(123-01-04) The Line Drawn In
The Line Drawn In
Summary: Walking in the Maidenday Gardens Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck finds a fine trout once again hooked upon her line… Or is she, in truth, tangled in his? Time, presumably, will tell.
Date: 04-05/01/2015
Related: Thadeus's past in all its glory.

For eight long months Oldtown had been deprived of the presence of one of its most colorful residents, someone who had stirred the rumor mill quite a bit during the time of his previous stay. A scion of a greater lordly House, a heir even; unmarried currently, and thus in want of a wife, and heirs, as a previous marriage had left him with only two living daughters. Ser Thadeus Tully had been called home to Riverrun, once his escapades in Oldtown had first led to a breaking of the betrothal to Princess Cerys Targaryen, then to a scandalous kiss in public, administered to his almost good-sister Princess Visenya; and finally, to a duel, to which he was challenged by the Maiden Knight, but which was eventually carried out by Visenya’s betrothed of the time, her cousin Prince Rhaegor. Due to fate and a great deal of luck, Thadeus Tully emerged as the winner. But hearing of all the developments, Lord Tully summoned his son back to the Riverlands, allowing Oldtime some time to recover.

This time seems to be finally up, as with the beginning of the new year of 123, the Leaping Trout Manse seems once again to occupied, servants in Tully livery bustling about. There was a group of riders seen on the previous day, arriving through the Gates to the North, sporting the red and blue of House Tully. And so, to those who are quick to pick up on local gossip the presence of a certain Ser Thadeus may not come as such big of a surprise, when he is going for a leisurely stroll in the Maiden Gardens, attired in a doublet and breeches of dark blue, and followed by a small retinue of three armed men. It is a rather late morning, it is moderately warm despite the sky being obscured by a few grey clouds. His grey-blue eyes scan the colorful flowers, a hand moving to cover a mouth as he almost manages to stifle a yawn.

If the Bullfish is in pursuit of maidens he's doomed, alas, to temporary disappointment — for as he wanders hither and yon through the fragrant gardens the first truly comely face he beholds belongs to a lady twice-widowed and his cousin besides.

As she steps out of a pavilion of flowering vines, yellow upon green, Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck’s gown is the only flash of true and unmistakable red to be seen in these dainty environs. Its style is, as any man so well-acquainted with the fairer sex and their fripperies is bound to note, the very latest from the court at King’s Landing; it is stitched however from cherry-red Dornish sandsilk which clings to the lady’s voluptuous shape in a manner unavoidably informal… About her head and shoulders a veil of soft golden Myrish lace has been draped and then folded back to provide just shade enough for the skin of her face and her throat, and within its folds may be glimpsed extraordinary white-golden pearls, dangling from her ears and wrapped again and again about her neck, luminous and perfectly round and well nigh priceless. In the year since last they met she hasn’t aged a day: if anything, illuminated by her lace and her pearls and her sudden pleasure in the sight of him, with a smile teasing irresistibly at her lips, she appears younger and fairer.

In one hand she clasps not a peach (he may recall the way she has with peaches) but a sprig of lily-of-the-valley she couldn’t resist stealing, the bells of it pale and fragile against her vibrant silky red skirts. The enormous ruby ring on her wedding finger he knows well; the tremendous pearl next to it, he has never seen before. She lifts an eyebrow.

"… Why, Ser Thadeus. Haven't we done this before?" she purrs to him.

Maybe that was his design after all, when the Bullfish left for his leisurely excursion? To revisit certain places of Oldtown, just to see how they had changed, and mayhaps to dwell on pleasant memories? When his attention is drawn by a flash of red at the corner of his eyes, his head turns and he lifts his gaze to spot one of those pleasant memories in about the same context as on their first encounter. The realization brings a surprised smile to his features, a smile that soon shifts into a more pronounced smirk.

“Indeed, we have,” Thadeus states warmly, grey-blue eyes meeting her grey-green gaze with a glint of pleased amusement, before they take in her rather obtrusive attire of red sandsilk worked into a non-Dornish design, and, of course, the pearls that are hard not to notice. “You look splendid, fair cousin…”, he intones, closing the distance between as he already reaches for her hand to lift it gallantly to his lips. A slight tickle there is caused to her fingers, as his stay in the Riverlands may have brought back old habits – and the negligently shaven face that shows off some stubble. “Even fairer than last we met?”, he adds then as the hand is released and Thadeus straightens, standing there in close proximity to the merry widow that may be far below what one would call ‘proper’ distance.

Lady Joy’s hand is there just as he reaches for it; the feel of his prickly, unshaven flesh brings back recollections which broaden her smile. … Or perhaps that’s the compliment which, whether deserved or not, she considers only her due. “And you, cousin — you look quite as though this past year has treated you well… at Riverrun, or so I heard? How can you have been amusing yourself so deeply buried in the Riverlands, mmm?” she laughs, eyeing him with a curiosity perhaps slightly greater than is decorous.

Two figures come to a halt in the middle distance: a dour-faced serving woman familiar to Ser Thadeus, and a strong and solid young guardsman who isn’t the one she was trailing about last year, but is instead as near to him as nevermind. The usual retinue. For the lady’s safety, and for her reputation. She is never alone with a male friend, surely.

“Riverrrun, aye,” Thadeus replies with a slightly exasperated sigh. “My lord father insisted I’d return. Even though it was less longing for my person, than the wish to calm the waves a bit, I’d wager.” Joyeuse’s quip about the less amusing Riverlands does not fail to make his smirk deepen, even though his gaze is briefly lowered as he considers briefly. “Oh… there have been numerous occasions of such buryings, fair cousin, of the pleasant sort,” a confident wink there as his eyes meet her gaze. “After all, eight months are a long time… And there are various volunteers when it comes to comforting a lonesome Tully heir – you’d be surprised! It would have been rather uncivil of me to reject all those comely distractions; after all, the Bullfish needs to stay in practice.” Innuendo caught, and responded to with less subtle Bullfish bragging that is laced with an amused and only slightly apologetic chuckle.

The smirk dims, as his hand lifts to brush the veil a bit further away from Joyeuse’s features. “Our paths haven’t crossed for even longer, I daresay. You’ve left Oldtown over a year ago, haven’t you?” Grey-blue eyes flit to the jewelry and the pearls. “You engaged in similar efforts to avoid solitude, I daresay? Where have you gone? I was forced to resort to much less entertaining fare, after my letter was returned, with the information you no longer were staying at those lodgings.” A damned shame, the Tully’s gaze seems to add. He shakes his head. “I hope it was other reasons that caused your sudden departure? Not that you’d grown tired of me and wished to end the acquaintance?”

That braggadocio is only what she’d expect, and what by now she finds just the least little bit endearing in him; she consents to his inquisitive revelation of a fraction more of her face but then leans away with a light, fond laugh, shaking her head gently beneath her golden veil.

“Confined nonetheless; and your lord father no doubt trying all the while to marry you again… I did hear something of you, Princess Cerys, and a duel,” she confides, “whilst I was in King’s Landing this past year. I hardly know what to credit — you know I like gossip, but I know better than to put too much faith in it,” which position in the matter she has oft maintained to him, having been too much a subject of gossip herself in her younger years, “but perhaps if the tale isn’t too dreadful you’ll consent to give me the truth of it…?”

And she lets out a soft sigh, still smiling at him. “Was that how you knew I’d gone away? You sent me a letter and you had it back? I shan’t be so indiscreet as to ask when… for I know, my dear cousin, the truth: that you were tiring of me.” Upon which note, far from sinking into pique, she lets out richly amused laughter, and lifts her lily-of-the-valley up to meet her nose, inhaling deeply of its delicate fragrance.

“How could I have tired of you?”, Thadeus asks, giving her a charmed (and perhaps even charming?) glance. “It was more of a note, really, asking for another meeting. I may have been rather busy with trade talks, leaving me less leisure time.” A half-lie that, perhaps, even so, the Bullfish offers it in an attempt of genuine regret. Still his lips curve even more in the moment she leans away, the golden Myrish lace soon slipping back in place where he had tried to brush it to the side, before the smile dims somewhat at the mention of the princess and the duel, and Thadeus Tully lowers his hand until it hangs idly down at his side. “You remember I was betrothed to Cerys,” he begins then, the voice kept low but still far from a whisper, loud enough to reach Joyeuse’s ears but not those of their retainers. “And the betrothal was broken, due to rumors regarding my person… and yours… and some other… minor dalliances. Anyway,” he sighs and lifts his shoulders in a shrug, “Cerys returned to Dragonstone for a while, and then… she obviously came back. Just in time when her brother Ser Daevon challenged me to a duel… after I let some things slip on the beach, after a feast, and I had such a hangover I barely knew what I was saying.”

It is perhaps apparent that Lady Hastwyck doesn’t take his regrets too seriously; she evades his hand, but she lets him have a fond smirk in place of whatever touch he might have sought. And then the smirk fades into a little pout, her reddened lips knowing so many expressions by which to show what she would have him see. She murmurs, “So much talk…” That, perhaps, a clue to why she left—? “It oughtn’t to count, really, I think, when one is feeling fragile the morning after a grand evening — no man of honour who knows the world would have it so, surely. What bad luck, cousin, that you met with people who just didn’t understand the form, or know when they ought to stop listening.”

“Hmmm,” Thadeus allows, his brows furrowing slightly, “I believe Ser Daevon had every right to challenge me, after I made reference to a kiss I gave Princess Visenya, and she insisted I’d forced it upon her.” A faint chuckle there. “Which I didn’t, of course! But that was another matter. In the end I was to face not Daevon but her betrothed Prince Rhaegor.” He rolls a shoulder, “It seems the Targaryen forget too often that I earned my byname for a second reason as well. I’ve bested the Maiden Knight once in a spar, then I defeated Prince Rhaegor in the duel… So far the Targaryen to defeat me has yet to be born.” Boisterous words, and oh, how he indulges in them! Anyway, after a moment his demeanor sobers, and the Bullfish continues: “It was after that my father summoned me back to Riverrun. I had… almost succeeded in finding one or two local comely ladies that would be eligible for betrothal… but father instead tried to acquaint me with Riverlands nobility… a Frey…. And a Mallister. But naught came of it.” He smiles. “And so father has sent me back… to consult with House Tyrell if they have anyone eligible. Perhaps the comely Hightower twin, but I don’t know if she is still available. She seemed to be interested, and I can hardly say I would be opposed… that is if it will not be arranged in too much of a hurry. Until such lengthy negotiations will be concluded, I should be at your disposal.”

Should you?” the lady teases. “Well, shall we walk, then?” And without waiting for his answer she turns to tuck her hand into the crook of his arm in a companionable and cousinly manner, expecting that arm to be at her disposal and finding it indeed so.

They fall into step along walkways of fresh greenery and demure blooming flowers, pursued at a decorous distance by two retinues accustomed as are their principals to one another’s stride. Well. Almost. Lady Hastwyck has a new guardsman; but he knows the form as well as did the previous incumbent, and is soon on terms with the Tully men in red and blue.

“I’m pleased to hear the how and the why of it from your own lips,” she confesses; “stories grow so muddled in the telling, don’t you find? Though I could wish it had been the Maiden Knight indeed you’d taken down a step or two for all the world to see… His defenses of purported innocence are growing just the least little bit tiresome,” and for her cousin’s ears alone Lady Joy indulges in a rare, tart tone. “I can’t imagine you’d kiss a girl who was unwilling; where’s the pleasure, if it isn’t shared? You ought to have been born a Dornishman,” she decides, “and not a dissenter among these tightly-buttoned Westerosi who suspect in their hearts that all such pleasures are sinful or criminal or both, and who would sooner name a man a brute for indulging his natural desires, than permit a woman to enjoy her own… And now you’re to spawn great shoals of trout with your noble virgin at last, or shall you wriggle out of it again, quick as a fish, the way you always seem to do, mmm?”

The subject of Ser Thadeus’s oft-delayed remarriage amuses her as much now as it did a year past, there’s no denying it. Far from a jealous mistress seeking to hold on to her lover at all costs, or to punish him in advance for his future betrayal, she’s always seen the joke in it — and always supposed, too, that she’d believe in it when she saw it… “At least House Tyrell is famously fecund,” she purrs, eyeing him sidelong; “I’m sure they’ll have a daughter to spare for the Tully heir and she’ll do her duty well, and perhaps not weep too many reproving tears when she’s big with child again and you’re off bedding every girl at Riverrun. Oh… oh, Thadeus, I’m sorry, I oughtn’t to laugh,” but the fact is, she can’t help it.

The tease is met with a slight lift of a brow. “That is, if you are open to indulge in frivolous memories, and maybe add some new to them?”, Thadeus Tully suggests, mischief glinting in his grey-blue eyes. Hardly a glance is spared to his retainers, and as the Tully heir leads the way with his charming pearl-bedecked red flower, they are following along of course, unobtrusively and hardly shocked by any word they may have overheard. The laughter that escapes the Bullfish at Joyeuse’s comment on the Maiden Knight is truly amused. “In that he is quite the opposite to me,”, he admits, “and yes… the Bullfish doesn’t need to force a kiss when it was in fact more or less asked for. I doubt Princess Visenya regretted my boldness, in fact, she did compliment me on my kissing abilities afterwards.” All of this offered with a confident chuckle, and no, Thadeus is not a friend of modesty so he does hardly ever display such.

His arm is offered and given up to the lady at his side as they stroll along, all cousinly and proper, while the Tully listens to the Hastwyck lady’s characterization of him. “I’m hardly a dissenter,” he contradicts, shooting the comely widow at his side a glance, “there are more Westerosi like me, in fact. It takes courage however, to pursue one’s pleasures in such a manner that may indeed offend a great number of our fellow lords and ladies. In that you may call me fearless, fair cousin.” Or just blessed with a disposition of sound ignorance. Her remark about small little trouts draws another chuckle from his lips. “Seven above, I’ve hardly started negotiations, and you are already speaking of any potential offspring I may have in the future. It was not my intent to wiggle out of my previous engagement to Cerys Targayen. My father,” and here he coughs, the unengaged hand he has lifted to cover his mouth clenching slightly, “has repeatedly expressed his wish to see me wed. He would hate our line to end with me, and he knows my uncles and cousins are more than ready to step in, should anything happen to the Bullfish.” The mirth dims somewhat, and the expression in his face turns moderately serious, when Thadeus adds, with a glance towards Joyeuse: “In fact, he has convinced me that such wouldn’t be acceptable. So… yes… I am going to try a bit harder this time. The two ladies who expressed interest before I left Oldtown more or less were accepting the Bullfish side to my character. Seven above, I am quite a prestigious match!”

Her next assessment, of a hypothetical Tyrell wife heavy with child being confronted with his infidelity earns Joyeuse Hastwyck a glance of mock insult, before the Bullfish cannot help but join her in her laughter. “She’d be the mother to my children, I’d try to make up to her the times I would flee the matrimonial bed…”, Thadeus states then with a smirk and a less than proper glint in his eyes.

“Oh, your skill at kissing,” laughs Lady Joy softly; “yes, I seem to recall something of the kind…” She speaks as though to the pale flowers surrounding them, though on the offchance her handsome cousin is looking her way she nibbles her lower lip in a visible token of a reminiscence she could have kept to herself, but thinks it more amusing not to. Holding his arm, her head inclined toward his beneath that golden veil, she leans near and she listens, letting out the occasional soft laugh, until at last she sighs, “But you know why I tease you so. I know, I’ve always known, you must make your fine marriage and raise your shoals of trout. I only wanted to remind you I remember, that’s all. Does the trick still work if I tell you how it’s done…? I think so, mmm? Still, perhaps you shall be as good as you can be to your Tyrell girl; perhaps it’s too cruel of me to say you might not be… and a woman isn’t always repulsive to a man,” she suggests, “only because she’s breeding. I know your instincts, though, and I know the courage you have in following them. And it’s for that courage that I maintain you are a dissenter, Thadeus. So many men feel as you do. So few dare your honesty. I like to think if I’d been born a man I’d be more like you, than… than one of these lily-livered knights I meet so often,” she sniffs, “who revere chastity on the one hand and frequent brothels in absolute secrecy, who prate of their respect for the fairer sex, just so long as the objects of their veneration never dare to express ordinary, natural desires, or have any of their own thoughts in their heads… She’ll be a lucky girl, I think, your Tyrell maiden or your Hightower twin,” she says gently, “and she’ll realise it sooner or later.”

And still she has given him no answer concerning, has dodged again the matter of, their past together and whether it might not melt pleasantly into their present.

“Is that so…?”, echoes the Bullfish in low murmur, eyeing the merry widow with a faint smirk as she mentions recalling something about his kissing skills. Catching that lower-lip-nibble with his glance, he adds, “kissing, in the widest sense.” Holding back another remark, obviously as he slows his steps, and the free hand comes up to brush over the stubble on his chin in a pleasantly reminiscing gesture. Yes, gestures can be hints, and while assuring himself of a recently re-established habit, this particular tactile manoeuvre somehow underlines the unspoken shared memory.

Her expressed doubt in his fidelity is met with a good-natured chuckle, “I always start off with best intentions,” Thadeus Tully admits, brows furrowing as his gaze grows a bit thoughtful. “I am not bad by design, fair cousin, but I rather think it’s due to circumstances and… well… opportunities I’ve found hard to refuse in the past… You being one of them.” His degree of amusement seems to rise further, after that. “When I frequent brothels I make no secret of it,” the Bullfish admits with a shrug, and in all honesty. “My mistake on the Targaryen attempt was perhaps to try to deny who I am… I shan’t commit that same mistake twice. Anyway, after hearing your encouraging words I am sure it’s possible to find a suitable bride. Young, delightfully innocent, until I’ve spoiled her.”

And while Joyeuse Hastwyck seems eager to evade any explicit approval of the possibility of renewing their acquaintance in all its depth, a possibility that lingers between them in the implications of every word of their exchange, Thadeus seems not intent on pushing the subject, at least not directly, but is content to rather leave it at that. “Joyeuse,” he says instead, “are you staying in the same rooms as on your last visit to Oldtown?” A brief moment of hesitation there. “Happy as I am to see you again, I’d like to know where to reach you… In case I can spare some time to invite you over to my manse, for dinner.”

The boasting continues; eyeing her cousin sidelong Lady Joy bites that full, reddened lower lip again, this time only once yet lingeringly: it would be difficult to suppose she mistakes his meaning. “You are what you are,” she agrees easily, “and in your position you have the freedom to be; and that is an advantage too precious to throw away for mere parade… I think you’re quite right; if you must start off with best intentions, let your best intention of all be honesty. At least then your lady wife shan’t be able to say she didn’t know the worst of you, or that she didn’t make a fair bargain to become the Lady of Riverrun.”

Having thus disposed of Ser Thadeus’s matrimonial strategies she explains pleasantly that, “I stay at present at the Hightower, as a guest of our cousin Marsei — it was her wedding I came back to see and I should so have hated to miss any of the festivities… and now I’m in two minds about whether or not to go to the trouble and expense of setting up on my own, when I’m welcome where I am. It might once in a while be convenient, not to live on an island,” she laughs, “with all my comings and goings a matter of record; but then, I’m comfortable enough, the Hightower’s gardens are superlatively beautiful, and there’s always something or another going on… I think I’ve settled,” she decides, “for a while longer, perhaps. If you think you might like to dine with me,” she’s rather specific, “a letter sent to Battle Island will reach me, of course… I think I might like that, you know,” her fingers tighten upon his arm in a gentle squeeze, “wine and fruit and fish,” a laugh for their most usual menu, “and talk of all we’ve missed in one another’s lives this past year, mmm?”

Best intentions. The Bullfish cannot hide a smile when Joyeuse advises him to be honest to a potential future wife. That smile dims ever so slightly in the moment he learns where her current lodgings are. “Ah, Battle Island… The wedding. A feast I’ve obviously missed.”, he states, a bit of amused regret flashing there in his grey-blue eyes. Who knows, had he been there he might have proven a more controversial guest than others, obviously. “But I’m glad you are to prolong your stay. Fair cousin,” once again he slows his steps, coming to a halt even as he moves to face Joyeuse Hastwyck, claiming her hand once again to underline his flattering address with another touch of his lips to her fingers. Straightening, his interest in her person seems to transgress the usual wish for conversation, gleaming as his gaze is from a rather evident admiration, and the ghost of a base need. “Dinner it shall be,” Thadeus agrees then. “Wine. And Fruit,” one corner of his mouth lifts as he remembers her particular yearning for peaches, cherries and strawberries – in the oddest moments. “And fish.” He smirks. “Plenty of it.”

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