(122-12-14) The Memory of Heat
The Memory of Heat
Summary: Two ex-dragonriders in a black glass pavilion in the heat of the afternoon, with fire and blood as ever foremost in their minds.
Date: 14/12/2015
Related: The Yellow Wedding!

Inside the mighty black stone pavilion at the heart of the garden, glassed in on seven sides to trap in the heat, Rhaegor and one of his Velaryon men are engaged in a spar so brutal as to more closely resemble actual combat. There are spectators, as one would expect there to be at Dragon Door Manse; a bit of the old ultraviolence is merely good sport. There are benches along each of the pavilion's seven walls, but in the heated midst of the spar, both Rhaegor and his opponent occasionally jump and run atop them, so that spectators are at their own risk of receiving a spray of blood or sweat as the men sweep past. Presently, Rhaegor is pressing the Velaryon with a series of rapid strikes, their exertion manifested both audibly and in the slick sheen they wear as a second skin, the heat in the pavilion well beyond what most civilized folk would contemplate tolerating.

The glass door which forms the pavilion's seventh side opens and shuts, letting in a waft of cooler air brief and sharply fragrant of citrus, cypress, and bergamot. A man rises unbidden from the nearest bench to make room for a tall woman in finely-tooled leathers the colour of burnished gold, worn over a white silk shirt with its cuffs folded up about her elbows, her waist-length golden braids whitening with age: Princess Vhaerys Targaryen.

Drawn here by the chance words of men-at-arms who could endure the temperature no longer, overheard as she was inspecting the progress of her seedlings, she sits with her violet gaze intent upon the two men set each upon breaking the other, and with one leg crossed over the other at the knee, her long limbs kept out of the way of these combatants whose frenzied attacks and counterattacks seem to redouble the heat trapped within this black glass prism. A heat which doesn't touch her even dressed as she is, with the weight of her braids about her shoulders. The blood of the dragon denotes certain tastes — all of which are catered to in here, sooner or later.

The Velaryon begins to flag, not long after Vhaerys enters the pavilion. Rhaegor is in fine form, proof paid to his reputation as a skilled warrior. The minor wounds he gained during the tournament do not hinder his performance, even as the still-forming scab on his swordhand splits, spraying fresh blood as it slices through the air. He still seethes with the heat of his dragon fever, and it inspires him to ruthlessness in his combat. The Velaryon attempts to yield, but Rhaegor taunts him. "Come now, I know you've more sweat to spend."

Droplets of that very dragon's blood blossom upon Vhaerys's snowy-white sleeve; she, normally so fastidious, is unaware amidst the luxury of such warmth. The other watchers sit silently, hushed by Rhaegor's prowess, simply waiting to see how it will turn out, whether this will prove one of his merciful days. But the only woman present, who has seen far from enough to sate her curiosity, calls out to the Velaryon boy in a low, taunting voice: "You'll show yourself a coward before me so soon…?"

And so the Velaryon regroups. He is one of Rhaegor's closest men, from his days in Qarth, and he is well used to the intensity of the dragon prince. Vhaerys sweeps him unto a second wind with her needling words, and now it's the Velaryon who presses Rhaegor in a sudden, flurrying attack. The pair are well-matched, and have great practice fighting alongside each other. They know their respective strengths and weaknesses. If this were for all the marbles, it would be brutal. But even though they are the both of them intent on victory, neither of them truly threatens the other past the boundary of recreation. The Velaryon drives Rhaegor back and back and back, toward Vhaerys and her spot on the bench, and at the very last moment it seems the Targaryen intended to lure the Velaryon there rather than the other way around; he spins neatly on his heel, a reckless slash of his blade bringing its point perilously close to both Vhaerys' face, as it slices through the air, and the Velaryon's heart, as the tip lands atop his armor. "Now you may yield," Rhaegor says.

Vhaerys has her way. Her lips broaden into a smile which looks inward more than out, the token of some vivid reflection overlaid upon the vista of black glass and heated bodies and clashing blades before her. Her breath comes a touch faster now, in tune with her cousin's as she watches him come nearer with every stroke of the Velaryon man's sword, fascinated and on the face of it imperiled and yet unflinching — he might hear the sharper breath she draws, in an echo of that swishing steel so near her unarmoured flesh, but her violet eyes show no fear. Perhaps no sense, either, but that's another issue.

"A valiant attempt," she drawls to the Velaryon held now at the point of her cousin's sword; and she moves for the first time since she came in, uncrossing her legs and recrossing them the other way.

The Velaryon bows his head, accepting Rhaegor's advice and yielding. He looks like he's well and truly been run ragged, sagging under the effort of the spar and the oppressive heat of the pavilion. The Targaryen prince tilts his head permissively, releasing the Velaryon and setting him free. He makes for the door and the fresh air beyond, and the few remaining others who had been observing move to follow, clasping Rhaegor on the back or the arm as they go. Congratulatory. For his part, Rhaegor is bright-eyed but belabored by his own efforts, heaving for breath as he recovers from the exertion. He spies the blood on Vhaerys' sleeve before she does. "Is that mine?" he asks.

In no haste to escape the sweltering pavilion the princess rises more slowly; when she does there's a sudden reshuffling of lesser beings who would prefer not to appear to be in what is now her way, whether or not they actually are. Her eyes follow Rhaegor's down to her sleeve and there's an unavoidable flash of distaste in them, less because it's blood than because it's out of place. Her elegant, faintly-lined features are recomposed by the time she meets her cousin's gaze: "I doubt it's mine," she points out.

And then, "You're relentless…" It's a compliment, when accompanied by the considering gaze of a woman who, trained for war herself, has been in a position to weigh up generations of Targaryen warriors. "My Vhaeron was the same before his accident," this one of the fragments of truth in the narrative of her life as she would relate it, if she were given to such confidences; "it's good to see our blood so strong, in you."

"You ought wear it with pride. Others have gone to far greater lengths to win a bit of my blood." Still, Rhaegor has the grace (and the sense) to incline his head apologetically to his cousin, a gesture which he further deepens when she pays him the compliment she does. His gaze is still bright and feverish, but it scrutinizes her a little, too, scanning her features as she speaks of her husband, her twin. "When I was a boy at Dragonstone, we all aspired to be like Vhaeron."

Vhaerys rests a hand upon Rhaegor's shoulder and leans in, without much care for blood or sweat now that everything she's wearing is going to have to be burned anyway. Her fragrance of citrus and cypress and bergamot (fresh, tart, held in common by both twins, the living and the dead) envelops him for the length of a breath as she murmurs: "So did I."

Then she claps him lightly on the back and takes a few steps away round the interior of the pavilion, examining the patterns of red and black and clear light thrown upon the floor of black marble and red jasper. "You spar often in here?" she inquires, looking up at him with one hand now upon her girlishly slender hip. The Vhaerys who returned to the world eleven years ago was a gaunt creature. Now she glows golden with health; but, spared further childbearing, her silhouette at least remains youthful and strong.

She wins a little more of both, on account of their brief, close conference, for Rhaegor is indeed sweaty and bloody, if not in equal measure. When she relinquishes him, he sinks onto the bench in the very same place she'd just occupied before she rose, his breathing by now returned to level. He watches Vhaerys as she sweeps elegantly through the pavilion, observing her as she examines the intricacies of the structure. "When I am in residence," he replies, in response to her inquiry. "Do you ever?"

"Once." An ambiguous word which Vhaerys clarifies when, after another step, she turns on her heel (braids swaying with her swift movement; the aggressive grace of a warrior, rather than the demure grace of a lady) and settles upon another bench, at an angle from his. "Before Oldtown became the fashion among our kin — before the pavilion was less apt to be crowded at every hour with every manner of boiling and burning assignation. One doesn't know, does one, what one might walk in upon within these walls?" she drawls. "And it follows that unless one posts guards enough to defeat one's privacy in defending it, one doesn't know who might walk in upon one. As was just demonstrated." Her immaculate pale hand curls inward, indicating herself.

"Perhaps we will conspire toward an assignation of our own," Rhaegor suggests, his eyes tracking Vhaerys until at last she takes her place across from him. "I should like to dance with you." Indeed, it's fairly obvious that recreational violence is rather a favorite passtime of Rhaegor's, and the invitation is laid with all the care and chivalry due his esteemed cousin. His eyes go up, overhead, studying the domed roof, momentarily absorbing him in some distant distraction.

The princess's eyes narrow — but not without betraying a certain temptation. She was the one who just came in for no purpose but to admire him about the practice of his art. "I haven't your strength, and I'm out of the habit," she mentions. "With your blood up like this you'd kill me." What is absent from her answer is a straight-out refusal, or a suggestion that she'd back down anywhere short of that calamity.

Rhaegor's gaze is torn away from the domed roof at the suggestion, his objection registering in his expression. "I would not," he says vehemently, as if the very notion were anathema to him. "The Velaryon and I have been companions since we were squires; we take liberties." You know, where recreational violence is concerned. "I should not presume to take them with you."

And lo! His cousin backs down after all, holding his gaze for a long moment and then lowering her own in acknowledgment of this courtesy with regards to her somewhat more senior, more fragile person. "Perhaps we'll agree upon an hour, cousin, and I shall find myself in the habit again." A prospect she studies (along with Rhaegor) with an expression feline or draconic, elongating one leg and then the other and crossing them at her booted ankles. She allows, smiling, "There would be no value to me in a lesser opponent."

"Nor I," Rhaegor agrees, repaying the compliment in turn. The thought occurs to him, briefly, to offer that they take the air, but the cloying heat of the pavilion seems to suit them both well enough, and he dismisses it outright. What he longs to speak of, in truth, are the dragons. Syrax and Veraxion. He is quiet, contemplative, reflective, as he revisits their twining, spiraling coil in his mind's eye. "Did you see them?" he asks, at length, with no further context. As if any is needed.

The compliment sits no worse than any other upon Vhaerys's broad shoulders, for though in a practical sense she's aware she's no longer a match for Rhaegor blade to blade, if ever she was — still she is a Targaryen princess, and the word 'lesser' would be a mismatch for her under any circumstances. Her eyes return to the floor, charting the slight shift in the patterns of the sunlight just since they've been sitting together — and then find his with a sudden amorous intensity. Yes, them. Obviously she saw.

She drags her lower lip between her teeth and then releases it and invites her cousin into her own recent preoccupation. "Have you seen," she asks bluntly, "a yellow dragon in a similar dance before this?"

Yes, obviously. The intensity of that fleeting stare is the only confirmation required. Rhaegor's gaze is once more contemplative, however, in the wake of her question. It roams, though; first, it goes to the speck of blood on her sleeve, but then it roams the burnished gold leather she wears. "Do you speak of Vhaelyx?" he wonders aloud, perhaps mistaking the intent of her question entirely.

Vhaerys runs a hand over her hair, brushing a braid away from the front of her shoulder to the back, as though by rearranging what's outside her head she might bring order also to the tangles within. "No… no. If it had been Vhaelyx I'd know. Unless I was a babe in arms and Vhaelyx still my father's mount, or — it came to me in a dream?" she suggests, which is never out of the question for one with their blood. Even so such a dream would surely be the most memorable of one's life. "When I saw them ascend, Rhaegor," she murmurs, softly, urgently, "I felt certain I had seen it all before… And yet as far as I've been able to discover, I could not have done."

"Have you had others?" Rhaegor asks, of dragon dreams. It seems the most plausible explanation, at first blush, if Vhaerys cannot account for otherwise having witnessed such a thing.

"… Those? Perhaps," allows Vhaerys, as guarded as anyone might be when speaking of prophetic dreams the nature of which is apt to be in some measure personal. But to someone else who, like her, is a dragonrider with his feet currently stuck to the dirt, she admits, "I dream often of Vhaelyx. You understand." She casts another glance about the interior of the black glass pavilion and lets out a harder breath: "I don't think some of the less fortunate ones understand what the heat in here might remind us of."

Rhaegor understands. He nods, once, to confirm. "I think that there is very much beyond their comprehension," he says in support. "When one has never known the skies…" And, well, there's no need to say much more. The rest is conveyed wordlessly through the meeting of their gazes, and their mutual experience. So alike, in so many ways. In ways that Rhaegor takes care not to explicitly remind Vhaerys. "Perhaps a fever dream," he suggests. "It might account for the fleeting memory of it."

Fruitless, really, to spare a woman's sensibilities the mention of a history already soaking into her bones via the heat of the wall at her back, the bench beneath her. "I wasn't here last year," Vhaerys muses, still worrying at her odd recognition of the flight of yellow and blue like a dragonet with a carcass upon which there yet remains meat, "during the plague… I don't recall catching such a fever, ever, though perhaps in childhood…" She shrugs, lets out a frustrated sound. "You will call upon me, Rhaegor, if you recall or if you read anything that might be germane? A yellow dragon or," a wistful, hungry smile taints her expression, "a golden."

Rhaegor does not immediately have further suggestions, but he does nod in confirmation of her request. "I will," he says, rising smoothly to his feet, in spite of the exertion of the earlier sparring match. "Will you remain, or might I accompany you?" Rhaegor is deferential to her whim.

But by the time he's spoken Vhaerys is already on her feet, the top of her head approaching his more nearly than that of almost any other woman. She gestures to her garments, her expensive golden leather and white silk marked with his blood: "I'm going to burn all this," she drawls, and falls easily into step with him, "but come inside with me, do."

"Will you?" he asks, as they go out into the fresh air of the garden, leaving the intoxicating heat and closeness of the pavilion behind. "That seems a grievous waste. I hope you will reconsider." After all, what's a little blood?

Vhaerys eyes him. "When have I ever reconsidered?" After all, what's a little fire?

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