(122-12-31) Husbands and Jewels
Husbands and Jewels
Summary: Lady Marsei Hightower calls upon Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck for a wee bit of gossip upon these perennially interesting topics; also, a peach. A cameo appearance is made by the last of the '06.
Date: 01/01/2015 (put the night before to avoid a conflict with another scene)
Related: The royal wedding logs; also, this is where the wine came from.

A glorious sunset far out to sea has turned to red and orange and gold the light spilling through the windows of the elegant fifth floor suite of chambers occupied by Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck, as though in imitation of the painting of King's Landing over the fireplace in her sitting-room. Lady Marsei Hightower has a few moments' leisure in sweet quiet lit by stained-glass lamps to contemplate the similarity, and the charming hospitality offered by her lord brother to this cousin who was in the beginning uncertain of her welcome in the Hightower, whilst the plain-faced older maidservant who opened the door seeks her mistress in some other chamber; and then hospitality is extended to her likewise, by the very lady in residence here.

She appears framed in the doorway through which the maid departed, scarcely clad at all in a chemise of clinging sea-green sandsilk made daintier still by golden ribbons and golden Myrish lace, in a style her visitor is likely to recognise at once despite the riotously colourful Dornish shawl of painted silk wrapped about her in a gesture toward modesty. Her dark red curls are done up grandly with pearl-tipped pins and interwoven strands of pearls; but her shoulders are bare but for those pretty golden bows, and she wears no jewels beyond her own broad, bright smile. "Marsei!" she exclaims in pure delight. "I'm still dressing, sweetling; but when you send me a present as beautiful as you are, how could I dream of sending it back again? Won't you come in and talk to me, mmm?" she begs, holding her shawl closed with one hand whilst the other curls round the edge of the door, keeping it just a foot or so open for the time being, but so very ready to open it all the way.

Marsei sat at first, awash in the sunset and its painted twin, but when the lady of the room emerges, she's already on her feet, halfway to the the view of the Whispering Sound. "Lady Joy," her sweet voice calls out before she's turned to realize the sight of the lady; by the mere sound of said voice, hesitant and hopeful, one might easily imagine it was accompanied by tip-toes across the rug just moments before. Quite so, as she didn't want to come upon the occupant unawares, despite the preceding warning of her maid, or intrude — a thought whisked away by Joy's delighted greeting. Marsei turns with a smile that's instantly frozen upon her face when she sees her friend's luxe state of dress (or lack thereof). "Oh-" she balks delicately, "I shouldn't mean to interrupt— " But, welcomed in, she ducks her head down and hurries after Joyeuse.

Marsei, given her visiting, hasn't approached her own hour of changing for the evening; she still wears the gown that's done her well all day, a striking sleeveless jewel-toned blue creation with hints of sky blue silk peeking elegantly from beneath the bodice and long, slashed skirts (Dornish silk, if not at all style). "I was coming up past your rooms," and not a labored breath to show for it, her chambers near Dhraegon's up on the seventh floor; a trueborn Hightower, accustomed to its many steps-and young still, "And … I thought it was unfortunate I'd hardly seen you." A hint of something more in her tone, a distant bother behind her happy cheer. A want for distraction, perhaps.

The door is duly held for Lady Marsei and she is ushered through a more intimate sitting-room from which several doors open and into a bedchamber beyond, furnished as gracefully as the others, and with the most of Lady Joy's own stamp upon it. Every surface that can hold a vase of flowers does so; the dressing-table with its mirror of beaten silver holds a bowl of half a dozen kinds of fresh fruit, as well as a bewildering array of feminine necessities and luxuries; and upon the neatly-made bed a rainbow of gowns have been laid out for their owner's inspection, for she can rarely make up her mind without reacquainting herself first with half the contents of her wardrobe.

"Oh, you're not interrupting anything at all!" Lady Joy insists to her cousin, slipping an arm about her waist to steal a friendly embrace as they cross together the threshold of this inner chamber, "And I think you're quite right, you know, we hardly seem to meet now, any more than we did when I was in King's Landing — at least a dozen times I've almost climbed up to see you, for it's only two flights between us, but a dozen times I've decided I oughtn't to… You are a married woman again now," she laughs, releasing her with a last quick squeeze, "and we've that between us. You've so many more calls upon your time than a maid — or a widow… So it's for you to decide when you've a little time free to call on me, and I'm so glad you did. I want to hear everything, you know I do. What it's like," and though she laughs, there's perhaps a wistful curiosity in the smile she turns upon Lady Marsei, "to have a husband of one's own again… I think I've forgotten! Nita," and she addresses not the sour-faced maidservant in her fifth decade, but a rather pretty girl of twenty or twenty-two, who is never seen in her company out and about, "isn't there still that half a bottle of the '06? Enough for us to have a cup apiece, I should think… It might not be as sweet as you like," this to her visitor, "but I think you might like it… Oh, do sit," she urges her, "or else help me choose between these, I'm afraid they're all boring me dreadfully this evening."

Thus, with a flourish of her hand and her painted silken shawl slipping lower about her amply curved figure, she indicates the gowns and robes spread all over the bed, in red and green and blue and violet and golden sandsilk.

Marsei laughs softly, more at her cousin's delightfully personality-filled conversation more than any one bit of it singularly. "Everything is so different and the same," she says of being married, a vague yet reflective statement — with a smile — as she drifts from the friendly embrace toward the array of gowns and robes. She looks ever-so-slightly embarrassed every time she catches a glance of Joy's ribbons, so does a fair job of looking composedly at the sandsilks. "I'm not so busy as all that, really; it's been quieter since the wedding, or… at least since… the tournament." Riots, dragons, you know. "I admit I've— rather been hiding a little. Oh— these are all so lovely," she admires, waylaying anything else she might have said, "This green reminds me of the silk Princess Visenya gave to me from Dorne."

"Oh! But don't hide from me," pleads her cousin, giving her a sidelong glance almost flirtatious in its nature; "or at least let's hide together sometimes, I think it might be a little more fun that way… The green, really?" And Lady Joy twines her arm next about a bedpost, regarding her green gown (another in a courtly Westerosi style, yet stitched in Dornish sandsilk) from a new angle, with a new eye too. Lady Marsei's eye. "Green sandsilk? Have you had it made up yet? I've not seen you wear sandsilk before today… but perhaps once you grow accustomed to what a pleasure it is to wear, we'll make a Dornishwoman of you after all," she teases. "Shall I? Well, perhaps you're right… I did put on a green chemise, after all, but that was only because it was close to hand when Dora told me you were here… perhaps it's fated that I should wear green this evening!" The idea appears to be growing on her. She takes up between her fingertips a fold of the garment under inspection, toying with it, smiling vaguely.

With a laugh on her breath that doesn't quite come to fruition, but with amusement bright in her smile, Marsei seems to agree with Joy's scheme, as it were. Her smile turns admiring again upon the green sandsilk, pleased to be helpful. "I haven't done anything with it yet, it's just so pretty; she gave me this blue as well, and I had it worked into this gown," she says, touching the sky blue silk detail at her chest and looking down at her skirts. "I could never wear the Dornish style," she confesses with a hurried little shake of her head as though it's impossible even to imagine. "Although Dhraegon prefers it."

The maid Nita deposits next to the fruit bowl the open bottle of the '06 and two long-stemmed cups, carved from pale golden wood and engraved with the outline of House Hightower's arms; Lady Joy looks over her shoulder and declares, "We've decided on the green, you may as well put the rest of these away." She touches her cousin's arm lightly. "Come and sit with me," she suggests, almost as though there were some guilty pleasure in it, and drops her painted shawl onto the bed before alighting upon her dressing-table stool. There happens to be a low chair drawn up close to it, sized for a lady, upholstered in pale blue and well-supplied with soft cushions.

"I don't see why you couldn't," Lady Joy says carelessly, "but why not a gown like my new ones, then? The best, I like to think, of both sides of the border! With your colouring — I might almost say with ours," and she winks, taking a small part of the compliment for her own, "because though we're quite different in shade the general principle stands — the green would look so much prettier on you than in its bolt, you must know that, sweetling," she insists, "and if I could give you just one tiny piece of advice and have you promise to heed it, it would be that there's nothing at all too pretty to wear, or to use, or to eat, or to enjoy… It's what beautiful things are made for." On which note she passes Lady Marsei one of the cups and lifts her own in a toast. To prettiness! To wine!

The wine is an extraordinary mature Arbor red, full-bodied, with a hint of dark cherries. Sweet enough indeed to please Lady Marsei's palate.

Sitting both comfortably and neatly, legs tucked close to the chair and crossed beneath the swathes of contrasting blue fabrics, Marsei is happy to receive the wine, mimicking her cousin's lift of the cup. She smiles brightly at the wisdom of beauty, eager to accept that too. "Perhaps— yes, I think I will have a dress made like your new ones," she decides exultantly and takes a sip of the wine. "This is different," she says of the taste, favourably; she's not an expert, but it's different enough to notice that it's not the typical stock. "So— have you been keeping busy? Enough, I mean?" she asks earnestly, though it's with a hint of a glimmer in her eye; she knows enough of Lady Joyeuse to suspect she can keep herself occupied somehow. Never mind that Marsei was supposed to be the one to tell her 'everything'. "I hope our tower and rainy town are not too dreary for you."

Yes, the wine is 'different'. Thus the lowering of Lady Joy's eyelids at the first taste of it rolling about upon her tongue; and the small sound of pure delight which escapes her lips an instant later. "Bliss, isn't it?" she sighs. "A little present from another of your dragons — Prince Jurian — d'you know him at all?" she inquires. "I can't think why you might call your city dreary," she goes on, at a rattling pace which leaves as yet no chance of an answer, "unless it's because you know it so much better than I do — any place loses some of its pleasure by custom! — but to me, sweetling," and she clasps a hand to the low-cut bosom of her silken chemise, "a city every bit as grand as the capital, but quite, quite different, is the most engaging change of scene I could possibly see before me. There's always something going on, isn't there? Even without the excitement of a royal wedding… Your prince favours Dornish styles, mmm?" she teases. "Dornish styles, and cakes and wine, and you. I do think he's rather a dear," she says honestly, "and I'm so pleased to see you still smiling, you know, when you say his name."

Marsei subtly slows midway through her second sip when Joyeuse reveals it's a gift from Prince Jurian, as if that knowledge might inexplicably change the flavour, before carrying on just as well. "Oh, I adore Oldtown. I never find it dreary myself, not even when it rains," she says, smiling fondly; not utterly dissimilar to the smile prompted by Dhraegon's name, though thought of her new husband earns a gentler and more contemplative look in her eye. "He is a dear. That's quite the word, actually. You have it spot on. And I'm glad you think so." She tips her head, then, curious, "Do you know Prince Jurian well? Did you meet him at my wedding?"

"I don't know him well; and now he's decided he doesn't know me at all," laughs the merry widow, giving a little shake of her head and then looking to her silver mirror to see whether or not any pins are making so bold as to slip loose. It has been known to happen. Her hair is notoriously unmanageable. "I mistook him for another," and she names a princeling a couple of years Jurian's senior, resident in King's Landing and the inventive master of a thousand and one courtly revels, "and I suppose he never quite forgave me… Still, he gave me this," she nods to the bottle, "and you're the first who's called since then whom I consider to be good enough to drink it with me! Will you have a peach, sweetling?" she offers out of nowhere. There is indeed a peach in her suddenly outstretched hand, selected from the bowl on her dressing-table, ripe and glowing and offered as another special temptation. "I'm running out of ways," she teases, "to bribe you into talking of your own life, instead of merely asking me about mine… while with every moment I'm afraid you'll find out the truth, that I haven't got one!"

Marsei listens with a touch of concern as Joy speaks of Jurian, but decides not to comment on the prince. She has no qualms about accepting the peach; in fact, her face alights in innocent delight as she takes it. "Thank you," she says, "And for the wine. I wish all red tasted as lovely; it took me awhile — after Jarvas — to come around again to wine from the Arbor." It had even been rumoured, if only fleetingly in the heat of the family's distress, that the Redwynes were somehow responsible for his death. And now the somber look that crosses the lady's face is fleeting too; she smiles at Joyeuse, reassuring and silly around the edges. "You make it sound as though my life is vastly more interesting," she jests, "when really it— " Her bright expression begins to fade and lower to realize and confess, rather, "… is only complicated."

Her elder cousin smiles benevolently upon her as she takes the peach. Then… "Oh, I didn't think of that," she confesses, her demeanour dimming; "sweetling, now that you say it—" She understands the sweet damson wine. "And there I thought I was considering your tastes," she sighs, "by serving you the best I had! I've become rather a waystation lately — people I know drop in to see me to catch their breath whenever they're obliged to climb to the higher levels — and so it's all I can do to keep wine and brandy on hand…" For herself she plucks a cherry from a bunch that was hiding behind the peaches (her generosity held a dual motive) and pops it between her lips, to accent the taste of the wine; she has another sip and eyes Lady Marsei and sighs. "It is more interesting, you know," she points out, "for you're newly married, and to a prince! And if you find it complicated — why, I hope there'll be a reward for you in the untangling," she says sincerely, "and I hope you know, if I can ever be of any aid to you…" As she was perhaps at the wedding itself, disposing so neatly of Princess Rhaenyra's Myrish firewine, and making excuses to steal Lady Marsei away from the menfolk before their attention turned from those comely contorted acrobats bleached blonde for the celebrations to the beauteous bride in their midst.

Another grateful smile is sent Joy's way; sincerity meets sincerity, even if Marsei does not cast a line for aid. Just yet. "A prince he may be, but he is only a person, like any other…" she reconsiders. "Well— not like any other. Not at all like any other." A fact responsible for both the fond look in her eye as she casts her sights down and the light rivulet of tension across her brow. Giving her head of red curls and waves a light shake, she takes a drink of her wine and sets it cautiously down on the edge of Joy's dressing-table. She presses her lips to the peach instead, taking only a small bite of the fruit to contain its juice.

In the next instant one of Lady Hastwyck's handkerchiefs, embroidered with her fanciful 'J' and 'H', arrives in Lady Marsei's lap, tossed lightly there by a hand reaching across the gap to save her having to let go of her peach to receive it. "So he should be unlike any other, to his wife," she agrees comfortably; and she removes the stopper from a stained glass bottle and dabs it absent-mindedly behind her ears, in the hollow of her throat, inside each of her elbows, returning it occasionally to the bottle and upending it to procure another few drops of that heady, spicy fragrance of hers which is heavier now in the air. "But…" She lets out a breath and gives Lady Marsei a fond sidelong look. "I do understand what you mean. He's not like any other," she repeats. "And I know some might think it a burden to have a husband who weeps when he's in his cups, but I looked at him and I thought — how much better," she admits, very softly, "than a husband who lashes out with his fists…? As so many men do, when they've had such a lot to drink. Such a gentle nature is precious when you're to live side by side… I've had two of my own, and neither was a romance fit for the bards to sing aloud," she rolls her eyes heavenwards and lets out a reminiscent little laugh, "but that isn't always what one wants in a husband. You've been wed before so you know, better than any dreamy-eyed maiden ever could. I've told everyone I meet, I mean to say everyone who has presumed to gossip to me about your marriage, that you know your own mind and they're not to suppose they know better what you ought to do, and I know it's rather too forward of me but I can't say less to your own face, Marsei, I really can't."

"I— " Marsei pauses to dab her fingers in the handkerchief, " — I could not be more grateful to you, truly," she says, touched by her cousin's words, her understanding. "I boulstered myself against the gossip… I had to, even before we were betrothed in earnest— " A struggle, given the look in her eye, in memory, "And now it's shifted, what people say, become something else, I think. Now that we're married. It's more real. His family…" There, she trails, uncertain. Another bite of the peach, a gentle press of the embroidered cloth just below her rosy lip. "He really is the most gentle person I know," she says quietly, and there's that fondness again, along with a distant bewilderment. "He's always worried he's going to break me in some way."

"Aren't you stronger, though, than he is?" Lady Joyeuse asks her gently, pressing her wrists together to convey her scent from one to the other. "Perhaps," she suggests, "he's too used to people who aren't so gentle, and he's seen too much breaking." She doesn't put a name to these people; but anyone acquainted with the history of House Targaryen…

The younger redhead's gaze drifts faraway as she considers, bowing her head in a sort of half-agreement. "It depends on one's definition of strength," she replies pensively, but doesn't dwell, smiling as if to clear away such deep thoughts and returning to her cup of wine to wash them down with.

"Oh, I think you have a strength in you, to thrive, to grow all the more beautiful, whatever your life happens to bring." And Lady Joy nods firmly and, encouraged by her cousin's fine example, indulges in another luxurious mouthful of the '06. "And I really do think you've done well — Prince Dhraegon adores you," she sighs, not without the tiniest tinge of envy. "He's always like that, isn't he? Oh, tell me he is—! If I were to marry again I'd be sure to choose a husband who'd always be so pleased to see me — I've had one who ignored me and one who worshipped me, and I know which I'd rather see again," she sighs. "Being greeted always with that sort of smile, it does make one feel glad to be alive, doesn't it? And as though there must be more good in one than one knew… What do you think," she asks, picking up one of a pair of glowing pearl earrings from her dressing-table and holding it up to her ear for Lady Marsei's approval, "these, or my rubies?"

"Always, without fail." So agreeing is Marsei with her cousin's words that she's almost too lost in thought to realize there's a question of fashion to be answered. She blinks and comes 'to all at once as if out of a trance, immediately studying Joy's pearl earring with a keen eye. "Those. Absolutely those," she says with no hint of doubt, beaming. "They should look stunning against the green."

"I think you're right," agrees Lady Joy happily, "I do adore pearls… If there's one consolation," she sighs, "for being a little older now, it's that a young girl looks her best in such simple pieces; and I can wear—" She catches up an enormous handful of the same perfectly round, lustrous white-golden pearls, the very ones she wore in such splendour at Lady Marsei's wedding and, indeed, seems to wear more often than not, and with a giggle looks for the clasp to fix the heavy, many-stranded necklace about her scented throat. "Always…" she adds, with another little sigh. "Of course admirers are different, one can afford to be frivolous with those, as one might be in choosing stockings or handkerchiefs, small luxuries hardly made to last — but a husband, now, he has more in common with jewellery. Only the best stones are worth having. They might be reset now and again, they might need a little careful polishing, but they'll become one for a lifetime."

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