(122-12-29) Sink or Swim
Sink or Swim
Summary: Camillo catches Marsei in a reflective mood upon Battle Island; as thoughts turn to a certain Snow Giant, they're joined by Leire, and they all contemplate religion, as this trio so often does.
Date: 29/12/2015
Related: Loyalty in the Eyes of Gods and Noblewomen

Battle Island — Oldtown

Battle Island sets in the Whispering Sound near to the mouth of the Honeywine. It has no banks nor beaches, only great basalt cliffs that tower a hundred feet or more above the water, depending on weather and tide. The only easy access is a wide arched bridge of white stone leading to the harbourside terminus of Hightower Street. It is guarded day and night by knights loyal to House Hightower.

The island is dominated by the Hightower itself, a stepped tower over eight hundred feet tall made of bright white stone. Its top tier houses a great beacon fire, visible for miles out to sea.

Except at the site where there are mule-powered pulleys to lift the wood for the beacon fires off the ships that bring it, there are little walls around the island's edges. They're white stone, and low, just enough to keep House Hightower's smallest members from venturing over the cliffs. Aside from the stable and one small guardhouse, the island is dedicated to gardens with flowers of many colours, fruit trees, pretty paths of white cobblestones, white fountains, and white stone pavilions.

Marsei faces the Whispering Sound. She's far from the bridge and beyond any path, having left the island's gardens and pavilions to lean into the short stone wall and look out into the darkening sky and its reflection below. There is no one else around, and rain falls from the sky in mists that are blown about by the breeze off the water; it seems a strange place for the lady to choose. She wears a cobalt cloak with a hood to protect her from the damp, pinned below her throat with a silver floral pin. The hood is voluminous, but her gingery hair nevertheless escapes it in a long braid sneaking past her collar from over her shoulder, telltale enough from afar (or above).

Perhaps Camillo walking this path is a coincidence as part of his duties. Who knows what he really does all day, anyway? Perhaps he came here deliberately to run into Marsei. For once, instead of just getting rained on, he has a cloak on. It's nothing impressive, just a homespun fabric that will soak through in time. But it's an improvement on immediately getting soaked. Camillo approaches Marsei. "My lady. Is everything all right?"

The faraway look in her eyes marks her as deep in thought, but her reflection is one-sided, not a single indication of her thoughts on her face; the absence of an expression is peaceful, in a way. Marsei doesn't acknowledge Camillo straight away; it is only gradually that her gaze returns to the here-and-now, and only then does she turn her head. There's a hint of sadness in her eyes, looking at him, but she smiles a little. "I hope so." For all her deep thought in the rain, however, the lady is not dismal. She looks back out over the wall, sounding wistful and whimsical as she says, "It is beautiful, isn't it? The Sound."

A few lines gather between Camillo's brows, but he nods. "It is beautiful," he confirms, following her gaze. "You must be pleased not to have to leave the tower and the sound behind." He hopes.

Marsei smiles further at that, showing a happy gleam of teeth. "You're very right," she replies, almost dreamily. "There's no place in the world like the Hightower. Even from all the way down here I like to look out over the cliffs."

"Did you…enjoy looking out at them as a child, my lady?" Camillo ventures, though he obviously hesitates to be overly personal, even with Lady Marsei.

Marsei gives a soft, fond laugh in memory. "From the tower. I was scared off the cliffs, and of this wall," she admits, reaching out to touch the low white stone. She holds something in her finely gloved hand; small and wooden, her fingers mostly obscure it. "Because I could not swim. It was silly, really. Anyway, Gwayne would not let me get too close." She looks over at Camillo, not minding his questioning; some manner of question lingers in her gaze but goes unspoken, leaving her looking thoughtfully at the servant.

Camillo blinks back at Marsei, glancing at her hand, then looking back at her face. "Have you learned to swim, since?" he wonders. "Or just to not fall into waters?" Is it a joke? Who ever knows, with Camillo?

Marsei certainly wonders, and the possibility that he's making a joke brings a gently amused smile to her face — or perhaps it's simply the thought of her, swimming. "I suppose neither!" she answers with a hint of laughter in her voice, glancing into the waters. The waves grow choppy. "The wall does the trick. If it was not here I suppose I would be frightened to stand so close to the cliffs," she admits freely.

Camillo nods, looking out onto the water. "My lady," he says after a brief silence, "Do you know Ser Desmond, who I believe follows Ser Daevon?"

Marsei's eyes widen as though taken by surprise, pulled from the thoughts she had fallen back into during the silence. She quells the little expression as she offers an acknowledging nod of her head in response. She shifts her hand and the wooden object, gripped tighter, back within the confines of her cloak. "Yes," she says curiously, "I was rather meaning to ask you the same thing."

Camillo seems mildly surprised by that response. As much as he likes to anticipate the needs and desires of those he serves, he tries not to be excessive about it. Blinking once, he wonders, "Why is that, my lady?"

Marsei shakes her head gently. A distracting worry frets in the back of her gaze - perhaps tensing, even, the smooth skin of her forehead — but she says, "You first." A sweet counter, posed in a sweet, jokingly childish tone, yet she watches Camillo with the benign expectancy of a lady accustomed to being granted her wishes, however benignly.

Camillo bobs his head once, not hesitating to comply. "I made his acquaintance only recently, my lady, but he seems very kind, does he not? When Lord Dhraegon fell at the sept, he was the first to help carry him to the carriage." Camillo smiles gently, perhaps expecting Marsei to look favorably upon that. "He tells me he is descended from the Umbers."

Marsei smiles to hear the good deed, but the expression that would normally come so easily seems unusually forced. She listens, but her head is slightly cast down within her hood. She scarcely needs it anymore; the drizzle begins to fade, though the dark sky above threatens to spill again. She says only, in recognition of the name, prompting and half-curious, "An old house from the North."

Camillo looks thoughtfully at Marsei's face. "He said…he had some reason to believe there may be Umber artifacts beneath the Hightower, my lady," Camillo says gently. "As with the Targaryen flute."

Another surprise. Marsei blinks, lifting her head and looking fully to Camillo, bewildered. "Beneath the Hightower?" she echoes, lifting her brows, pressing her concern. "How did he know about the Targaryen artifact?" Her voice rises, though not in volume, becoming higher. The lady is uncharacteristically … defensive? "Did— Ser Daevon tell him?"

Camillo looks worried by Marsei's response. "Well, my lady, it was rumored around town," he points out. "And I do not know what Ser Daevon has said, but I came upon him in the library looking at books with the septa Leire."

There's a flicker in Marsei's eye, indistinct but potent for the flash of time it exists. She looks out over the Sound again, her expression turning still; now, unlike when Camillo came upon her, the stillness does not speak of peace. "Tell me if you see him there again," she says; then, quieter, "He has done good things … and he speaks nobly of his intents, but I cannot trust him. He is a false knight." There is a measure of regret in her voice to say such things, but she is grounded in her belief.

"Yes, my lady," Camillo says obediently, bobbing his head. "But why do you say he is false? Because his knighthood was granted as a boon from the King?" As usual, he is well-informed. He follows Marsei's gaze, again, looking out over the sound from their vantage point near the cliff wall on Battle Island.

Marsei and Camillo can see Leire coming from the distance, a sleek figure in grey who materializes in the wake of the rain. Her pace is measured, and it will be a few moments more before she reaches them.

"To become anointed, he took oaths, to the Seven," Marsei says slowly, "yet he confessed to me that still worships his Old Gods and prayed to them after leaving the Sept." She lets that stand, feeling Camillo must understand this duplicity for what it is; she is no less unburdened by saying so, however. A further bother still lingers. "And he— he does not…" In looking to Camillo, she catches a glimpse the grey figure out of the corner of her eye. She pays no mind, at first, until a glimmer of familiarity draws her attention.

"I see," Camillo answers, and it at least appears that he had not known that. He looks like he wants to hear what she has to say next, but he, too, notices Leire's approach. "Perhaps I should hear your warnings later at greater length, my lady," he says, but quietly so as not to be overheard before Leire reaches them.

And then Leire is upon them, with a warm smile for Marsei that is showered, in turn, upon Camillo. "Hello," she says, without much care for what she might have interrupted. Holy privilege, and all. "I thought to see if you still wished to attend the Sept this afternoon," she suggests to Marsei, without seeming as if she is in a rush to spirit the noblewoman away.

Marsei tenses with thought and nerves right up until the moment the septa smiles at them Marsei is then lifted out of the fretful mood the topic summoned in her — at least, it is pushed further back. She smiles absolutely brilliantly at Leire. "Yes," she answers straight away, looking from her to the sky, overcast but without a further drop of rain, "and look! The weather has just cleared up for a walk." She nods her head toward Camillo after, advising him quietly in obvious continuation of the conversation, "Simply take heed."

Camillo lets down the hood of his cloak and inclines his head respectfully towards Leire. He makes no particular sign of having heard Marsei, though surely he does.

Leire shares her lady's enthusiasm for the turn in the weather. It will certainly make for a more pleasant walk through Oldtown for the pair of them. But she reads the energy between the pair as Marsei warns take heed, and she says, "I've interrupted you. We need not hurry ourselves."

"You haven't," Marsei assures cheerfully, though the corners of her mouth consider frowning after the fact, her gaze turning contemplative. "We were talking about Desmond Snow," she reveals, not quite looking at either of them. "Camillo mentioned he had been in the library again, looking at texts, and wishes to look under the Hightower." A pause; she admits quietly, "I am … wary of the idea."

Camillo frowns gently at Marsei's remarks. "I hope there is no need for concern," he says softly. "But would it be all right if I were to accompany you to the sept?"

Leire shows no surprise at this revelation. "Yes, just yesterday afternoon." Though perhaps it's needless. She glances at Camillo, during Marsei's quiet pause, and smiles when he suggests joining them on their outing. "You needn't ask," she assures him.

Marsei has another smile to match Leire's assuring words to Camillo. As for the rest — she is silent on that front, for the moment. "Let's walk before the rain picks up again," she says, tucking the hood of her cloak down to free her red braid to the air while it's not drizzling. She starts to stroll away from the wall and her view of the water, falling in beside the septa.

Camillo stays back by a couple of paces, but he's accompanying the women. "Is it…true that Ser Desmond does not follow the Seven?" Camillo asks Leire.

Leire offers Marsei her arm for the walk, companionably. Her own hair is braided, invoking the question of whether or not she might have styled the noblewoman's. If Camillo were to think of such things, that is. "He is a Northman," she says in answer to his question, calmly authoritative. "He keeps the Old Gods." She offers no explanation of how she might know this for certain, but she does glance at Marsei, and catch her eye. "He oughtn't have taken the vows."

Marsei takes the septa's arm to walk side-by-side at a leisurely pace over the lawn, still far from the island's pretty cobblestone paths. She meets Leire's look knowingly and bows her head. "He cannot truly respect our faith."

"Perhaps he has the will to," Leire suggests, of Desmond's capacity to be brought to the light and grace of the Seven. "He had some questions to ask of me, when I encountered him in the library."

Camillo lowers his chin slightly in a nod. Foreigners often do worship the wrong gods. He is solemn and quiet.

"He could never abandon his gods, or the Old Ways," Marsei says quietly. "Those were his words to me." After a few paces, she speaks up again, slightly hesitant. "I think… I think… he is misguided." She glances aside at the septa with worry, "I fear he only … wants to be respected himself. Not to truly honour the Seven. The difference is sadly vast."

Leire falls quiet after Marsei's suggestion, bowing her head briefly while they walk. "Perhaps further counsel will guide him to the righteous path." Isn't it just like a New Gods pusher to think herself capable of effecting such a change?

"Do you think a man can be converted genuinely in a short time?" Camillo asks Leire, sounding curious rather than doubtful.

"A short time?" Leire echoes back at Camillo, sounding just from her voice like she had not contemplated any such thing occurring in a short time.

Marsei, normally so generous and optimistic that anyone can see the light, if they try hard enough, frowns slightly as they talk. To Camillo's view, it is a faint pulling of her shoulders as she fidgets with the wooden object in her hands hidden under her cloak. "Perhaps we should only pray and take caution," she suggests, even quieter.

Camillo tilts his head a little at Leire. "How…long does it typically take?" he wonders, never having seen a conversion take place. But when Marsei says they should pray and take caution, he takes that as a signal to be silent on the matter.

Leire only laughs at the absurdity of Camillo's question, a soft, charming sound in spite of the fact that she literally laughs at his ignorance on the matter. "What a question." But she notes how ill at ease the subject leaves Marsei, and squeezes the noblewoman's arm gently while they stroll.

Marsei returns the arm squeeze lightly in gratitude for the septa's notice. Ahead of them, Battle Island starts to come to life closer to the pathways, servants and — uncontested — knights of the Hightower coming and going. The noblewoman's steps slow and she looks over her shoulder, casting a smile back to Camillo. "Camillo, come here," she says — a friendly offer, rather than a command. "I have something for you. Before we visit the Sept."

Camillo approaches Marsei, eyebrows lifting. He seems at least encouraged by her smile. "Yes, my lady?" he asks.

Leire slows, pausing when Marsei does, turning to observe the gift about to be bestowed upon Camillo.

Marsei slides her gloved hands from her cloak, turning the object about thoughtfully before she holds it out to Camillo. It's simply a small, carved figure with an amorphous body and seven faces; it is not especially artful, but the distinct faces of the Seven are clear enough if one squints and uses a faithful imagination. A few have minuscule glistening stones for eyes, but none with enough sparkle to be rich. It is a humble totem. The wood has an old quality to it, but it is only very faintly worn. "I want you to have this," Marsei says guilelessly. She smiles, encouraging. "To hold on to your faith."

Camillo reaches out for the gift and takes it carefully between his two hands. It's evident that he's very touched, and receives the gift with all due reverence. When it's safely in his palm, he looks at all the faces one by one, whether he can barely make them out or not. Then his gaze lifts again to Marsei. "Thank you, my lady," he says softly.

Leire smiles to witness the gift itself, as well as its giving. She touches a hand to the seven-pointed star she wears around her throat, her lips moving as she murmurs a soft, quiet prayer to the Seven.

Marsei is duly pleased by the response to her gift, her smile brightening like a child on her nameday, at least for a second. After Leire's soft prayer, she inclines her head at Camillo. "Use it well," she says with a straighter face and once again picks up the stroll.

Camillo tucks his new totem away in a pocket and follows along behind the women, a hand over the wooden object so he will not drop it.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License