(122-12-29) On Building Bridges
On Building Bridges
Summary: In the gardens of the Hightower, a Targaryen princess not long married into Dorne meets by chance with a lady who made a similar marriage (mumble mumble) years ago. Their conversation tends naturally toward the particular challenges presented by such alliances…
Date: 03-04/01/2015
Related: None.

The terraced gardens of the Hightower are a perfect place for complementation, and being alone in general. They are not public gardens so there are no spectators to watch the richly adorned nobles as they go about their intrigues and other dealings.

Soaking in that solitude is Visenya. At first glance one might think they are looking at a Martell Princess; her vibrant emerald green sandsilk gown is cut low in the back, and the only thing that covers her there is a fine and intricate chain of gold attached to the fabric. Her bare arms are adorned with fine gold armlets. But her skin is a smooth alabaster as opposed to the coppers and bronzes of most of the Martell Princesses, and her short hair is silver instead of black.

Though she's well along in the fourth decade of her life and twice-widowed besides, Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck is in the habit of taking about with her, even in the castle gardens, a dour-faced maid who serves as proof incarnate that her mistress isn't in the habit of sitting alone with male friends. When one has not been careful enough before, one cannot be too careful now.

Nonetheless this two-legged terrier laden with spare handkerchiefs, precautionary shawls (she doesn't trust those sea breezes), and appalling pieces of needlework follows at a distance, barely keeping in sight Lady Hastwyck's vibrant figure. She's not easy to lose, after all, in her cherry-red sandsilk robes, with a veil of delicate golden Myrish lace draped about her head and shoulders and folded back to provide just shade enough to the delicate, faintly dusky skin of her face and her throat. Beneath the sun's heat she's languid in every movement over grass and path, twiddling between her fingers the broken stalk of a single perfect golden rose she couldn't resist plucking from its bush to keep and to savour. When she came upon it, she saw at once that it had reached the zenith of its bloom — and to her way of thinking it deserves these last few hours of appreciation, rather than to be left another night with its petals curling, browning, forlornly.

She's sniffing it again, a smile of quiet uncomplicated satisfaction upon her lips, when she turns a corner and finds this Dornish princess who hails not from Dorne. And still clasping her flower she gathers handfuls of light, clingy sandsilk (golden petals glowing against red cloth) and lowers herself into a very pretty, eminently straight-backed curtsey.

"Your Grace… forgive me; I hope I don't intrude."

Visenya is so lost in thought that she doesn't notice the vibrantly dressed Lady Hastwyck's approach until the older woman speaks to her. "Hmmm…" She turns from looking off into the distance on the balcony garden to facing Joyeuse, and a hand drops to the swell of her belly as she looks over the unknown woman in a curious and yet reserved manner. Curious because she is unfamiliar with this woman; she is not part of her husband's Dornish court in Oldtown, nor is she able to recall a northron lady who looks like her. Not that a woman living above the Red Mountains would be caught dead dressed in such a manner. "There is no intrusion." She says after her surprised little murmur, and a mask of politeness and congeniality falls into place. "I'm afraid we've yet to meet, Lady…?"

The sizeable ruby ring upon the third finger of Lady Joy's left hand gleams in the sunlight as she adjusts her golden veil; it was disarranged only in her mind's eye by her curtsey, so smoothly did she accomplish it. She hasn't had a drop to drink so far today, if you were wondering. "Joyeuse Hastwyck," she explains softly, unsurprised to be unknown. "My second husband was Lord Hastwyck of Holyhall… my first was Ser Darion Qorgyle of Sandstone." A beat. "I didn't mean to disturb you, truly, but seeing you for once without a dozen retainers about you I thought I might steal a moment of your time to say— only that I wish you well, Your Grace, in your new Dornish life, in the building," her eyes flit down to that telling hand curved about the princess's abdomen, that gesture held in common by all mothers-to-be, before she looks again into her eyes with a smile broader still, "of bridges."

Visenya is old enough that she knows that people often have ulterior motives, but still young enough that she is still touched by Joyeuse's words. "Thank you." She says, and for a brief instant that pretty mask of a face is cracked by a genuine but fleeting smile. "You must know something of building bridges, My Lady, seeing as your first husband was Dornish." She looks over the other woman before she ventures to guess, "As I assume you were a woman of the Reach before you wed?"

When making a new acquaintance amongst the nobility the importance of nailing down the genealogy cannot be overstated: Princess Visenya's ancestors are known well enough (Targaryen, Targaryen, and Targaryen) and Lady Hastwyck doesn't begrudge a recital of her own, for there at least she has nothing to blush for. "Yes, I was born and bred here, at Brightwater Keep," she confirms; "my father was the late Lord Florent and my mother, before she wed, Lady Tiriana Tully. As for bridges…" She lets out a contemplative sigh. "At that time several of us were dispatched to Dorne with bricks and mortar and trowels. My bridge was a funny-looking thing, but it looked to hold up the best — yet now I'm sorry to say no one passes that way anymore, and those of us who still hope to cross must put our faith in you, Your Grace, and in my niece Emira. Her father was my goodbrother — I still think of her as kin," and with fond hopes which include Visenya as well, and which she doesn't trouble to hide. Lady Hastwyck is either a canny actress or an honest woman.

"Florent." Visenya says out loud, and there is some curiosity there along with something else. Not quite apprehension, but…something. She pushes it back and listens to the rest of what Lady Joy has to say. Of Emira and Rhaegor she says, "Princess Emira and Prince Rhaegor are better suited than I thought. I imagine someday they will be very happy together." She smiles, despite it being well known that Rhaegor once sought to marry her, and that the cousins were sweethearts. "If only peace came from the happiness of our unions, but I am afraid it is not so simple."

"Oh, it never is," sighs Lady Joy, her smile tinged with ruefulness. Consider, for instance, that odd look she just received, which she'd be so tempted to inquire into if only she knew the princess well enough to bring up something so uncertain… She tilts her head and regards Visenya still more consideringly and keeps, inasmuch as she ever does, to the point.

"But if you've such fine, solid, beautiful marble from which to build your bridges — why, just think where they might not lead us all in the end! You're a princess twice over now, better prepared and better protected than those of us who tried it the last time… Your Grace, if anyone has a real chance of nurturing this peace," she opines, encouragement verging upon urgency, "I believe it's you and Prince Torren and your cousins. And I hope you'll remember, on those days when it isn't simple in the least, that for every hothead who's giving you trouble, there's someone else somewhere who married as you did and as I did, hoping against hope that the peace will hold, and that she needn't see her kin go to war against her kin… again." And she quirks her finely-drawn eyebrows in a vain attempt to keep their talk lighthearted, belied by the stalk of her golden rose, which has snapped again between her fingers.

Visenya looks like she is uncertain of what to say to Joyeuse in response to her words. She bites on her bottom lip fretfully before looking the older woman in the eye, "And what if my marriage brings the opposite, my Lady?" She manages a small but sad smile before pulling up her sleeve to show her the scars from a viper's bite on the delicate flesh just below her wrist. "That is what I paid for my marriage a week into it. I only hope the Seven does not intend to see me pay more than this." She looks away from Joyeuse then and says, "I speak out of turn with you, and you bring optimism where I have heard none. Forgive me."

Perhaps one isn't meant to reach out and touch princesses one hardly knows — but Lady Hastwyck acts without thinking, bringing up her own hand beneath that slender damaged wrist to lift what she has been invited to witness nearer to her narrowed, curious eyes. Her touch is tender; she looks up again in sadness and in surprise. "… So soon?" she asks, shaking her head. "I'm nervous of asking how, or whom, though I suppose I could wager a guess as to why. Your Grace — whatever comes, and surely we can't know it yet," another plea perhaps for optimism, for hoping at least for the best, "you'll know you've given all you could to the task to which the Seven have called you. If it were easy, why, it wouldn't be for a princess, would it? And there's no call for forgiveness," she promises, "you've said nothing you oughtn't to have done, and— and nothing I'd ever repeat, Your Grace."

Visenya looks slightly surprised when the lady takes her wrist, but she doesn't pull away from the lady. Instead she lets her get a good look at the vicious looking scar made all the more terrible looking by how fine the surrounding flesh is. "It was meant for my husband, but the would be assassin did not choose a precise method." She says in a low tone, "If the Seven gave us only what we could handle then no one would fail. But people do fail, My Lady." She smiles gently then, "But thank you for the sentiment all the same." She changes the subject then, "Do you have children in Dorne?"

The latter question, or how young Princess Visenya looks as she asks it, inspires Lady Hastwyck to press her fingertips gently with her own as she lets go of her. Another little vote of confidence, perhaps. "Thank the Seven for imprecision," she sighs, "and the foolishness of criminals…" Her hands join together again, clasped about the blooming golden rose, a fingertip stroking a silky petal. "I have a daughter in Dorne, yes," she admits, smiling again for she simply can't help it, "by her marriage Lady Vanora Toland. Perhaps you've met her…?" Her gaze turns searching. "I'm afraid we're neither of us very great letter-writers; I hear so little of where she is and what she does…"

The sandy Dornish lady she names is a couple of years the princess's senior, a ferocious creature nonetheless the loving mother of three little boys, and friendlier to Westeros than many at the court of Sunspear. Here stands perhaps the reason for her open-mindedness, not to mention her grey-green eyes.

The Princess seems relieved in the change of subject, and so instead of continuing their conversation about her near death she says, "I have not met her, but I believe her husband is my husband's kinsman through his father, the Prince Consort." The Prince Consort being Uncle to the current Lord Toland. "Or perhaps I have met her, and I just do not recall it. I'm afraid I was only in Dorne a short time before we left, and there were many faces. But when I return to Sunspear I shall seek her out." She smiles a little brighter at this.

The idea seems rather to have struck Lady Joy as well. "That's quite right, isn't it, Your Grace?" she observes with evident delight. "I hadn't thought… The circles we move in are so much smaller than at first glance they appear. Lady Marsei, a cousin of mine through the Tully blood our mothers shared, wed Prince Dhraegon, a cousin of yours; my goodniece Emira is to wed Prince Rhaegor, another such cousin; and you've wed the son of one of my daughter's Toland kinsmen… What a map it would make, if only we had parchment enough to draw it!" she laughs. "To tell you the truth I never found lessons in heraldry dull when I was a little girl — it's too much like a game, seeing how one might connect the unlikeliest people with the fewest relations in between… I do hope," she adds in a rush, "you'll make my daughter's acquaintance, if you find you haven't already; she's," and the proud parent lowers her voice to a conspiratorial pitch, "rather terrifying, one of those Dornish girls with flashing eyes and a sword in either hand, but I think her a very fine woman indeed." Her tone makes an approach to apologising for this blatant maternal bias but doesn't quite get there: of course she thinks well of her daughter, and she can't think less.

Visenya's lips twitch upwards into an amused smile, "Lady Marsei is a close friend of mine as well as being married to Prince Dhraegon." She mentions. When Emira and Rhaegor are brought up her smile diminishes slightly, but still she says, "Yes. I had forgotten her father is a Qorgyle." She glances off of the balcony to Battle Island below them before back to Joyeuse, "She cannot be more terrifying than Princess Emira." She says, and then she smiles all the brighter, "Or Princess Amarei. But I suppose she is frightening in an entirely different manner." The wry tilt of her smile indicates that she isn't terrified of her godomother or her husband's cousin, but is just acknowledging that they are frightening women. "Lady Hastwyck…you lived amongst the Dornish. Do you think there are any I could eventually count as allies?"

Of the relative terrors of the Dornish Lady Hastwyck pronounces, plucking a petal from her rose and fingering it before letting it fall: "In that first year everyone in Dorne frightened the wits out of me, even the children, even my own servants… Not longer, though; if one lives with fear long enough one simply stops feeling it and one can begin to get on with living." She glances down at the rose, turning it this way and that, inspecting it for any further signs of wilting before its time which couldn't be discerned by her touch alone. There aren't any, however; she judges it perfect, and turns her wistful smile from the flower to the princess. "I came back over the border a decade ago, Your Grace. I would answer your question if I thought I could — but the risk is so great that I would give you poor advice… I don't know what on the other side is as I knew it then, and what is altered."

"I am not afraid of everyone." Visenya says, "But I made the acquaintance of Prince Alaryn and Princess Mariya before I was ever betrothed, and knew others besides. But perhaps it is because I am used to being different." Says the Princess raised speaking High Valyrian on Dragonstone amongst the great beasts the Targaryens rode. She is as separate from other denizens of the Kingdom as she is from the Dornish, and only has commonality with her own family. She nods her head understandingly to Joyeuse's response. "No. Of course. I just feel that not all in Dorne must be opposed to this matching."

"I didn't know anyone at all," admits Lady Joy; "but I made friends, one at a time. You will too, Your Grace. Probably a deal faster, I should think, in your position — you are as you say… different." The fact cannot be denied and so she gives a slight shrug acknowledging it, red sandsilk shifting and gleaming about her rounded figure. "There were some I could never win over, but there are always some, aren't there? … Don't ask me," she suggests suddenly, "ask my daughter. She— she always did have to live me down, I'm afraid," and an ocean of regret gleams in those grey-green eyes mother and daughter have in common, "but she'll know, of course, those at the Dornish court who don't hold her foreign mother too much against her."

Visenya is silent as she listens to Lady Joy, and when she mentions her daughter she says, "I will seek her out when I am returned to court. It is a pity she is married. I could have used a companion I could trust." Which means she does not trust her current companions. A sorry state for any woman to be in. She opens her mouth to say something else, but one of her sloe-eyed handmaidens comes into the garden, and curteys before she hands the Princess a note. Visenya unfolds it before she glances down to read it, "Forgive me, Lady Hastwyck. It seems my duties call me away. We should see each other again before I depart for Dorne."

Words to charm a mother's heart; and Lady Joy returns for them a luminous smile. "Of course, Your Grace. And perhaps even married Vanora might be of aid to you in some manner… I'd like to think so. I've met Lady Lara Gargalen," she confesses, "on the staircase, for my chambers are just one floor up from yours, and I can't quite make out whether she knows quite how unwisely she behaves." A little shake of her head and a nibble of her lower lip, as she takes a step away and gathers handfuls of sandsilk and falls into another graceful curtsey. "I too hope we'll meet again. I haven't any duties to speak of," she admits, "and so my time is very much my own — unless," she inclines her veiled head, "you happen to wish for some part of it."

Visenya smiles a shade at the frankness of Joyeuse's comment regarding Lara, but she says nothing regarding her Lady-in-Waiting. Instead she smiles a little more brightly than she did before. "I think I shall take you up on that, Lady Hastwyck. Do have a good day." And then she turns to depart out of the garden with her handmaiden.

The other lingers to watch her go, nose buried in the petals of a golden rose.

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