(122-05-23) Allegiance
Summary: Prince Rhaegor pays Lady Marsei a visit, regarding her betrothal to Dhraegon.
Date: 23/05/2015
Related: None/all

Lower Garden - The Hightower Battle Island

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 paths 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. The Butterfly Garden is on the South side.

A light, misty rain falls on the Lower Gardens of the mighty Hightower, but the familiar drizzle isn't enough to drive everyone under protection. Lady Marsei lingers near the entrance to dryness and safety, but has stepped from the neatly groomed path, bending ever-so-slightly down to pluck from a bush near ready to drop its blooms. She already has a small collection in her other hand, some minuscule buttery yellow flowers nearly matching the shade of her softly draped gown and the pale gems pinned to her hair, which is mostly pinned upon itself in intricate loops and braids. Perhaps she's taking after her unexpected betrothed and his love of gardening. Every so often, she glances at the entrance.

A lone figure steps out into the garden from the fortress, a tall and imposing figure in Targaryen black and scarlet. Prince Rhaegor has often taken advantage of the Lord Hightower's hospitality, choosing frequently to lodge here when he is in residence at Oldtown for the ease it lends him in the conduct of the Crown's diplomatic affairs. His recent return from King's Landing was an event that inspired whispers; many thought he might opt to take residence at Dragon's Door to be nearer his betrothed, instead. Now he merely watches Marsei about her business, content to observe rather than to interrupt.

Marsei rises to her full, less than lofty height with a soft spark of surprise. There's a quick change-over in her gaze, as she adapts to seeing the imposing figure of Rhaegor rather than any number of people she might have been expecting; her expression is short-lived, and holds little weight. She smiles a warm welcome from her distance. Since he does not approach, however, she picks a few more blooms, using the tiniest of blades to do so cleanly, as she's seen Dhraegon do, before she heads his way. She holds the flowers at her side, blooms up, so the petals do not tremble off. "Prince Rhaegor." Her small curtsey to the king's nephew is formal, but her words are spoken more familiarly and hospitably. "How does the day treat you?"

"Lady Marsei," Rhaegor greets in kind, with an incline of his head and a subtle, but chivalrous, bow to repay her curtsey. "I regret that I've interrupted you at your leisure," he notes, his pale Targaryen gaze traveling briefly to the bouquet she carries in arm. "If the rain is not enough to deter you, nor ought I be." He lifts a suggestive hand, as if to ask Shall we? and begins a slow promenade. As they make their return toward the flowers, he answers her query with a politely amiable, "Well enough. I thought I'd best take the air while I've the time, before I must capitulate to the roster of meetings the evening has in store."

At length, he turns to regard her profile while they stroll companionably side by side. "And you?"

A gracious nod precedes her stroll, and Marsei spends her time split easily between looking at the familiar flowers and regarding Rhaegor politely. When her gaze does land on him, it sparkles with curiosity, but such life and exuberance is rarely far from the sweet Hightower's gaze anyway, not out of place. "I am well, thank you," she replies, "I do not envy you your meetings. They seem so endless sometimes. Nothing too dire, I hope?"

"Nothing too dire," Rhaegor confirms, though it's anyone's guess whether he's merely saying so to smooth any genuine concern on his companion's part. There is a momentary lapse in the conversation, as though the prince may be hesitating, and then he confides, "I must admit to a bit of subterfuge, Lady Marsei. I hope you'll not judge me too harshly for it." The rain has stalled to a slow, infrequent patter, but the Targaryen seems hardly to mind the grey skies overhead. His gaze settles upon Marsei as they slow and come to a standstill near the flowerbeds, the full weight of his attention nothing if not intense.

Marsei had taken to trailing her hand delicately over a few low-growing trees and bushes within her reach in passing without picking any of their flowers, deeming them perfect where they are; as they slow, her hand falls, and she fully faces Rhaegor's intensity in a full stop, turned toward him. She seems tiny in comparison to all that intensity, yet meets the prince's gaze. Now her curiosity is well piqued … if sobered, to match the turn to seriousness. "Please do tell me, Prince Rhaegor," she insists, polite but sincere. "I promise my mind is open."

Her sincerity prompts Rhaegor to smile, and he is the sort from whom they come sparingly, but always genuinely. "I did not come upon you by chance. I inquired with your lady's maid as to your whereabouts, for I hoped we might find an occasion to speak earnestly with one another. Dining at the high table and pleasantries in the hall rarely afford the opportunity."

"Quite so," Marsei agrees affably, her smile warm. But genuine smiles can't solve a mystery. "Are you going to keep me in suspense about the cause for such earnest talk, Prince Rhaegor?" she asks with an air of good-natured jest — all the more polite around the edges, to be safe, as she looks up at him underneath gently raised brows.

Rhaegor, indeed, seems a shade hesitant to broach the subject, but he does not leave Marsei in suspense. Rather than beat around the bush, which isn't at all his style, he begins directly, "Your impending betrothal to my cousin." As though to name the subject might make the careful navigation of the subject to follow a little easier, he announces it and then pauses before he pursues the matter any further.

"Visenya speaks often of you, and fondly so, and we both of us know that she isn't the sort for falsity. I see that her regard for you is genuine, which informs me, in turn, a good deal as regards your character and other virtues."

The pause Rhaegor allows is warranted. Marsei's shoulders rise an increment in that pause, and fall as if in a silent sigh. Her smile turns reassuring but not dismissive, as if he has nothing to worry about this whole matter. "I am quite fond of Princess Visenya as well," she says, indeed fond, if a bit wistful, "She is kind to say such things, as are you, Prince Rhaegor. I know she worries, but if this is concern over my betrothal…"

Rhaegor is contemplative in his regard of Marsei, as if he intends to understand the subtleties of her mannerisms by studying her. Perhaps it is this habit of dissection that is the key to his success as a diplomat. "I hope you will allow me to speak in a frank manner, my lady, for I should not want to risk a misunderstanding between us. I cannot suspect that you've ill intentions, for what little I know of you is enough to banish the notion." The prince seems to tread carefully, in spite of his request to be blunt. He is notoriously duty-bound and loyal to his house and its myriad members, even the ones burdened with adverse reputations. And so he skirts around calling a spade, directly, a spade, and says, "I would like you to know that in me you shall always have an ally. I will not claim to understand, entirely, what might inspire the genuine affection I believe you to have for my cousin, but the having it is enough to pledge you that allegiance."

Now Rhaegor turns, briefly, as though to confirm that they've still the benefit of their solitude for what he chances to say next. "And should my cousin falter in his role as husband…" But there is a bit of a commotion at the entrance to the garden, a young courting couple peeking out to check for rain before disappearing again, and it's enough to interrupt the train of thought and give him pause.

Her regard of Rhaegor is not entirely different from his on her, studying, only hers wears different colours; her intellect is surrounded by sweetness, but she takes in detail after detail. Marsei is pleased to find herself glad rather than on the defense. Her reappearing smile of reassurance has taken on a grateful slant, yet she holds on to a certain measured reticence, as if waiting for the other shoe to drop… and there it is, at least perhaps. She may have been poised to respond, were it not for the prince's last words and the pause that follows. She looks off toward the garden entrance and seems reminded of the weather, swiping a bit of misty moisture from her forehead where the rain seeks to cling to her hair. She folds her arms about her midsection, careful of her flowers. "I could not be more pleased to have you as an ally. As it should be," she tells Rhaegor, whisking away the pause. "… but falter," she searches his face, "…how, Prince Rhaegor?"

Rhaegor's attention is swiftly returned at the disappearance of the interlopers, his clear violet gaze pivoting back to find Marsei's again. "How?" He asks, echoing the question she posed to him. He shrugs neatly, a nearly imperceptible shift of his shoulder, a line between his brows as he chooses his words. "It may not be a role he assumes easily. But I hope that you will both know happiness in the union." The swipe to her forehead draws Rhaegor's attention once more to the fine mist of rain, and in a graceful flourish he removes his cloak and in turn applies it to her shoulders, a belated gesture for which he offers a duly apologetic glance.

Now Marsei wears her future husband's colors, and it gives the prince pause in his regard of her. His expression is a complex one, reflecting the vast spectrum of thoughts he must have on the matter of the betrothal.

The cloak both devours and emboldens the lady in the colours of the dragon. She gives a modest nod of gratitude for it, and for a moment her head remains down in thought. If Rhaegor's thoughts on the union of her and Dhraegon are complex, Marsei's must be moreso. She holds a hand to the cloak where it would meet at her neck, though she need not, for its weight balances easily on her narrow shoulders. When she looks up, her gaze seems to question Rhaegor for more, but she asks no more. "Prince Dhraegon has been quite honest with me," she admits, "I know we will not make the most conventional husband and wife in all the realm." Here her smile is slightly shy, but there's the reassurance again; all is well. "But I understand him," she adds, sounding fond; fond in the way one friend or member of one's family is to another.

"I understand," Rhaegor takes care to say, and though it indeed seems plain that he is genuine, there is a little lament in his expression, as though some regret he does not give voice to keeps him from sharing in her assurance. "Your reasons are your own, and the strength of your conviction proves you will be at home amongst the blood of the dragon. You will make him a very fine wife." He says nothing of the sort of husband he reckons his cousin will make. Perhaps what is unspoken does enough to communicate the notion.

"Yet another bond between our families," Marsei confirms in an uplifting tone. There is no blindness in her optimism; she is, indeed, assured. Her gaze lingers wonderingly on Rhaegor for a moment before she looks to the entrance. Some gesture or another of her arm underneath the cloak ripples the fabric. A petal or two falls around her feet. "Shall we go in, out of the rain, so I may return your cloak?"

"Indeed," Rhaegor says in reply, turning at her prompting to guide her back to the Hightower and usher her from what's left of the rain. Along the way, he muses, "I hope, my lady, that you will not hesitate to come to me if ever there is some manner in which I might be of assistance to you. Dire or otherwise." At the offering of the mild, but undeniably wry, quip, he turns to offer Marsei the slant of a smile. "And, too, I hope that we might also enjoy each other's company merely for the sake of it."

Marsei offers a gentle laugh in return for Rhaegor's wryness. "Of course! And certainly, especially if you mean to stay here at the Hightower for some time?" Her question is all pleasant vagueness, leaving out instead of at the Dragon Door, with Visenya. Out of the gardens, the grey sky is replaced by a darker ceiling.

Rhaegor inclines his head, ushering Marsei in from the garden with the sort of chivalry expected of a knight of his reknown, but with an effortless aplomb often unmatched among his fellows. "I am grateful to the Lord of the Hightower for his hospitality. And so, too, is the Crown, for how efficiently its agent is able to conduct its business as a result." She does not mention Dragon Door, and neither does he; it would seem his own betrothal was not one of the action items he wished to address in this particular conversation.

= * * *

Level 3 - The Hightower — Battle Island

Even a single tier of the great white stone tower is grand enough for any palace, and this floor is one is the grandest of all. The third level houses the Hightower family themselves. It has many suites of private rooms, as well as suites with multiple bedchambers, each enough to serve as a noble house in themselves. The open part of the level includes shared parlours with large windows that light the tower's interior. The floor is polished stone in three colours, red-orange and white and grey, laid in a pattern of chevrons. The grand gracious staircases are accessible from near the center of the tower.

"I am glad to hear it," Marsei beams, "and I know Ormund is always pleased to assist the Crown in any way possible. It is always a blessing when business runs smoothly — a sign of great minds working together, I think," she goes on, all spoken like a series of compliments, but not without truer insight: she may not exactly be a businesswoman, but she is, after all, a daughter of the Hand of the King. Her slow walk across the chevron floor is directed more or less toward the grand staircase, but easily guided. Her conversation, on the other hand— "Perhaps Princess Visenya could come stay for a time," she says on the heels of the political talk with that optimism of hers, "She is always a welcome dinner guest."

Perhaps Rhaegor is reluctant to call an end to their little tete-a-tete, for he seems content to accompany Marsei along her trajectory toward the grand staircase, or perhaps it's merely that that was his intended destination, as well. Either way, he offers a smile for her sentiment on great minds, and it lingers when Visenya is mentioned. "I am certain that she would very much enjoy receiving such an invitation from so dear a friend. Her hatchlings have preoccupied her for a time, but they are hearty now and will not miss her an evening here or there."

"Oh, I hope so," Marsei replies, and indeed, there is hope in her voice, sweet and simple. "I should like that." Absent her dragons, perhaps. "Do send her my regards, if you happen to see her. Before I've the chance." As the staircase looms, she stops to offer Rhaegor his cloak back; little more an elegant shrugging of her shoulders beneath it, as an indication. "I have a small errand to attend to before readying for dinner. Thank you for your kindnesses and honesty, Prince Rhaegor."

And not more than a heartbeat after she makes the gesture, Rhaegor is on hand to take the cloak from Marsei, brazenly murmuring at her ear, "Our colors suit you well," while he is briefly within whispering range. Laying the garment over his arm, he bends at the waist to offer her a departing bow. "And you, Lady Marsei, for the very same."

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