(122-12-30) Dornish Gossip
Dornish Gossip
Summary: Two ladies of varying notoriety, one of Dorne and one formerly so, not only discuss gossip but engage in it. Well. It was probably inevitable.
Date: 29/12/2015-01/01/2016
Related: The first and second meetings of these characters. Also, the duel of Manfryd and Daevon.

When Lady Lara Gargalen presents herself at the suite of chambers on the fifth floor of the Hightower occupied for the nonce by her recent acquaintance, Lady Hastwyck, the dour and disapproving maidservant who shows her in (a figure perhaps familiar from an encounter in the stairwell) seems to know already her name, and to whisk her out of sight as swiftly as possible.

These rooms are every bit as luxurious as those below and yet are Lady Hastwyck's own, by her testament not shared with any other. Lady Lara is shown past windows with an extraordinary view of the sea, an enormous and skillful painting of the sunrise over King's Landing, tapestries showing scenes as varied as fields of flowers, sunsets in red and orange and blue and violet, and a golden dragon taking wing… All the furniture is hewn from the same pale golden wood; the walls and floor are of white marble; all is light, airy, delicate, feminine, as she is shown through the first and grandest receiving-room and a smaller sitting-room, and thence into the bedchamber wherein the lady she has come to see sits perched upon a flouncy dressing-table stool, regarding her reflection in a large mirror of beaten silver, whilst a younger and prettier serving-maid whose colouring suggests the far-off land of Myr stands patiently dressing her hair.

"Oh, Lady Lara," sighs Lady Hastwyck, extending to her a languid hand which falls again into her lap before her visitor can possibly do anything about it. She glances briefly sideways but is arrested by her maid's hands, weaving another small braid to contribute to a far more elaborate coiffure which is almost but not quite complete; and so she returns her head to its proscribed alignment. She is clad again in sandsilk, this time a simple robe in a lurid shade of scarlet, such as any Dornish noblewoman of means and elegance might don upon arising from her bed to receive the attentions of her servants.

Before her on her dressing-table stands a truly bewildering panoply of bottles, jars, pots, pins, and jewel-cases; and in the middle of all of this someone has wedged a tray, with a tea-pot and a cup and a plate which contains, at this stage, chiefly pastry crumbs and pits left from peaches.

The Lara Gargalen of today may be slightly different from the Dornishwoman Joyeuse encountered two days ago. First of all, her dark, almost black tresses are worn in a hairdo, tiny braids at the temples joining the rest of the wealth of hair in a thick braid, that hugs the neck and falls down over her front, brushing against a gown of Dornish cut and dark blue colour – the fabric, sandsilk, of course! Her complexion may show off a certain pallor, even so, she enters with the elegant ease, Lady Hastwyck may already have noticed on their brief encounter on the stairs. The grumpy maid is not spared a glance, the disposition noted but not commented upon. Dark eyes drift over the interior of the bedchamber until they come to linger on the lady herself, and her hairdo in progress. “Lady Hastwyck,” Lara intones to the greeting, a faint smile curving her lips, as she observes the hand that is raised and then falls back into Joyeuse’s lap. “I hope I do not call at an inopportune time.” Words of courtesy that are offered with a voice of silky smoothness.

“Oh,” confesses Lady Hastwyck, “if I turned away everyone who called when I was only waking up, I’d hardly see anybody at all… Do sit, sweetling,” she urges in a voice deliberately stronger; “I’m sure someone’s bringing you tea, or something or another.

“And you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I’m a little sleepy still… I am glad you’ve come, you know, I’ve been wondering about you, and how you were getting along. I asked after you and House Jordayne and I do understand now,” she sighs, “what all that talk was about at Loryn Tyrell’s party — I am sorry, though,” she insists, her tone sweetly sympathetic and not at all entertained by this most salacious anecdote from Lady Lara’s past, “it must really have been quite crushing in the moment. There’s a rumour rather similar about my late husband Gylbert but it isn’t true in the least — it was the fever that took him… I was there, of course, but only because I couldn’t bear to leave him when he needed me so much.” Another sigh.

With a fluid motion the Cockatrice sits, her fingers moving over the fabric of her dress, smoothing it while indulging on the tactile sensation of sandsilk drifting below her fingertips. “I actually pondered, whether to come and visit on another day, rather,” Lara intones a bit thoughtfully perhaps. “But then again, it would reflect poorly on me if I were allowing a long time to pass before I follow an invitation you’ve issued so generously.” Her smile is slightly tempered, even so it grows a touch brighter when Joyeuse addresses the matter of House Jordayne. “Ah… Lord Zephyr was indeed an intimate acquaintance,” Lara admits with a soft melodious chuckle, her eyes glinting with fondness at the memory. “I’ve mourned his passing, indeed.” One corner of her mouth lifts into a faint smirk, when the word ‘crushing’ is used. “I didn’t expect that to happen, yes”, Lara Gargalen admits, as her gaze shifts to meet the Westerosi lady’s grey-green eyes. A brow lifts, then the other, when Lady Joy makes her own little confession, “A similar rumor?” She chuckles, the mirth perhaps not befitting the rather somber topic.

Not true,” reiterates Lady Joy, with an attempt at primness, doomed to failure given she’s regarding Lady Lara out of the corner of her eye whilst clad in sandsilk over bare skin. At any rate she achieves wistfulness, for she did love the fellow, and when she speaks of him she couldn’t be taken for anything but a fond widow… “But people love to talk, you know,” she adds after a moment, this remark addressed more to her own silvery reflection as her servant gently realigns her head, “nobles and commoners alike. And once they fasten upon a woman’s name — well, they’ll keep on saying anything they like of her, with no thought at all for whether she deserves it. It’s an entertainment, really, that’s all. They don’t imagine for a moment they might be hurting a real live creature, with sensibilities of her own, and a beating heart.”

With which pensive utterance she falls silent, though a distraction is soon provided by the advent of her sour-faced waiting-woman, with another pot of astringent herbal tea and another little bowl of honey and another cup. She serves Lady Lara first and then pours again for her mistress, who finished the first pot only moments ago, in an optimistic tilt at wakefulness.

“Oh, I never paid too much attention,” Lara intones with a smile and a dismissive gesture of her hand. “Back in Dorne, it is not easily achieved to become the subject of wagging tongues, in regard to one’s lovelife. A feat, well…” Her shoulders lift in a shrug, “I have managed while it was never my intention.” The glance she shoots the Westerosi woman holds a fair amount of innocence. “And thus, I am used not to give a fig regarding what others say. It also has its advantages, you know.” A playful wink is offered to Lady Joyeuse, as Lara Gargalen accepts a cup of tea. “In fact, I can attribute some of my acquaintances to my reputation, which is even for Dornish standards…” Her words trail off and she catches her breath. “I am sorry, I do not mean to brag. But I sense you have had your own little educational experiences in that area, or am I mistaken?” A healthy rosiness, even if faint, conquers rather pale cheeks, when the Cockatrice slips back into her favorite pastime of slightly shocking and scandalous smalltalk.

It’s too much! Tethered by the next small braid her servant is weaving of her hair Lady Joy risks another direct look at Lady Lara and bites back laughter. How can such a creature be truly true—? Even Dornishwomen, it seems, can in their own way be sheltered from the realities…

“Sweetling,” she sighs, trying to be serious and to be kind, “I know from your eyes and from the tone of your voice that you wish to be complimentary to me — but perhaps it’s neither courteous nor wise to suggest to a lady you hardly know, that you suppose she is not respectable. We’re not in Sunspear — we’re in Oldtown,” she sighs, quite as though it were a personal apology from one woman to another, “and here there are certain thoughts a clever girl doesn’t voice aloud, mmm? … I don’t only mean what you might say of me,” she adds hastily, for although she’s not untroubled by that thought it’s a drop in the ocean of Lara Gargalen.

Lara seems to be little troubled by what could be taken as mild rebuke. “Why, I already know you well enough.”, she counters, meeting that direct look of Joyeuse with a surprised raise of a brow. “It sometimes takes little more than a few moments really, for me to read a person. In your case, it’s the reactions to my remarks, and whatever little you were willing to let slip in exchange – no, neither did I mean to insult you, nor do I really suspect it was taken as an insult.” The corners of her mouth lift into a smile. “The fact alone that you are willing to receive me in your chambers – despite my Dornish loose tongue, and the things you obviously found worth investigating about me…” She shrugs again, obviously not troubled by the latter. “That alone proves to me that you are hardly shocked by anything I have said, on the contrary, you wish to hear more perhaps…”

Her smile dims a little, her dark eyes flickering as they shift towards the window, when Lara Gargalen continues. “We are not at a public occasion, and yes, you’ve seen me at a Dornish Soiree – what sense would there have been in not acting and speaking exactly in the manner you’ve observed. Even so, I assure you, I was even rather well behaved there. No…” The Cockatrice’s head turns, the thick black braid brushing over the dark blue sandsilk of her dress, as she regards Lady Joy and her red curls, almost done in their exquisite hairdo. “We are here amongst ourselves. You wish to deepen the acquaintance, and I see no use in pretending someone I am not.” That a compliment as well, perhaps. Even so, the smile has shifted into a slightly thoughtful quality. “I am glad for the distraction. It keeps me from pondering… other matters.” The tone suddenly devoid of any traces of mirth, almost somber, her smile little more than a ghost of one, when dark eyes flit down to study the cup of tea in her hand.

“To hear more—? Lady Lara, d’you really suppose I invited you here simply to tell me naughty stories?” laughs her hostess softly. And then she’s distracted by the call of her own tea-cup, into which the elder of her serving-maids spooned honey so generously to soften the bitterness of its taste. “No, I don’t think of you as some kind of performing bear, I promise you,” she states positively; “a Dornish curiosity to be gaped at, but only where nobody else can see me looking. Although! The Seven only know, you do make me wonder what you can be like when you’re not behaving yourself,” she adds in an undertone — ameliorated by a wink, from which her words benefit quite as much as the tea does by the honey. “It’s only that I thought I might, perhaps, have been in time to help you… It’s what I should have liked.”

With both her hands (bereft at this hour of rings) still wrapped round her cup and steam rising from it to tickle her nose, and her younger maid’s hands still busy in her hair, mastering it section by section with the aid of pearl-tipped pins, she looks sidelong at Lady Lara.

“Though now I’ve a curious presentiment that something has happened, something quite regrettable. Or why else would you be so in need of distraction,” she inquires softly, “that you’d come even to me…?”

“Exactly that,” Lara states with her brow still slightly lifted, to the Hastwyck widow’s question, her eyes glinting with mirth before they dim. “I accept your words of advice and will consider them,” she allows, though, before talk shifts into a different direction. “You must have heard the rumors of a duel that happened two days ago, in the tourney grounds,” the Gargalen lady begins, after another sip of tea from her cup before she sets it down onto the table. “The Maiden Knight,” a slight roll of her eyes there, her lips forming a line briefly before they part again as she continues, “had brought up accusations against a member of the Dornish delegation who wished to settle the matter in an honorable duel.”

A hairpin pricks Lady Hastwyck’s scalp; she looks away from Lady Lara to her own reflection, anxiously inspecting the progress of her coiffure. Almost finished, thank goodness.

“So many duels lately…” she sighs. “And I seem to hear three or four different reasons for each, none of which agree, as though between one mouth and the next it’s all turned upside down! Perhaps you know what this one was really all about?” she implores. “I should like the truth of it better than any number of your naughty stories — I even heard it said,” and she puts her maid to no small inconvenience by giving a quick exasperated shake of her head, “that Ser Manfryd Qorgyle had been accused of rape, as though such a thing could be credited! I don’t know how the smallfolk make up this sort of nonsense,” another sigh, “I really don’t. If more of them had their letters I’m certain we should be living in a new golden age of song and story.”

“Rape, aye,” Lara confirms, a faint line appearing between her brows as she keeps her gaze lowered for a moment. Her hands fold before her in her lap, now that they are no longer burdened with a cup, and her dark eyes lift to meet the Hastwyck widow’s gaze. “Drugging and abusing those worthy of his protection.” Words that leave her lips with a bit of effort. “Lies.” This one word added with a sharpness in her tone, and a vehement shake of her head. “Ser Manfryd is Dornish, and that alone may be offense enough to the Maiden Knight. The Scorpion does not rape. He has a temper, yes. And a tendency to misbehave according to Westerosi standards.” Much worse, her gaze seems to suggest, than Lara, in regards to behavior. “But he will never force himself on someone, in such a manner.” The Cockatrice exhales, her gaze going distant for a brief spell of a moment, before it focuses again on Joyeuse. “Nonetheless, the Scorpion challenged the Maiden Knight for a duel. And the Maiden Knight…” The knuckles grow a touch whiter as the grip of her fingers tightens. “…met him in his resplendent shiny plate armor.”

The red sandsilk robe protecting Lady Joy’s modesty fails briefly to do so as she shifts upon her dressing-table stool, to face Lady Lara rather than her mirror — there’s a sudden flash of pale shapely legs before her hands impatiently fold silk over silk once more. “Well, of course he wouldn’t!” she exclaims, wide-eyed. “I can’t say I ever knew him well but he’s still my nephew — I know how he was brought up, and by whom — and it isn’t the Dornish way that inclines a man to such crimes…” She laughs again, as is her way; this time with a tinge of bitterness… or regret. “But someone really supposes — Prince Daevon really supposes — he did such a thing?” she asks earnestly of Lady Lara. “Ah, there you see — people will believe anything of the wicked, wicked Dornish… We’re all tainted by sunshine and sand and sin,” she sighs, unconsciously including herself amongst the sinned-against. “Of course he’d challenge the prince for such a slur upon his name, I quite understand it now,” though such comprehension appears to have brought her no more pleasure than it has her guest. “Diplomacy is all very well but he could hardly let that accusation stand without defending himself… Plate?” she says suddenly. “Do you mean to say — were they not armoured alike, when they met?”

“Your… nephew?”, Lara Gargalen’s eyes widen, and a hand is raised to cover her mouth. One can almost see the thoughts racing in her head, whatever ancient gossip she can recall pertaining to the Qorgyle family. “So… you were that Westerosi lady who was married to… late Ser Darion Qorgyle…?”, she dares to inquire, her tone showing now some resemblance of utter respect, almost awe. “The one with the paramour…?” One corner of her mouth lifts into a faint smirk. “Tsk. And here you are, trying to educate me about propriety.” The Cockatrice is amused. As amused as she can be, given the rather upsetting subject.

“But yes. Manfryd wouldn’t. And he… told me he didn’t.”, Lara replies then. “Ser Daevon, however, and his henchman, this Ser Desmond Snow are convinced he did.” She exhales. “They weren’t armored alike. The Scorpion managed to get through with his spear just once, a minor scratch, I daresay. Meanwhile he received wound after wound from the Maiden Knight. The Maiden Knight who,” and here her tone grows icy, “threatened to kill him even after he yielded, if he didn’t swear an oath of having committed the atrocities he was accused of.”

Lady Joy’s lips form a thoughtful little ‘O’ as the deception she briefly, naughtily practiced and then unthinkingly revealed is uncovered further. “… You do know something, then,” she judges; “at first I was certain you must, and then that you didn't, and then that you'd find out, and then that you hadn't. I suppose you've still got it just as much back to front as anyone here might do; but don't you see, sweetling?” She lifts her finely-plucked eyebrows in a hint — and sighs again, for she doesn't seem to be getting through. “I was trying to speak to you of how to conduct oneself among strangers in a strange land, to try to— to make oneself liked and admired, instead of mistrusted and feared… For I’d love nothing more than peace,” she explains, “all my kin living in a hundred, a thousand generations of peace; and I know I shan't see so much as a year of it if this is the way people who ought to know better keep behaving!”

As she bursts out into this vexed, sorrowful exclamation a single tear runs down her cheek; and to her maid, who has just relinquished comb and pins and taken a step back from the triumphant and elegant work of her afternoon she utters, suddenly pleading: “Wine, Nita.”

The maid withdraws, nodding. She knows well that note in her mistress’s voice.

“Your princess’s own brother!” adds Lady Joy in wounded tones as the door shuts behind the girl. “And this is how he cares for her life’s purpose and her happiness.”

"Of course, I do," Lara replies, brows lifting as she shoots Joyeuse an almost apologetic glance, one corner of her mouth lifting. "Being the topic of gossip myself often enough makes me no less interested in scandalous slander, my lady. It tends to be so diverting…" and inspiring?. "But yes, I understand you quite well… you want to teach me how to uphold the appearance," here a melodious chuckle escapes her shapely lips, "keep my potentially provoking thoughts to myself, as to deceive others about my true nature." A bit of playful provocation is there, in the way she rephrases the Hastwyck's admittedly noble intent. Even so, dark eyes will note the outburst, the smile dimming when a tear is observed. "I see you have your experiences in the matter."

But then, as the maidservant leaves them, the Cockatrice leans forward, her demeanour showing less mirth, if any at all. "Ser Daevon stressed it was Ser Manfryd who endangers it all with his conduct. And to be honest… I yet have to hear what Princess Visenya thinks of the matter." The tone suggests that Lara does not get her hopes up too high, as for what the Maiden Knight's twin's opinion might be.

At Lady Lara’s first Lady Hastwyck only shrugs, lifting her hands, breathing out a little sigh — for of course that’s what she wishes, that’s been her thought from the first. And, feeling the tear upon her cheek, she turns modestly away to dab at it with a handkerchief (embroidered with the intertwined letters ‘J’ and ‘H’, in scarlet thread) taken up from her dressing-table, and turns back again to take up the thread of their discourse upon which she feels most intensely.

“But that’s just the trouble, isn’t it,” she sighs, “that Princess Visenya doesn’t know, that she wasn’t consulted — that if Prince Daevon had aught to complain of in the Dornish delegation, he didn’t take up the matter privately, diplomatically, with his sister and his goodbrother, to see it dealt with out of the public eye when the people of Oldtown are already practically up in arms against the Dornish here and the least little thing might—” She presses her lips together and looks away. “Whatever he may say of Ser Manfryd’s conduct, two wrongs don’t make a right. We all learn that in our nurseries, don’t we? Using somebody else’s dangerous behaviour as an excuse for one’s own — and such a poor excuse, too, where a Dornishman is concerned — I can’t think it’s any way to go on…” Another, even more distracted sigh. “And to do it all in full plate against a man so much less protected — the Maiden Knight has such a reputation for chivalry, it beggars belief, doesn’t it? What a passion he must have been in! Though…”

In the midst of sipping her tea, a pale substitute for the wine she’s yearning to drink and which can’t come soon enough, Lady Joy eyes her visitor. “I have sometimes wondered,” she confesses, “whether… whether perhaps… Well, I mean, with all the stories one hears, one does sometimes put two and two together and think…” She looks away and sighs yet again, as though the thought in her mind were a little upsetting, even a little risky.

"Princess Visenya…" Lara sighs, with a light shrug of her shoulders, followed by a regretful shake of her head. "I don't even know if he consulted her, but in this case, the challenge was issued by the Scorpion, and had be accepted or declined right away. Ser Manfryd has been… difficult, and I doubt the Princess is positively inclined towards him. No… My concern is the conduct of the Maiden Knight, before and after the duel." A nod there, when Joyeuse voices her agreement, in regards to the armor matter. The next musings bring a faint smirk to the Cockatrice's features, musings that remain somewhat incomplete.

"He is rather beautiful," Lara states then, mischief glinting in her eyes. "With his almost feminine features. But I don't care really what kind of preference his byname may hint at, in regards to amorous pursuits. He was betrothed to the Princess Mariya Nymeros Martell, a marriage which did not come to pass as the betrothal was annulled. He is not exactly a lady's man, from what I hear. Nor is he known for pursuits of his own gender, Seven above, but even if he is… we Dornish would be the last to stigmatize such.", she states with an amused chuckle, leaning back in her chair, as she tilts her head to the side, the thick braid shifting over the fabric of her dark blue sandsilk gown.

“Beautiful? Oh, well,” and Lady Hastwyck waves her hand and the hanky in it vaguely, “I like a man to look like a man — I shouldn’t think,” she lets out a furtive giggle, her eyes still gleaming with the tears she managed not quite to shed, “the Maiden Knight even has need of a razor blade… But you don’t know, do you?” she demands suddenly, as some other small thought strikes her. “Or you’d know that I wouldn’t either… Sweetling, Darion Qorgyle was a fine man and a brave knight and a true son of Dorne,” she explains, speaking of her first husband, in an attitude distantly proud, “but he’d no more interest in women than in sheep,” she sighs.

“No, that wasn’t what I meant… It’s only that… Well, it’s not women or men, is it, with Prince Daevon? I heard it said he was betrothed to his sister, after the Targaryen way, at first — and then to Princess Mariya — and nothing’s come of any of it — and his name has never been linked with anyone’s — and he’s, oh, twenty or twenty-one? An unusual age, isn’t it, for a prince, a man of such wealth and prestige, and features most think are so comely, to be without any entanglement… Unless there was something the matter…? And then,” another sigh, “he’s well-known too as a defender of other people’s chastity; girls apparently pray to him to be spared unwanted marriages, and now this— this extraordinary accusation, at what can only have been the least hint, not real proof, of a man forcing himself upon one who was unwilling… The passion of it,” she echoes her own thought, “the sheer lack of sense…”

A door-knob turns and Lady Hastwyck breaks off, perhaps just as she was about to get to the good bit — at least that’s the intimation of her suddenly hunted look, converted into a smile for her maid Nita who has returned with an open bottle of sharp red Dornish wine and two long-stemmed cups engraved with an outline of the Hightower arms upon pale golden wood.

“Bless you,” she sighs, as the girl fills each cup almost to the brim and places one in Lady Lara’s hand before setting the second and the bottle itself upon the dressing-table. But then she hovers, and after an instant’s hesitation Lady Joy dismisses her with another wave of the hanky still clasped between her fingers. “Oh, go on, I shan’t want you just yet.”

Soon the ladies are alone again.

The Cockatrice listens, her gaze flitting briefly to her abandoned cup of tea on the table, as Joyeuse Hastwyck speaks. Remaining silent till the brief interruption by the maid servant occurs, but yes, the change of beverage is most eagerly welcomed, the long-stemmed cup of Dornish Red accepted with a grateful smile offered to Nita. The Dornishwoman's gaze follows the woman as she is dismissed and moves to the door, and no word will leave the Gargalen's lips until said door has closed behind the servant.

"What are you trying to infer, Lady Hastwyck?", Lara intones then, giving Joyeuse a long catechistic look of her dark eyes, while the fingers of one hand play idly with the pendant of her necklace. "That the Maiden Knight abhors intimacy of any kind?" The hand leaves her necklace alone, to adjust the sandsilk of her gown, brushing over the dark blue fabric. "Chastity is a high ideal for some knights, so I hear - alas, I've never encountered any specimen of that rare high ideal before. It's the thing with those Targaryens… they claim to be dragon riders, impervious to fire… otherworldly creatures, born to rule the world. Ser Daevon may claim to be above such temptations, to prove his point, that the Maiden Knight is more than a mere human, a paragon of chivalry who protects those in need of protection." A low amused snort there as she continues, "While the Scorpion is known to be more driven by his inclinations and passions.", Lara Gargalen adds with a hint of warmth in her tone, even though there is still that faint tinge of somberness in her expression.

Hardly has Lady Hastwyck’s hand found her own cup of wine than she has drained half of it in evident relief, for there are some conversations one can’t quite contemplate unless gently cushioned by grapes. And some that perhaps one shouldn’t in any case, but this Gargalen girl’s care for one’s nephew is so beautifully apparent, and she talks so sensibly in this matter even if she be madly misguided in others, that somehow it begins to slip out.

“… Not— not more than,” she attempts delicately. “Well, you see, I knew a young man once who’d also been very pretty, in a girlish way, when he was a little boy. And that was why someone — someone he ought to have been able to trust — hurt him…” she explains, lifting her eyes from her wine to meet Lady Lara’s, in a glance so significant as to leave no doubt of what sort of harm she means. “He never could have a normal relation with a woman after that, however he wished it — there was something broken in his head…” She catches her lip between her teeth and then shakes her head, deliberately moving along, saying not another word of that poor young fellow of her acquaintance or how she came to hear his tale.

“Might that not be a reason for a young man to have such ungovernable feelings about, to take such reckless and extraordinary actions against — well, what Ser Manfryd has been accused of? And matches made for unwilling brides? Whilst living in perfect chastity himself, avoiding not only dalliance but the lawful marriage which is only really to be expected of a handsome and wealthy prince who has proven his skill with arms? And in that case, my heart breaks for the poor boy,” and Lady Joy lets out an unhappy little sigh, for rather than explaining away what’s troubling her these contemplations seem only to compound it, “but if he acts thus against the guiltless because he can’t punish the truly guilty… Well, two wrongs don’t make a right,” she echoes, “and a knight who makes chivalry his lodestar ought truly to do better. Using the code of chivalry as a shield for one’s incapacities and a stick for beating those one dislikes and envies, deprives it of its true meaning and its true beauty… Oh, I hope I’m wrong, Lady Lara, but the more I hear of that young man the more I worry I may be right.”

Distractedly she pours more wine, her grey-green eyes imploring her guest to say something, anything, to disprove her little theory of Prince Daevon Targaryen.

Dornish Red is savored in small, measured sips, the Hastwyck widow regarded with the kind of obvious astonished curiosity that is to be expected when such a shocking theory is presented. "Oh…", less of a sound, more of a breath that leaves the Cockatrice's lips as she shifts in her seat, her elbow now on the siderest, the fingers of both hands laced about the stem of the cup. The expression on those comely features of darker Dornish beauty is definitely sombre now, but out of concern for the Scorpion or the Maiden Knight, or mayhaps even both - who can tell?

"This is a rather… dark theory, and one that should earn the Maiden Knight our sympathy, should it be true.", Lara Gargalen begins in that silky smooth voice she occasionally employs. "It would explain, of course… It does make sense. But it is mere speculation." A pause occurs, as dark eyes flit downward as if in contemplation of the cup in her hand. "Even if Ser Daevon is the brother to my charge, the Princess Visenya, I haven't had any words with him yet. Apart from our rather brief exchange on the tourney field."

"And I've barely met him myself…" sighs Lady Hastwyck. "Only at the wedding. It's not at all my place to speculate, I know it isn't, and if I weren't in such a temper myself over what he's done I wouldn't — but it's not natural for a man to be as he is," this she states positively, "and so with all the talk of him, the talk that's always on so many lips in Oldtown, one can't help but wonder, can one, what's the answer to the riddle? Especially with what you say, Lady Lara — that he forced this duel upon my nephew… It was forced," she insists in a voice which becomes by that statement bolder; "for how could any knight hear such a charge against his name without contesting it? He — the prince must have known what would happen."

Sipping her wine again she presses the scented handkerchief held betwixt the fingertips of her other hand to her forehead, and just shakes her head at the impossibility and the misery and the horror of it all. Her gaze flits to the silver mirror to see if thinking unpleasant thoughts is making her look a fright, and then again to Lady Lara. "You care for him, don't you?" she asks gently. "For Ser Manfryd, I mean. I could tell it the instant you spoke of him… I could see it in your eyes, sweetling. I've been wanting all this while since you said to ask you how he is, how badly he was hurt — but," and she dabs at her eyes and drops her handkerchief away onto her dressing-table, "all the while I've also been nervous of hearing your answer…"

"Exactly," is all Lara Gargalen offers in comment to what Joyeuse Hastwyck adds about the Maiden Knight, and the forced nature of the duel, the Dornishwoman leaving it at that, especially when talk turns to the Scorpion. The question about her feelings for Ser Manfryd Qorgyle has a slightly amused smile playing about Lara's lips. "Is it so odd to feel attached to someone who…" a slightly daring glint there in her eyes as she dares to voice it, in true scandalous Lara style, "has occasionally shared one's bed, Lady Joyeuse?" An assessing glance is given the widow, not that the Gargalen lady would expect the other to be scandalized by the admission. "Even so," she adds after a moment, her expression shifting back into a more sincere quality, "he is a Dornishman, for that alone I am required to care about what has happened to him. He is in the infirmary of the Citadel, currently taken care of by maesters. He sustained a number of injuries, one of them severe, at the abdomen. I've been told he will recover, though. It's the blood loss, and that wound that require Ser Manfryd to keep to the bed for a few days at least." No exercise, not even of the bed sort. A faint smirk conquers the olive-skinned features of the Cockatrice at the memory of that particular advice from Maester Leandro, but this will remain a amusing thought she will keep to herself.

'Showing off again, like a little girl with a toy,' is Lady Joy's thought; but their conversation keeps swaying from scandal to solemnity as though at the command of some pendulum determined to keep them from settling in and feeling too comfortable, and as it sways again toward Ser Manfryd and his injuries she lets go of that observation and only nods and nods again. "But he'll recover? He's being taken care of well? Oh," and she shuts her eyes for a moment, for a third nod of her elaborately-dressed head, "I am glad." She opens her eyes. "I have been in two minds whether to visit him. I wanted to, almost, but it's been so long, and… and if he remembered me at all, after eleven years, I'm certain he'd only remember that he didn't like me." She lets out a rueful small sound somewhere between one of her laughs and one of her sighs. "All the same, so much time has passed, and he might not mind so much about having a Westerosi lady in the family now that I'm not anymore — and, in Oldtown, he might not have many friends to amuse him while the maesters have him confined to his bed… Do you think he'd like me to call?" she asks Lady Lara frankly. "You know him better than I, after all. I wouldn't want to make him cross, that wouldn't do him any good at all. Oh, where are my manners?" She rises gracefully, bottle in hand, to replenish her guest's cup.

This is Lara Gargalen, right? "He will recover and yes, he is seen to.", she assures with a faint smile, "I've stayed there with him for the first day, then returned last night, after making sure," her brows knit ever so slightly, "he will have all the care he needs." Admitting perhaps a bit more there than the mere nature of the professed non-comittal dalliance would warrant?

As for the question of Joyeuse visiting her relative by former marriage, the Cocktrice lifts her shoulders in a slight shrug. "I am neither his wife nore his paramour," she replies softly. "As such I am in no position as to ask for or advise against your visit. What I know, is that Ser Manfryd is a proud man of a hot temper. Once recovered he may be able to receive you in a more befitting manner, whereas… if you went there now that he is in this state… If you are not particularly close to him, and maybe he not much in your favor, it may be wiser to postpone such a visit till he is fully recovered."

The cup is held out for the refill, Lara raising her gaze to meet that of the Hastwyck widow with a smile. "Your manners seem to be fine enough to me," Lara states with the lift of a brow as she brings the cup to her lips and has another sip of the replenished drinking vessel. "But if you are indeed so very intent on visiting Ser Manfryd, I could speak to him and ask whether he would be agreeable to such."

Neither wife, nor paramour — but Lady Hastwyck falls in at once with Lady Lara's advice. "I won't trouble him, then, now," she agrees, rewarding herself for this wise decision with another drop of wine, and perching again upon her stool, "if you think it better I don't… and I shan't ask you to speak for me, or anything like that, truly. It's not your affair and I shan't embroil you, don't worry, sweetling. But, you see, there are Dornishmen and Dornishmen, and I didn't know, did I, till you said."

Her implication of course being that Dornish pride and Dornish temper and Dornish masculinity have their varying manifestations, and on the far side of eleven years, how could she have understood Ser Manfryd's—? But it's decided now; and she nods firmly to Lady Lara, as though to prove it.

The little silence which falls between them then is broken by another wistful sigh from Lady Hastwyck, and her request that Lady Lara: "Tell me something pleasant, mmm? Do let's think of something pleasant… at least let's try. I feel as though we've been sinking deeper and deeper; and I know it was never my intent. I haven't opened the curtains in here," she confesses — and it's quite true, her bedchamber is half-lit at best by the gentle efforts of beeswax candles, "because I just haven't been able to face it yet; but my maids tell me it's a beautiful day outside…"

Lara has another sip of her wine, leaning back in her seat as the Hastwyck widow comes to a decision about visiting the Scorpion. A nod there showing she agrees. "Something… pleasant?", echoes the Cockatrice, lifting a brow, amusement there, as her dark eyes follow Joyeuse's gaze towards the still covered windows. "Tis a beautiful day indeed, yes. But I doubt you're the right person to indulge in a mere conversation about the weather. I am still at a bit of leisure… before I have to see to my duties." A vague statement, that. As the Gargalen leans forward, her lower arms crossed where they rest on her knees, the cup of wine held elegantly in her right hand, and her head tilts slightly to the side, dark eyes lingering on Joyeuse Hastwyck. "I could share one or two pleasant anecdotes, if you like. Of my life before I became lady-in-waiting to a former Targaryen Princess. Not the worst way to start off a day… if you are curious to hear them." Her voice is lowered to a daring whisper. "Anecdotes with a hint of scandal." Knowing Lara Gargalen's repute, this sounds like an outrageous understatement.

"Oh! Well…" sighs the merry widow. She eyes her visitor; and for all she claimed not to have invited Lady Lara Gargalen here for the purposes of gossip there's a new twinkle in her eyes at the suggestion of it. Something pleasant indeed. "The other night I realised just how far behind I am on all the Dornish news — by which I mean, all the Dornish scandal — and it is the best sort, isn't it? Will you bring me up to date, mmm?" she pleads. "I'm sure I can make it worth your while…"

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