(123-01-03) The Scorpion in the Bouquet
The Scorpion in the Bouquet
Summary: Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck calls upon Princess Visenya Martell with a bunch of flowers and apologies.
Date: 20/01/2016
Related: Follows this on the same afternoon; makes reference to this conversation the night before, and also this past meeting between Princess Visenya and Ser Manfryd Qorgyle.

At a lazy hour in the late afternoon, when most sensible creatures are still indoors hiding away from the summer sun, Lady Hastwyck presents herself at the suite of chambers occupied by Princess Visenya and her Dornish prince.

Unveiled today and attired in what is, to her way of thinking, one of her most fetching gowns, an interpretation of King's Landing style rendered less formal and vastly more clinging by Dornish sandsilk in a shade of red richer and darker even than the hue of her curly hair, she appears less than usually ebullient as she is shown into her recent acquaintance's presence. She is followed by her dour-faced elderly maid; in her own hands she bears not a single rose such as she was toying with when first they met, but a bouquet of brighter, humbler flowers of the desert, which bloom wild in Dorne and in the gardens of a select few botanists in Oldtown. Obtaining them has been the work of her own afternoon. She steps forward to make a gift of them now.

"Princess Visenya… thank you so much for seeing me," she sighs gently.

The Princess Visenya occupies a suite of rooms with her husband, probably one of the grandest suites reserved for guests, and she sits in what appears to be a solar or sitting room where she and her ladies occupy themselves. The Princess is dressed in a simple gown made beautiful by the brilliant fabric; it is canary yellow and made from a fine sandsilk. She is still young enough that she needs very few gems to make her radiant, and so she wears a simple strand of white pearls and brilliant yellow topaz around her neck.

"Lady Hastwyck. Forgive me for not rising, but I'm afraid I feel unwell." She looks at the flowers in the woman's arms, and flushes with pleasure. "Those are beautiful, and they will remind Prince Torren of home. Thank you." A servant unburdens Joy of the flowers, and another approaches with a fine crystal goblet of arbor gold. "Will you sit with me?" Visenya asks Joyeuse as she scoots over on the settee, and moves her skirts out of the way to make room for Joy.

A faint smile flits across Lady Hastwyck's face when her offering is praised: she rather thought she'd do better to give Dornish wildflowers bound up with red and orange and golden ribbons tied together (the colours of House Marell), than the most exotic orchids or delicately blooming roses. She surrenders her fragrant burden to the servant, carefully, seeing that the spikier petals don't hook themselves into her sandsilk gown, and answers Princess Visenya with a light prevarication: "I'm so sorry you're not well! I'd not have disturbed you if I'd known… but I'm here now; I'll sit gladly, Your Grace, if you ask me again when you've heard what I've come to say."

Visenya gives Joyeuse a considering look at her precaution, and one of her finely shaped brows raises a little. "I suppose you do not bear news I'd like to hear, then?" She looks at the older woman a moment longer before her amethyst colored eyes find her face. "What would you like to say to me then, My Lady?"

To speak before ladies-in-waiting and servants as well as the princess herself will hardly make it easier; but Lady Joy expected no less, and she has come determined. With a solemnity anyone who knows her would remark upon at once as uncharacteristic she draws a steadying breath, clasps her hands before her waist in a tight grip she loosens again only by an effort of will, and meets Princess Visenya's eyes with her own grey-green gaze, certain there's nothing to be seen anywhere in her but sincerity, sorrow, and regret.

"Well, I began to wonder," she explains, "why you looked quite as you did when I said I was, by birth, a Florent. And so… I inquired."

For a moment she's quiet. "And then I thought that I didn't know whether anyone called Florent had ever… apologised to you, Your Grace." She pauses again. "It may not be my place — I cannot say I speak for anyone but my own self — and you and I and the Seven know full well how little it is to set up against what you've suffered from my kin," her eyes gleam with tears restrained; "but I would like you to know I am truly sorry for the viciousness and the stupidity of my relations, for the savage nature of their ambitions, and for the unconscionable crime they committed against you, your husband, and Dorne. With all my heart, Your Grace, I regret what befell you at their hands. House Florent has been ashamed of me for most of my life," she admits more softly, "but it wasn't till now I felt ashamed of House Florent."

Visenya looks stunned and is temporarily rendered speechless at Joyuse's words. She did not expect such an apology. That is clear from the expression across her face. "…It was not your doing." She finally says, "And I do not hold you responsible, my lady."

Her smooth brow furrows when she sees the tears in Joyese's eyes and she rises slowly, and smooths a hand over her skirts before she walks to the center of the room from the settee to take Joyese's hands in her own, if she will be allowed to do so. "Thank you. For your apology, I mean. Even though I do not hold you responsible in the least it…well, it feels nice to hear it."

Despite the manner in which Lady Joy's words are received, the corners of the red mouth which spoke them take a little while longer to begin to turn up again. She smiles, though, when slipping her hands into Visenya's: she can't help that. "I'm glad, Your Grace," she says simply, "for I couldn't see you again, you knowing and I knowing too, and not say it…" Having held her eyelids carefully open as long as she could, she blinks two or three times and is rewarded by the sensation of those tears moistening the corners of her eyes but not dripping down her cheeks. They'll be quite gone in a moment. "I thought I'd just get it over with, mmm? For we did both say we should like to met again before you go back to Dorne, and I don't know when that's to be but I shouldn't have relished the notion of hiding from you till then."

"Thank you, my lady. I appreciate your apology, and the sincerity of it. Now-" Visenya favors Joyeuse with a brilliant smile, "I think we shall both be the better for having had a glass of wine. Please do come sit with me." She releases the older woman's hands to go to the settee, and settles down. The servant with the glasses of wine will return to offer noblewoman and princess refreshment again once they are settled.

Asked again Lady Joy follows a pace behind her hostess and sits just as gladly as she proposed to, arranging her shimmering sandsilk skirts with a quick and practiced hand. "I think you're quite right, Your Grace," she confides, on the subject of wine, and when that hovering servant places the crystal goblet in her hand at last she murmurs a word of thanks and, if it's at all convenient to do so, touches the rim of it to the princess's own. "Having relations can be such thirsty work… and I have three sets now. If I should ever marry again I might have to consider giving up some of them; and I know which, too," she opines, with a sudden tartness soon sweetened away again by her wine.

Visenya lets her glass clink against Joyeuse's before she sips delicately from it, and at the older lady'a words her own naturally coral colored lips curve upwards in mirth. "You shall need some Targaryen in-laws. The cousins on Dragonstone will amaze you with their penchant for petty cruelty towards each other." Still, she looks more amused when she says thos than anyone else. "The Florents did me a favor, really. They made some of the Dornish see how dedicated I am to my Prince."

At the thought of Targaryen in-laws Lady Joy's lips part upon a short, incredulous laugh — short because it trails away into her goblet as the princess's next words inspire her with a renewed thirst. "I don't doubt you, Your Grace, but I wish you might have proven that fact in some manner less hazardous to yourself… What if you had been with child then?" she demands, glancing down at the younger woman's waistline. "It's too awful even to think of. Seven watch over you both." More wine. "I don't understand people like that," she utters sadly, "I don't even understand the people who understand them. I try to, but really I can't. I wonder at you having two words to say to me, when we met in the gardens and I said who I was as blithely as could be… Well, it's clear enough to me that you've a fair mind, Your Grace, and a kind and just heart," she goes on, her praise as earnest as her apology, "and that House Martell is fortunate in such a princess."

"It is not the method of my own choosing." Visenya admits, "But it happened, and I will take what I can get out of it." At the mention of being poisoned while pregnant a hand strays down to the swell of her belly. "I fear for my daughter every day." It is strange that she says daughter instead of babe. As if she already knows for certain a girl grows in her womb. "I suppose all breeding women do, but there are those who…" She sucks in a little breath, and shakes her head, but doesn't finish what she says, "Sometimes I feel as if I cannot trust anyone but my husband and my brother." Her head turns to look at Lady Joy's profile, "If I didn't speak to everyone who I could potentially accuse of slighting me through relation then my social circle would be incredibly small. And I know about being disappointed by one's family. Until I know for certain who did it I would speak to all Florents."

Listening closely, turning to an angle to face Princess Visenya more comfortably, Lady Joy gives a slow nod… and then another one. The motion causes a loose curl at the side of her face almost to bounce. "I think you're very sensible, you know," she murmurs. "In any life, something ghastly happens now and again; and to be able to take the good from it and leave behind the bad is a tremendously valuable talent… I think with such challenges ahead as you face, Your Grace, it will serve you especially well. I don't think I had the trick of it till I was rather older than you are now… And having the wisdom not to leap too fast to judgment, and to leave a door ajar at least till matters are proven, why, that's not a talent: in a ruler, a ruler's wife, it's a blessing." She smiles again, on purpose but meaning it none the less for that. "I shan't tell you you can trust me, for I shouldn't expect you to believe anything of the kind," and again, out of nowhere, she sounds rather sad, "but perhaps I can hope that one day — perhaps it's not so impossible a thing to think — you'll say that you do."

"No." Visenya says with a shake of her head and an easy smile. "I'm really not sensible at all." She modestly accepts the paise Joyeuse heaps on her without looking particularly moved or unmoved by it. Indeed, the Princess is nothing if polite. "But thank you for thinking that of me." Her eyes find Joyeuse's, and she admits, "I do wish we had more time to become acquainted, my Lady, but we shall leave for Starfall in a week, I'm told. And I do not think we will make a trip North for some time after that."

"Perhaps you're sensible about some things and not about others, then. It's still better than being silly about everything," sighs Lady Joy, who won't be quite done out of her opinion, "the way some people manage to be…" She pinches the bridge of her nose, sighs again, and has recourse to her wine in an attempt to wash away some other troubling thought… Then worse news arrives and her eyes widen; "Oh, truly? Only a week? And then… I suppose you'll stay, won't you, till your child is born." She nods. The implications are easy to digest. The heir to House Martell will be kept safest in Sunspear, in this vulnerable time before his — or her? — birth. "Of course you will… oh, but I wish it weren't so! If you accepted my apology," she explains candidly, "I intended to invite you to take tea with me one day; but perhaps now you shan't have time, with only a week, and…" Her gaze flickers down to the princess's Delicate Condition, and up again to her face. "Well, you must have things you'll wish to do, calls you'll wish to pay, and you shan't wish to do too much, particularly if you haven't felt yourself."

"I can think of some people who astound me, really." Visenya says dryly before she has a decent sip of her wine. "Yes. Well, the wedding is over, and it seems that after the actions of a certain Dornishman the smallfolk are rather inflamed." Now it is Visenya's turn to rub the bridge of her nose. "I will be spending the majority of the week resting. The maester who attends to me tells me sea voyages can be taxing, and…well, this is the only child my Prince has sired." She is saying nothing that is not well-known. Prince Torren has sired no bastards or children on his first wife. There were rumors his first wife was with child when she was slaughtered in the Red Rookery, but it is just a rumor. "So it is very precious to both of us."

A certain Dornishman. Yes. Lady Hastwyck, who in her role as ministering aunt delivered fruit to him before flowers to Princess Visenya, glances down into her goblet and sees just a little more comfort and reassurance there. She drinks both. She is slow then to speak. "… You said, the last time: your daughter." She tilts her head, frankly curious. "Do you feel so quite strongly? I— I was right once, and then I was wrong once."

A servant subtly steps forward to refill their goblets. Visenya looks at Joyeuse a moment consideringly before she says, "You know I have dragons? I am potentially a dragon rider, although I will only bond with one of them." She takes a sip of her refreshed glass before she continues, "My brother is not a dragon rider, but he is a Dreamer. He sees things before they happen, sometimes. Visions while he sleeps." She turns her glass in-between her fingers, "When I was in the throes of the venom I had visions. Some of them have come true. I dreamt of our daughter. I knew when I conceived her, even." She smiles a shade, "My Prince did not believe in my vision until the maester told him he was to be a father finally."

So riveting are these revelations that Lady Joy's goblet, discreetly replenished, hovers untouched in her grasp for the length of several breaths: "I have heard of such things," she murmurs at last, "but I hadn't thought… But what a beautiful gift to receive in the midst of such pain! I hadn't thought it could be like that," she emphasises. Faced with the strangenesses of Targaryen power she's all wonderment, rather than fear. At least here, and now. "The— certitude of a little girl. And in Dorne, there's nobody who'll tell you a firstborn daughter is anything but a blessing," she reminds her firmly; "or try to do her out of her rights, or suggest she'll be good practice till something better comes along. Really, I didn't know how lucky I was to be sent to Dorne, till I had that letter from my father after Vanora was born and I expected congratulations and all he really said was that he hoped I'd have better luck next time." A quick roll of her eyes. "Everybody in Dorne was just as happy as I was."

Visenya must be used to reactions such as Joyeuse's, and she sips her wine casually while the woman absorbs this information. "Yes." She says with a smile to how lucky her daughter shall be. "I think Torren prefers a girl, really. Most of his friends are women." She lets out an amused huff at this, but her expression grows more somber at Joyeuse's last words. "How dreadful." She then admits, "My mother sent me a letter bemoaning the fact that my child will be half-Dornish…"

Lady Joy's spare hand, the one which hasn't the goblet in it — she doesn't like to put down a goblet — virtually leaps over the divide to find Princess Visenya's and deliver a fond, impulsive, encouraging squeeze. "Oh, but don't believe her now," she insists at once; "she'll feel differently when she holds her grand-daughter in her arms, I'm certain of it. Especially if — she'll be the first, won't she? Your brothers and sisters haven't any? … People do come round," she promises; "at least, my Florent kin didn't come round to me, when I came back, but that was a different sort of matter." She hesitates. "I stand well with those with whom I care to stand well. But these marriages… Nobody really knows how to feel about them at first, or how to behave, do they? With so much history, such prejudices on both sides…"

Visenya smiles a shade, "Perhaps." She says, as if she'd rather not speak of the whole thing. She lets Joyeuse have her hand, and doesn't seem markedly bothered by it, "No. She has grandchildren on Dragonstone to amuse her if she so desires." And it sounds like she is completely okay with her mother never holding her daughter at all. "Oh, people know exactly how they want to act. Don't you know I plan on forcing Dorne to bend the knee to the crown?" Her eyes roll a little, "It is an insult to their Prince to say such things. He would never bend the knee."

One last soft pressure of her fingertips and Lady Joy lets go; one last wistful glance and she drops the subject of grandmothers and grandbabies; and one more sip of wine and she puts down her goblet, too, and folds her hands in her red silken lap. "'Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken,'" she quotes, sounding as though she quite approves. "And so it should be — but it's not bowing, bending, or breaking, if two great houses choose to honour each the other by a marriage such as yours. I wish more people could see that, Your Grace… but I was speaking less of people in general, the great, ignorant yet terribly opinionated mass of people, and more of the people one knows, the ones who look at one as though— oh," she sighs, "as though one has grown an extra head, or committed a dreadful sin in broad daylight, merely because one has a Dornish husband, or a Dornish child. Perhaps it's less so for you as a princess, but in my experience," she gives a faint, apologetic smile, "these things are often treated as great social conundrums, disadvantages to bear with bravely, circumstances regarding which people feel they are owed an explanation when really it's none of their business at all. What I chiefly find myself trying to explain," she lets out a pensive sigh, and picks up her goblet again after all, "lately, is Ser Manfryd Qorgyle, to anyone who knows I was wed to his uncle… though I suppose, with what's being said, I'm fortunate the fact isn't more widely-known in Oldtown."

Visenya listens as Joyeuse speaks with a thoughtful expression on her face. That is until Manfryd Qorgyle is brought up. She seems to get a bit of a look that is not quite dread, but it's clear that she is loathe to speak of the Scorpion. "You are his goodaunt?" She asks. Now it is time for her to drink more fully from her goblet. "Well, I'll not speak ill of your relation in front of you."

To that Lady Joy returns a smile of amused resignation. "Oh, you're too good, you know. It couldn't be anything I haven't heard before—! Yes, my husband was his father's brother… there's nothing I don't know about Qorgyle men," she sighs, inclining her head confidentially nearer as she sips her wine, "and I knew Manfryd too when he was a little boy. I knew his mother, and how he was raised… I can't say Sandstone breeds the easiest men in the world, or the pleasantest, and one can't rely upon them being thoughtful and devoted husbands — but this latest tale of him?" She draws in a breath and it comes out as a quiet laugh. "In truth when I heard it I thought it was back to front, or the names were mixed up, or something else was mistaken…

"Whatever else he may be he's not a rapist," she informs the princess casually, as though in her mind it were the most established of facts; "it's only that Westerosi can't tell the difference between a foul-tempered Dornishman and a criminal, any more than they can between a free-spirited Dornishwoman and a whore. Anything Dornish is apt to be painted worse than it is. I had it from Ser Desmond Snow last night, your brother's sworn sword, that there's not a shred of proof behind the accusation — it's one man's word against another's," she sighs again, "and I've no particular love for Manfryd, I think indeed he might be the most foolish nephew I have; but I looked into his eyes and I believe him. He has no friends here in Oldtown, that's plain; I thank the Seven that his fate rests with Prince Torren, rather than those who would convict him merely because they don't like him. Justice isn't only how one behaves towards one's friends, don't you think? It must hold true even for scorpions, or it's no use to any of us… Oldtown's dreadful for Manfryd, and he's dreadful for Oldtown; I'm sure he wishes he'd never come, and now I wish he'd never come," she admits.

Visenya listens to what Joyeuse has to say. She listens with an impassive and thoughtful look on her face, and she does not speak until Joyeuse is finished.

"Let me tell you a story about Ser Manfryd." She begins in an even tone. She wets her lips on her arbor gold. "When we came to Blackmont Ser Manfryd spoke out against me. In public. In front of Lord Blackmont and my husband." She turns the glass in her hand, "We came to Oldtown after that, and he came upon me in the garden alone. In the very place you met me. We exchanged words. I forget exactly what I said, but it probably wasn't kind. But, it doesn't matter what I said. When I went to leave he blocked my path." Her lips turn upwards without humor, "And then he would not get out of my way. So, I tried to strike him. He grabbed my arm. Then he forced me to move around him very closely, and it made me feel…" She sucks in a breath, "Well, he made me feel very uncomfortable. I never told Torren or really anyone else. Torren and I married for an alliance, but he loves me, you see. And I him. I think if he knew he'd do something very drastic, and I do not want him to risk the Qorgyle's loyalty on my account."

"Ser Manfryd has had various escapades since that, and none of them have shown me that the man has a shred of goodness within him." She says, "And as for what you've said about Ser Desmond and my brother Ser Daevon thinking that Manfryd did it because he is Dornish?" She shakes her head, "My brother is the most unprejudiced Prince against the Dornish I know of. He rescued Princess Mariya from a Tarly who planned on ravaging her. He stood on the side of Dorne after the incident at the Red Rookery, and he protected lady Yael Blackmont. He was betrothed to Princess Mariya because of how exceedingly fond she was of him."

She shrugs then, "No, you're right. There is no concrete proof that Ser Manfryd is a rapist. However, his character plants serious seeds of doubt into my mind. He will not be punished for it, though. So, do not worry."

And then it is Lady Hastwyck's turn to sit listening, though it's not in her nature to be purely impassive. She nibbles her lower lip, and once or twice her eyes narrow in thought, or her lips part as though she's resisting the urge to interrupt. Her goblet is almost empty again when she speaks.

"… All I would have for Ser Manfryd, or any of my dreadful kinsmen," and she shakes her head, thinking again of Florents, "is the same I'd have for any stranger who came in from the street. Judgment only upon what can be proven of him. And as he's sworn to House Martell I don't worry for that."

Her eyes meet Princess Visenya's steadily, in her second apology of the afternoon. "I'm very sorry, Your Grace, for the way he behaved to you. Perhaps," she offers a wistful smile, "if I'd stayed longer in House Qorgyle, such matters need not ever have concerned you… Now that I think of it, the men sworn to my husband had no fondness for me, either, in the beginning, but they had an excuse… For Manfryd's lack of courtesy, however, there is none. I don't know your brother," she mentions carefully, "and so of course I'll say nothing of him, but that I understand he acted upon information brought to him by Ser Desmond. Of Ser Desmond I know enough to know that he has a particular interest in the matter, which I cannot speak of, any more than I'll relate elsewhere your own meeting with Manfryd in the garden, since you say you've held it close… I wonder, perhaps, whether I might encourage you to speak with Ser Desmond yourself, the next time you visit your brother, and ask him if he'd tell you the rest of what he told me. I don't know whether he would," and she shrugs helplessly, for it really is beyond her control, "but for me, it lent weight to my understanding of how a mistaken accusation might have become truth in the mind of a prince. I know how plainly I can see it, at any rate. I understand that, seeing only one side of my nephew, and not his best, you naturally feel differently… This business must have been the last worry you needed, and I'm sorry it was a Qorgyle who gave it to you. Have the Hastwycks done anything yet?" she inquires with another sigh. "If they haven't, I feel somehow certain it's only a matter of time."

"Ser Manfryd is receiving the same justice as anyone else." Visenya says with a small shake of her head. "Do you think a man from the Kingdom would be treated any differently than Ser Manfryd has been treated if that man had the same reputation as Ser Manfryd?" She finishes up her glass and sits it down on the table, "I have spoken to Ser Desmond. He told me it was only hearsay himself. The truth of the matter is if Ser Manfryd had conducted himself in a more chivalrous fashion if he had not hurt the boy, as he claims, then this would have never happened."

She sighs, "Whenever I point out that he is unchivalrous he sneers at me and says that it is the Dornish way. He excuses his bad behavior in that manner. However, when Ser Osric Dayne was in Oldtown there was never a more chivalrous knight. And my husband is chivalrous, and he was never knighted. Even Prince Alaryn, who is the epitome of a Dornish man, he has a sense of honor. Ser Manfryd is not being judged because he is Dornish. I want you to understand that."

She adds idly, "Mmmm, the Hastwycks? No. I can't say I've met any of them beyond you."

"When I spoke of what is Dornish being painted worse than it is, I was thinking of Ser Manfryd's reputation among the people of Oldtown in general — beyond those who know him personally," Lady Joy is quick to clarify, "for of course, Your Grace, I wouldn't doubt that you've met very fine Dornishmen as well as rather rough ones: indeed the same variety as one meets with in Westeros. And as I have already said to you, I have every faith in the even-handedness of House Martell… I don't believe that you, that Prince Torren, that your brother, would judge a man differently for being Dornish; of course not. No, it's only that I was thinking of how often I've been told, oh," she tilts her head, "that he has stirred up discord in this city, that he hasn't troubled to make friends here, that this is the reputation he has here, and so it is here that such things are believed of him, not narrowly but more broadly by the day, when they are but hearsay uttered by a deeply prejudiced voice. And, yes, if he is in the habit of excusing such behaviour as 'the Dornish way', then people who don't know Dorne, who don't know the Dornish, may just believe he's an exemplar of Dornishness and that Dornishness in consequence must be a vile quality…"

She bites her lip, and tries again from another angle. "The Dornish reputation for licentiousness already predisposes most Westerosi simply to nod their heads when they hear that anyone with Dornish blood acted from lust: the voices I hear hardly seem to know that the same culture which makes the Dornish freer with their favours, makes it even more unthinkable that a man should force himself upon one who was unwilling. Perhaps I'm not putting what I mean very well," she apologises, her words coming more and more slowly as she goes on, "for I'm afraid I'm not at all a clever woman; but I do agree with you that Ser Manfryd is far from an ideal Dornishman, and those who take him as one do Dorne a disservice… It is because of men like him, and the legacy of their acts, that what is Dornish is so often unwelcome in Westeros, and a Westerosi grandmother might not welcome her Dornish grandchild. And it troubles me, Your Grace, and I visited him in the infirmary not only to tell him I believed him innocent, but to see if, if only I knew him a little better, I could think of a way to persuade him to act differently. I haven't thought of one yet," she confesses, "but I will keep thinking upon it. I'm afraid, you see, I can't quite give up hoping for change, even there."

"Less of it is hearsay than I think you realize, My Lady." Visenya says with a tired little sigh. "The thought of listing it all sounds dreadfully exhausting, however. The only thing that is for certain not a direct result of his bad behavior is the rioting caused at the last tourney when he won the joust. That was certainly the result of prejudice."

"No, I understand that." She says with a small nod. She looks at Joyeuse then, "I think if a man is going to rape it's because he wants to hurt someone with his masculine power. I do not know how much it has to do with lust." She gives Joyeuse a sympathetic look, "Do not burden yourself with him, my Lady. I am sure he loathes you for being Northron almost as much as he loathes me." She smiles a little wryly at that. Then she says, "Forgive me. I am beginning to feel unwell agein."

"Oh, he's been very pleasant to me," is Lady Joy's immediate unthinking remark; she sips her wine again and, obedient to the princess's last words, sets down the goblet. "I oughtn't to have been the one to unburden myself… it wasn't my intention in calling on you," she sighs, "and I hope you'll forgive me that, as well as my appalling relations." As with everything else she has spoken aloud it's the truth: a veiled murmur of some sort was all she meant to utter on the subject of Ser Manfryd Qorgyle, and far from the sole purpose of her visit. It's only that it is all rather worrisome.

"But I mustn't keep talking on and on while you ought to be resting — I hope I'll see you again before you leave," she says, a little anxiously, rising from her place on the sofa with a silky rustle, "if you feel well enough, and perhaps then I shall tell you what dull dogs the Hastwycks all are; and if I don't, why," her smile blossoms again, in its utmost radiance, "instead I shall hope you have the safest and calmest voyage to Starfall, and that nothing at all out of the ordinary happens in your life till your little girl is born. And… will you please give Prince Torren my good wishes?"

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