the water." He giggles and blushes, "I wore it once, when we through a ball last October. I like being a bird."

"Sapphire eyes?" Marsei has listened with interest; it is a different sort of interest than that variety exhibited while learning about flowers, prompting a different sort of look in her eye. A lesser fascination, but a fascination all the same, at the way he talks so knowledgeably about trade negotiations; her look is not so fond— but clever, sharper. Warmed away when she laughs once, a pure sound, at Dhraegon's penchant for being a bird. "What is more heroic than trying to assure peace instead of war? Yes, that's heroic. I think that is the definition of heroic, at least one of the better ones," she determines merrily. "It seems to me like a sound plan."

Dhraegon wiggles excitedly, "It is the name of the boat I build with Edwin Lannister. She sails from here to Tarth and back, trading all along the Dornish Coast. She mostly carries spices, rare woods, and various delicious things to drink. The hope is to get regular routes going from Storms End, Kingsport, and Dragonstone to Dornish ports, and likely stopping in key parts of West Essos as well. It's why I'd want a clever wife, you see. To be a partner in getting people to agree to things that are good for everybody. The numbers aren't important. There are people to do that part. The trick is to talk lords and Ladies and Princes into cooperating." He blushes and looks down, "I am not trained for fighting. I am not meant to have sharp knives. I am not even a little like young Rhaegor, who is like a knight out of stories. I am a man who enjoys cakes and brandy and good wine and gardens."

Marsei nods along — not the absent-minded agreement such a gesture could be, she is truly invested, though she only has a small and humble smile and no comment to be had over the mention of 'a clever wife'. "Fighting is such a brutal thing. I would rather eat cakes than watch knights battle, most times." She smiles bright. "We are better off in the garden! The battles waged in trade talks are much safer than those with blades."

Dhraegon nods, "Horses are really scary, but I like watching the events from the stands where it is safe. I should… very much like to hold tourneys and archery contests and things in your honor, Marsei. We could sit and eat cakes and get tipsy together watching them. And then we could come home and lie in the garden with the scent of growing things all around and watch the sky spin…."

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