(122-09-18) A Sour Apple
A Sour Apple
Summary: In the midst of concerns regarding the long-imprisoned Lord Istor, tensions rise further as Lady Marsei is set upon by an unlikely threat among the Fossoways; a surprise guest makes matters more complicated.
Date: 19/11/15
Related: The Road Ahead Leads Back, Cider Hall, more Fossoway plot

It is a difficult conversation, of course. The Fossoway lady, while bright and pleasant in public, is obviously somewhat worn by the situation, but also seems stronger than one might expect. She explains that her sons were in deep conflict for many years, and acknowledges her own hand in the crisis. She admits that Lord Istor was wrong and may still be a danger to his brother in particular, but also others in the family, particularly as the conditions of his imprisonment may be affecting his mind. Or perhaps it was always unstable. But she fixes Marsei with a long look and says that it would be a hard thing to see her son executed while she still lives, and asks whether Marsei could do that to her own flesh and blood.

She could not, of course. Marsei speaks the truth of it to the ailing lady, clasping her hands over the older pair in the empathy that comes so naturally; all the more, when she looks into the eyes of this soul who has seen such grief over her family. She finds herself telling Dyanne Fossoway that she wishes she could help. Her wish sounds like a promise, and she wonders if that was wrong.

The conversation weighs on her. It's one of many things Marsei thinks about at Cider Hall. She inquires, here and there, about Istor Fossoway; the accusations surrounding the ordeal that led to his imprisonment. His brother. She speaks little to the Red Orchard Lord, but she watches him in a newer light. The Fossoways continue to be hospitable to the woman who was one of them such a short time ago, insisting that she make the most of her visit. It might be hard to imagine why she dreaded coming here so, until the evening, when she goes pale as a ghost upon time to go to up her bedchamber. Every day a servant comes and opens the shutters. Every day and every night Marsei closes them.

One morn, after paying a friendly visit to a cluster of servants' children playing in the courtyard, Marsei passes along to Camillo to meet her near her chambers in an hour. Evidently, she does not want to wait until the orchard clears out so they may speak, this time.

Camillo is never late, and often early. If he makes his approach slowly, then, surely it is because he does not want to arrive before his time, not because of the information to be gained by eavesdropping.

Marsei counts on Camillo being on time, at the very least; however, it seems she has been set upon by someone quite unaware of her meeting plans. The voices emanate from the corner intersection between two dim corridors, one of which houses the door to the room Marsei is staying in. There's a patch of radiant sunlight there, awash with a spectrum of colour through the thick, stained glass apple tree in the window, the painted rays only just stretching along the floor into Camillo's vision. It may be a oft-used meeting spot among the corridors of this building for its loveliness, but those paused there at present seem to be in flux. "I don't understand," comes Marsei's gentle voice, imploring not for clarity but for the end of the topic at hand.

"Should it not be I who is confused?" The equally well-spoken, but now haughtier, voice of Lady Jana Fossoway. "Would it be so terrible?"

"Yes, you are confused, if you think it a good idea," Marsei replies, increasingly insistent, but just as quiet and imploring as before. "I would like to put this place behind me. Must we do this here, Jana. You… you are being so unlike yourself."

Jana's pause is as fervent as any scoff. "This place?"

Although she makes some effort to restrict her level of noise, there is an outrage within that will not be utterly held back. "You speak as if Cider Hall has been nothing but awful to you. That we have been awful to you. That I have."

Perhaps it is Marsei's pause speaks greater volumes — but her softly spoken words are sincere, when they do come. "Of course not."

"Do you think I did not know the strife my brother, Seven keep him, was in before he died?"

"What do you— "

"His plans, fool-brained as they were," Jana says, accusatory, yet with some measure of love for the brother in question.

"What have they do to with me?" Earnest confusion seems to colour Marsei's discomfited reply.

"A great deal, according to him."

Camillo finds his steps slowing to a stop, chin tucking down as he listens gravely to this conversation. Even his breath gets quiet.

Luckily, Dhraegon has not brought his riding bull, but was ensconced in a large travel cart for the trip. He has the usual Targaryen House Guard out riders. An alert Flox rode up in the box with the coachman, a crossbow in his lap in case of trouble. He arrives reasonably sober, if disheveled, wearing one of his new Dornish style layered silk outfits, layered and flowing, this one in his house colours. Startled hosts are showered in cakes and gifts and giggled explanations that he had news for his sweet Daffoldil and could not bare to be apart so long. His silks rustle, the long tunic's trim sweeping the floor as he heads up to find her, leaving poor Flox to explain to the Fossoways more fully and smooth the way. Once out of sight, the big man moves with surprising quiet and grace, looming up behind Camillo with a quizzical expression and an unprincely willingness to eavesdrop.

"I … I will not hear you speak of your brother— my husband — like this, Jana," Marsei says, her voice breathy with distress whilst trying to keep quiet. "Why do you speak with such threat? You were anything but cruel when I left." Through a shuffling of feet and fabric, the multi-coloured light filtered onto the floor flickers, as if Marsei is trying to escape the conversation. By the sound of it, she's stopped suddenly.

"And then you left. And for what?" Jana replies, condemning. "It would be easy for me to tell Owen."

"There is nothing to … " Marsei's sure dismissal falters, yet her voice calms, sweetens. "Jana, you would not."

Everything quiets, then. The Fossoway lady's voice is scarcely a whisper, and muffled. She leaves down the hallway that does not contain any listeners. Marsei strides to the window, all but running into its ledge. With her back turned, she has a blue-gowned shoulder to the familiar figures she does not know wait down the other way.

Camillo usually just looks quietly gloomy, but at the appearance of Dhraegon, he looks completely knocked for a loop. Perhaps he's even briefly offended, for some reason, but of course now is not the time to demand or give explanations. After a moment looking at Dhraegon, he tucks his chin again and goes back to listening. When the conversation ends, he looks questioningly at Dhraegon, as if to ask whether he will approach or whether Camillo should.

Dhraegon looks thoughtful. At Camillo's questioning look, he hesitates, then gestures that Camillo might follow as he steps into the coloured light. He makes sure his silks rustle and there is a soft scrape of slippers on the stones, lest he startle her.

As caught up in her own thoughts as Marsei is, she becomes transfixed on looking out the window, trying to determine through the bleary panes whose travel cart she glimpses outside. She could not have guessed that it carried Dhraegon. His slippered feet are so soft, for his size, and the silks rustling so unlike Camillo, who she's expecting, that she clearly believes it Jana to have returned when she spins around, a hand upon her chest, her gaze already imploring and soft and betrayed. She's startled abruptly into reality, her head tipping up to stare wide-eyed at Dhraegon as though he is an apparition, out of place and time. She steps backward, her arms going out to the stone carvings around the window to gently brace her lest the low window ledge strike the back of her knees into sitting down. Only then does she glimpse Camillo, looking to him as if for explanation for a split second. "Dhraegon, I… what… did something bad happen? Is that why you've come all this way?"

* * *

Soon after, Marsei guided Dhraegon and Camillo onto a balcony, where they may speak in private. She still remains altogether discomfited. The news was joyous — Alicent is coming to the wedding, likely her father, and there is even talk of the king — but how could she turn to joy, after seeing the serious look upon Dhraegon's face and remembering why it is there? Her heart has not been put to ease; she only becomes more overwhelmed by Dhraegon's presence after her attempt to explain the cause of Jana's cruelty. "She is simply being cruel," she had explained, saddened by the words as they left her throat, "So— uncommonly cruel. There is nothing to her threats. She did whisper something of a letter, but if such a thing exists, it is nothing but… air. On occasion Jarvas would get drunk and pen disparaging letters about Lord Owen and his rule. Of course I would take them before he could send them to anyone— I do not know how Jana would think I was implicated. Still…"

But now, with all said that is going to be said on the matter, her shoulders tensing as though she might pull her hands away while they're wrapped up and around his, she tells Dhraegon, "I appreciate how you want to help, I do." She matches his earnesty and lifts his heavy hand to kiss his knuckles, but looks down after the fact and parts ways. "This is all making it sound a grander scheme against me than it is. As though I've… no, having you here, involved, and Flox… I… it is too much," she admits, guilty to say so; further for the fact that she moves to slip between them toward the door behind her.

Dhraegon lets go of her and hangs her head, "I shall leave then. I just… was excited to tell you your sister is coming. I… wish we were wed." He turns to go back the way he came, head hanging.

Camillo listens to all this quietly, certainly a bit uncomfortable. But of course he doesn't speak up.

Marsei was, at first, ready to flee down the hall in solitude, but slows to watch Dhraegon go. She steps closer to the balcony. "I feel as through I have betrayed him," she admits, the idle candor of her voice suggesting the words simply spill out to Camillo, unplanned. She looks to him, wondering. "And he you." A pause. "I am sorry for this. How unseemly it must all sound…"

"You've betrayed no one, my lady," Camillo says. "That is almost the problem. You are good enough that these things hurt you deeply, and that some people would be relieved to believe the worst of you." He frowns at the floor tiles.

The floor tiles are quick to draw Marsei's frown as well. She clutches her skirt in her own quiet affliction until it gathers in great, shimmering folds. Her voice becomes very small in the atmosphere after Camillo has spoken. "Jana likes riding. She favours going before dinner. I know where she keeps such things as letters," she says, guilty again, as though knowing such a simple thing — rather, the reason for the need of it now — might as well be worth a hanging.

Camillo glances up at these instructions. "Is there anything else I can do, my lady?" he asks. "Even…listen?"

Marsei looks up with a smile, taking kindly to the question, even though she shakes her head. "Not just now, Camillo. Oh— I nearly forgot why I called you up…" She hesitates and shakes her head, smiling further. "Never mind." She touches the balcony doorway and departs to the room she seems to so despise.

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