(122-12-28) Stairway Between Kingdoms
Stairway Between Kingdoms
Summary: A chance encounter on the stairway of the Hightower between Joyeuse Hastwyck and Lara Gargalen leads to a brief conversation about Dornish and Westerosi customs, and the need to adapt to them.
Date: 28-29/12/2015 (Date of RP)
Related: Dornish Soiree at Garden Isle.

Grand Staircase - The Hightower - Battle Island

This wide gracious staircase of white stone allows access to the middle three tiers of The Hightower — five lower stories, two in the center, and five again higher still. Further above stands the tallest and narrowest top tier, crowned by the beacon. On the other side of one stone wall, to the landward side of the tower, there are ramps that allow wagon-loads of firewood for the beacon to be hauled up. When it's very quiet on the stairs one might hear the faint muffled bellowing of the oxen and the scrape of wheels.

The grand stair ends at the fifteenth level, but there is a door allowing access to the narrow, steep upper staircase. The ramps end as well, and the wood is drawn the rest of the way to the top in a lift powered by oxen on a treadmill.

Such trios often pass this way, up and down the stairs of the Hightower: a lady, and her retainers. The guard young and strong and alert, the maid older, whatever looks she had long since faded, her garb and her demeanour calculated for respectability.

The lady however is a creature out of the common way and has not long been resident here. Between the hours she keeps and her reluctance for traversing the staircase more than she cannot avoid it is understandable that one might not have seen her before. But to have seen her and forgotten her — now, that is an unlikely contingency, for she is possessed of a ready smile and riotously curly red hair, of quantities of splendid white-golden pearls and an endless succession of colourful sandsilks, and she is blooming still in the fourth decade of her life, perpetually radiant with amusement over something or another.

Just now her delight is dimmed (and her bosom is faintly heaving) with the exertion of having climbed to the fourth floor of the Hightower as swiftly as she could. Only another flight, and yet she can’t face it at once — she holds up a hand to halt her companions, a lacy handkerchief clutched in her grasp — and she simply stands there, breathing, gazing up in the direction of her chambers, counting over and over again the remaining number of steps, reminding herself that it wasn’t nearly so bad the last couple of times and if only she keeps on she’ll begin to think of it as nothing… won’t she? She sighs; and smooths with a hand the skirts of her gown, a remarkable confection in the latest King’s Landing style, executed in a fine teal green sandsilk which gives it an altogether different appeal… She sighs again.

“Oh, dear, it’s not getting any shorter, is it?” she observes of the staircase to her maid Dora, who murmurs an unintelligible, diplomatic answer. Then at a sound her gaze lifts — her eyes widen — “Oh, but didn’t we meet at the Garden Isle Manse?” she inquires brightly of the diversion sent to her from the Seven above to beguile this weary moment.

Said diversion is a quite different treat for the eyes, a lady in her mid-twenties, black hair falling about her shoulders in an untamed manner that somewhat hints at the character of its wearer, comely features sporting a pair of remarkable dark eyes, sensual lips that are curved into an almost smile, skin of a lighter shade of olive that can be spotted as well on the arms that are left bare. The gown she wears, sandsilk of an orange shade and Dornish cut, the fabric shifting about a slender yet shapely form of a young woman who most certainly is aware of her looks; which shows in the confident elegance of her gait, the red scarf wrapped rather negligently about her shoulders in the half-hearted attempt to hide what she probably is not used to conceal.

Lara Gargalen is in the process of exiting the Southwest Suite of the 4th floor, the chambers she shares with another – much younger and decidedly less scandalous – lady-in waiting to Princess Visenya, and as she steps out onto the staircase she does so on her own. The arriving trio is inspected with obvious curiosity, hardly veiled by a thin layer of courtesy, her dark eyes soon focusing on the lady among them – the one drawing the attention by the color of hair and the fabric of her dress.

“Lady Hastwyck?”, Lara inquires politely, the address perhaps sufficient reply to Joyeuse’s question. Her hand moves to smooth her own gown, more a gesture than a required necessity. “You are staying here at the Hightower?”

“Lady… Lara, isn’t it?” And Lady Hastwyck, already quite certain that it is, though if she learned one new name last night she learned twenty, beams benevolently at the younger woman who upon their initial acquaintance gave her such tempting morsels for thought.

“Yes, yes I am — I came back to Oldtown to see my cousin Marsei wed, you see, and dear Ormund was good enough to invite me to stay here so that I’d not miss any of the amusements of the wedding. I’m one floor further up,” she confesses, in a voice abruptly lowered, “but I’ve been up and down so much today that somehow I couldn’t quite face it; I thought I might stop, just for a moment, before my final ascent! Are you—?” Her lace-edged hanky flutters as she gestures toward the door through which Lady Lara has just appeared. “One floor lower than I am? One set of steps fewer? Goodness, you’re a lucky girl as well as a pretty one. Strange how those two qualities tend to go together,” she laughs.

The hesitant, modest lady of yesternight (who let out that little naughty giggle, yes, but pretended she was coughing) appears to have undergone a transformation.

“Oh, indeed?” Lara Gargalen regards Joyeuse Hastwyck with dark eyes that glitter ever so slightly at the information of where the latter has her lodgings – and at the subtle innuendo of her words. “These are my quarters, yes”, she confirms, with a brief glance towards the door through which she has just entered. “And convenience required them to be as close to Princess Visenya’s as possible.” Her focus returns to Lady Joy, and the Cockatrice smiles. “I do share them though, with another lady.” A pause, her brows lifting ever-so-slightly, “Even so, I am sure that I could very well manage to explore more of the suites the Hightower has on offer. As you stated, I am both lucky and blessed with my looks. Which can open doors that are closed to others.” A sound amount of confidence bordering on boisterous impertinence evident in both tone and words, as Lara meets the rippling laughter of the Hastwyck lady with a daring smirk.

Lady Joy’s lips part into an ‘O’ either scandalised or mock-scandalised. Not knowing her intimately it might be either! “Oh, you know quite well that isn’t what I meant, Lady Lara,” she insists; “only that it’s natural, isn’t it, for people to be particularly kind and generous to those whose looks please them, and for a comely woman to find herself enjoying comfortable arrangements. Though if you’ve to share—” She draws in a breath and gives her head a single shake, pearl-tipped pins gleaming amidst her very red curls.

“You quite reconcile me to my stairs,” she confides with a smile delicately sympathetic. “I suppose we all have little things to bear with and be gracious, as guests beneath another’s roof. Princess Visenya, you said? Are you and your lady companion her ladies, then, since her marriage into Dorne?” Reconciled she may be to the rest of her climb, but she couldn’t be said to be in a hurry to commence it, not when this floor of the Hightower is so amply provided with Dornishwomen, dragon princesses, and gossip.

Lara’s brows lift at the Hastwyck lady’s protestation, her lips curving even more upwards in a decidedly amused manner. “Comfortable arrangements? More, like visits to someone worthy of my attentions,” she states vaguely, but at the same time not so vaguely, the faint hint of scandal emanating from every word that leaves her lips. “At the moment, I don’t think there is anything worth sharing, though.” This said with an almost modest downward flit of her gaze. A chuckle then, melodious and amused, as the Cockatrice raises her dark eyes once again, and her hand lifts to cover her mouth. “By the Seven, that kind of sharing… I mistook your meaning, my lady. The sharing of rooms may have its inconveniences…” A slight wink there.

“But in fact Lady Vynesa Manwoody is a dear friend, an agreeable companion, even if she is still very young and innocent.” This a trait Lara seems to think worth mentioning. “And yes, we are attending to Princess Visenya. In fact, I was picked first for this task. To help her to bridge the differences between Dornish and Westerosi way of life. But by now, I am happy to say she has adapted to her role quite well. And blessed she is indeed with one of our best Princes as husband. There are many in Dorne who envy her, believe me.” Hands fold before Lara, as she tilts her head slightly to the side, a smile blossoming there in her features, a ghost of her own admiration perhaps for Prince Torren Nymeros Martell.

The Westerosi lady’s eyebrows lift as though a reflection, driven further and further upward by Lady Lara’s extraordinary utterances: “Seven above,” she laughs softly, “Lady Lara, if that’s what you think of first of all—. Why, with you for a companion I can only think Princess Visenya found the change in her circumstances an abrupt one indeed.” A prospect which seems to entertain rather than to appall Lady Hastwyck, who looks upon her unexpected companion of these moments with friendly and curious grey-green eyes.

“Are you certain you’re not the one who’d benefit from a guide,” she teases, “to help you find your way among Westerosi nobility, now that you’re residing for some while in Oldtown—? I don’t imagine the manners and the proprieties here are what you’re used to, any more than Sunspear’s customs would have been intelligible at once to Her Grace without your advice and her prince’s. Or have I said too much? Have I found,” and she raises a brow, still smiling, “some way of shocking you with my presumptions?”

“Hardly,” the Cockatrice counters, amusement glinting in her eyes as she shifts ever so slightly in her posture, orange sandsilk rearranging itself about her shapely yet slender form; the red scarf drops slowly from her shoulders, by now only held in place by her bare lower arms. “I have found foreigners to have a hard time to accept our Dornish ways, most finding them shocking indeed,” she allows with a soft chuckle. “But then again… Westerosi customs are so restricting, just like the clothes…” Again, a fluid movement of a light shrug that displays the adaptability of her Dornish gown.

“I think Princess Visenya has found her way of remaining true to her own convictions, while appreciating the benefits of a less uptight way of life.”, Lara Gargalen continues, her voice a low contented purr, as she reaches for the pendant of her necklace, fingers playing with it idly. “As for education in Westerosi manners…” She smirks and shakes her head. “No thank you, I shall remain who I am. Even if I do behave differently here than back home in Dorne…” Lara’s expression dims into a slightly pensive smile, “I am grateful for places like the Acacia and Leopard where there isn’t the need to tone down my behavior, by any means.”

Lady Joy lifts her head and lets out another little laugh. “Ah, to tone down your behaviour…” she appears to agree, giving a little nod of her pearl-bedecked head. She pauses. “Lady Lara,” she inquires gently, taking another step nearer, till the two women are close enough to touch, to slap, or to kiss, “do you care for your princess — and your prince?” An unexpectedly earnest inquiry from one who, so near, not only appears perhaps a little older than she may initially have struck the other, but carries about her a rare spicy fragrance which would put no Dornish beauty to shame. “For their union and what they seek to achieve by it—?”

The Gargalen remains where and as she is, as Joyeuse steps closer, her dark eyes meeting the gaze of the Hastwyck with an almost sincere expression. Her own fragrance, spicy as well, but with the addition of a slightly more flowery note, mingles with the scent of the Westerosi, when Lara’s eyes flit downwards as she considers the question. “Of course I do,” she replies after a moment. “House Gargalen is a loyal vassal to House Nymeros Martell. I serve Prince Torren and Princess Visenya. I understand the necessity of this marriage very well.” She sighs softly, as her dark gaze lifts to regard Lady Joy.

The retainers accompanying Lady Hastwyck stand upon the verge of the great staircase and look anywhere but at their betters, ostentatiously not eavesdropping.

“Then if you care for this union,” their lady murmurs, leaning nearer still, imploring, “if you care for this peace, for the beautiful young lives that will assuredly be lost if it breaks — why not cease to go about as every Westerosi’s most nightmarish vision of a Dornish seductress? Why not make friends here, rather than adversaries? You haven’t yet, have you?” she guesses cannily. “Is this not the longest conversation you’ve had yet with a chance-met Westerosi in Oldtown—? The women all think you’re here to steal their men, and the men all think you’re here to corrupt their women,” she sighs, as though she understands all too well such absurd, ignorant reactions to a shapely creature in red sandsilk.

“Lady Lara,” and she takes care to meet the younger woman’s eyes, “please understand me: I don’t advise you to give up your own principles, whatever they may be. Only to adapt yourself to your circumstances for this span of time, to be a credit to Princess Visenya and Prince Torren, to be a welcome ambassadress for your home and inspire those you meet with cordial feelings toward Dorne. Isn’t that,” she nudges gently, lowering her chin whilst holding Lady Lara’s gaze with her own deep-lidded, grey-green eyes, “what you wish…?”

Lara Gargalen’s eyes widen when she hears Joyeuse Hastwyck out, a low gasp the reaction when the red-haired Westerosi confronts her with being a nightmarish vision of a Dornish seductress. “I don’t believe the male population of Oldtown does mind the nature of my dress, I am strolling about the streets rarely enough, but when I do, all properly dressed, at least by Dornish standards,” the dark-haired Cockatrice is quick to reply. “And to be honest, I believe I give much less reason for offence than other members of the Dornish delegation.” A faint smirk there, a glint in her dark eyes. “Princess Visenya said I could keep my Dornish dresses, that there wouldn’t be the need for me to dress up as a Westerosi would. I already stressed that my behavior has changed. At least to a point.” A light cough occurs as she considers. “I may consider wearing some of the Reach fashion dresses, but I won’t deny what I am. A Gargalen of Dorne.” Lara straightens, her dark eyes assessing the Hastwyck lady with a brief inspecting glance. “You seem to favor sandsilk as well, my lady. It has its irresistible qualities.”

“Well, sandsilk is awfully comfortable in the summer,” allows Lady Joy, with a little smirk of agreement; “after all, Oldtown’s heat is hardly less, is it; but I don’t speak of what you wear, sweetling, but of what you say and of those rather telling looks you scatter about you… did you suppose I didn’t see? I’m accounted a scandal, you know, but I wouldn’t say half what you do. You may think you’ve moderated yourself, and in front of Princess Visenya you may do so, but in truth you’re not at home here and you show it in every instant… You expect your princess to make greater accommodations, I think, than you ever would yourself — and you say others are more flagrant, as though that excuses you. And is that right, mmm—?” She leans away again, smiling serenely with the knowledge she has scored a point, or perhaps two. The wealth of pearls about her throat and her wrists, and nestled amongst her red curls, simply gleams. “Call upon me, if you will, Lady Lara,” she invites gently, “one floor up — but if you do, I hope you’ll be discreet. A reputation such as mine can hardly be expected to bear up under the addition of a reputation such as yours.”

That thought inspires a giggle, which Lady Hastwyck leaves behind her in the Hightower’s spacious stairwell as she turns again to the stairs leading upward and her servants follow in her hasty, rustling, gleaming silken wake.

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