(122-11-29) Guided
Summary: Marsei takes Camillo on a quest that isn't quite epic, but isn't without its wisdom. (Alternate title: Do You Want Bats? Because That's How You Get Bats)
Date: 29/11/2015
Related: On Looming Darkness (location)

The very earliest hours of the day can barely be called morning, bleeding a thin grey light that can barely be called light through the windows of the Hightower. It's the rare time of day that servants rule the tower, in a manner of speaking, with the lords and ladies of the House rarely risen except those of the utmost import, and if so, behind closed doors.

"Oh, it seems so much farther up this early, now I'm not seven summers anymore," a rare voice drifts upward from the staircase at this hour. Far be it for Marsei — or a Hightower! — to complain about the many stairs, however; there's still an eager cheer to her voice. The level is certainly not the highest in the tower, but it's higher than hers. Compared to those below it, it's plain, its rooms less grand, and the angle is windowless, gloomy. She arrives arm-in-arm with Siva, who she sent to Camillo ahead of time with instructions to meet her here.

Camillo has been up since much before light. Very quietly, he's been taking more of a leadership role amongst the servants, and so he rises early to give servants their scrubbing orders. The place must, after all, look its best when it receives a Targaryen as its new resident. But after this delegating he is instantly available to Siva, and is already up at the room with the necessary supplies. He probably had to make two trips.

"Camillo! I hope have not interfered with your routine too terribly," Marsei apologizes immediately; however truly sincere, she spends little time on the sentiment, focused on the old, non-descript door behind him. "When I had the idea I simply could not wait!" The lady is too full of enthusiasm to explain her idea. She parts with Siva's arm, and the trusty handmaiden takes it upon herself to relieve Camillo of one of the lanterns. She looks less enthusiastic and more wary — which is exactly what Marsei was the last time she stood afront this door. It was lit by torchlight then, and said that she thought it was haunted when she was small, and wasn't sure that it isn't now.

Camillo shakes his head. "No, my lady," he says. "There are many servants and many hours in the day." By which he probably means he'll just work later to make up for it. He doesn't presume to demand an explanation, but hands a lanter over to Siva, looking at her expression for a moment. But perhaps he misinterprets that wary look of hers. He looks away and lights a second lantern.

"Let's go in," Marsei says in the child-like spirit of exploration. Her devotion to the cause seems quite absolute, given her stare at it, her ready pose like a foot-racer at the past week's garden games — yet some of her caution may still be remembered behind it all. She faintly bites one side of her lip and holds Siva's arm again, rather too tightly. "Will you open it, Camillo?"

Camillo opens the door for Marsei, holding the lantern up above his head to cast the beams as far as possible into the room, though he allows the women to precede him if they appear to want to.

Marsei and Siva hang back until the light is cast in as far as it will go; only then does Siva creep in, casting her lantern about as well. Marsei hurries inside in one quick-footed rush when Siva's arm almost stretches out of her grasp, moving past them into the dark, cloistered chamber. It is as it was: the skeletal outlines of tall candleholders all in rows, the cobwebbed artifacts, some draped in moth-eaten fabrics hanging like skins, and lonely bookshelves. Those are only the glimpses. Most of the room hides despite the lanterns. The smell of dust atop stale decay is almost choking.

Despite a growing sense of discomfort, Marsei lets go of Siva. "What reason have I now to be frightened of dark rooms!" she challenges the dark optimistically. What starts as a triumphant whirl turns into a fold of her arms and a tiny squeak when the heavy door tries to swing shut on its old hinges.

Camillo comes in last, and quickly turns at the squeak to put his shoulder hard against the door to hopefully prevent it closing. "Shall I prop the door open, my lady?" he asks, grunting. Why must rich people have such heavy doors, anyway?

Marsei stands inert, briefly paralyzed by the thought of being locked into the frankly macabre room she's so enthusiastic about being in. "…No," she decides in a small voice after a long moment of unfortunately letting Camillo hold the door open, "… no, I suppose there's no need. I thought perhaps light could get in if the door stayed open, but it is too dark up here…"

Siva speaks up quietly. "We should start looking, my lady. This place… it makes me feel unwell."

In the glow of the lamplights, Marsei brightens further, gaining confidence, although she shoots her handmaiden a knowing look. Her arms are still folded from her easy fright. "I recall a statue," she explains. "Of white marble and astounding beauty. I should like to rescue it from here and put it to better service."

Camillo gently shuts the door. He looks like he might say something, but then doesn't, holding the light up again. "Do you want the whole room cleaned, my lady, or only to fetch the statue?"

"The statue. First, to find it. I only remember it as a child. My imagination may have made it more than it was," Marsei says with a smile, stepping around an empty display pedestal only to be threatened by a hanging cobweb and halt, startled. "… to think I managed to explore the maze beneath the tower," she says in a joking tone atop a nervous one. She looks over her shoulder. "The statue is a visage of the Crone. I trust you — that you will look upon it and wash it with respect, above any other servant."

Camillo stands on his tiptoes with a rag to pull the cobweb away. Then he bows his head at Marsei's words. "Yes, my lady," he agrees. Of course he seems to take it with the utmost seriousness.

While Siva warily ventures into another corner of the room, by one of the empty bookshelves, Marsei ducks her head and places her hands upon the waves of her hair, peeking about for signs of her statue. She creeps further in, her gaze passing by several antiquities that don't fit the description, but look like they've lived more generations than everyone in the room combined and perhaps some of their ancestors, as well. The old maester who lived and, rumour has it, died here, had an impressive collection that remains today. Marsei's own dedicated search might be a ever-so-slightly distracted again as she pipes up several moments in: "Do you think we have bats?"

Camillo peers thoughtfully up into the gloom. "Bats, my lady? In here? Likely not, but…if you want to stand outside I can get on a chair and sweep for them, he offers. He looks at some of the other artifacts Marsei's passing by, not sure what exactly the statue she's looking for will look like.

"Would that not make them go flying out into the corridor?" Marsei worries — and wonders, suddenly curious about such problems, but now is not the time and it shall likely never be again. "I am only being silly, Camillo, jumping at the dark," she assures both the ever-helpful servant and herself. "I remember … it was pale, marble. When Siva and I were girls, it startled us when the light hit it, because it shone back at us. I thought it was a ghost until I realized it was the Crone's lantern."

Camillo tilts his head slightly. "Well…" he says slowly, "They would have to fly somewhere…" But he lets it go at that, since Marsei dismisses the matter. He cranes his neck and lifts his light. "My lady, I see something pale," he says gesturing at a faint glimmer in a dim corner.

Marsei gives a slight gasp and makes for the corner, guided by the glimmer, Siva quick to follow. They gradually come upon the face of an aged woman with her eyes cast down, beckoning them with a real lantern fitted with ornate stained glass. The Crone. The statue turns out to be a half-statue — it's as though the Crone emerges from the stone behind her, a life-sized bust in a seven-sided setting. In this lighting, the true colour of the marble indeterminate, warmed by the lanterns; shadows contrast against the Crone's aging cheekbones, making her sunken and ominous but, too, all the more intense. With every flicker of fire, she seems more alive, a real presence watching them in close quarters, and Marsei is quietly awed. Instead of wrinkles etched into the statue's stone skin to depict age, dark marbling creates a remarkable illusion. The piece of religious art is marred by more than mere dust, however: chips and cracks have begun to weather the face and hands, sustained before ever being closeted up in the tower's room. She reaches out, coming up just short of gingerly touching the flaws. "Oh…" Marsei looks from Siva to Camillo. "I have no… memory of such damage," she says, disappointed. "Do you think it can be repaired?"

Camillo approaches carefully, quietly, not wanting to disturb Marsei or mar the worshipful mood in such an encounter. He, too, looks touched upon coming on this relic of their faith, eyes drinking in each detail as his gaze makes multiple sweeps of the sculpted form. "I will find that out, my lady," he promises.

Marsei smiles at Camillo, some relief in hearing his immediate confirmation of at least trying to find out; unvoiced is her sense of hurry in the matter, but it may touch her expression with fleeting nerves. "I think she is remarkable all the same," she says reverently, staring up at the statue again. "Will you make sure she is clean and safe until then?" Spoken as though she knows he will.

"Yes, my lady," Camillo says, reaching up to touch the statue's hand very gingerly, because he cannot resist. "But I think…out of all the Seven…if the Crone should find herself with cracks, she would understand."

"I think you're right," Marsei says after a long, considering moment. She agreed almost at once, but stood with in quiet contemplation of the Crone. "She would also tell us anyone pious, armoured in their faith, need not fear spirits," she says, paraphrasing The Seven-Pointed Star. "Or dust of the past, I suppose," she adds gently, reaching out to cast her thumb along the thin carved edge of the Crone's cloak.

Camillo only briefly touches the figure's hand, closing his eyes just for that moment. "But sometimes the faithful are so pious that the sinners among us must look to their welfare," he says softly, with unusual eloquence. Then he ducks his head. "I'll see to it, my lady, have no fear. As much as can be done. Should I hurry?"

Marsei smiles on Camillo, pleased by his eloquence and the thoughtfulness it brings her — and the wondering. She ducks her own head, then, conflicted over the question; she knows that he has his duties, increased with the wedding ever-nearing. Ought that be her priority? … "Yes," she says, quick and soft. She looks up slowly, decisive. "But should some cracks remain…" she smiles, reflecting, "do not worry."

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