(123-01-11) A Princely Apology
A Princely Apology
Summary: Prince Jurian owes Princess Vhaerys an apology — and delivers it.
Date: 11/01/2015
Related: This two days previously.

When Prince Jurian comes to call upon Princess Vhaerys he is treated to a number of new experiences, the first of which is being kept waiting.

Half a minute, perhaps slightly more. Time enough for the lovely dragonseed handmaiden in the simple white linen dress and hair-ribbons of violet silk to curtsey to him and with demurely downcast eyes inquire his name; to close the door and in her retreat cut off the sweet sounds of harp and flute; to consult with her mistress; and to return, curtsey again, and usher him inside.

Fires and torches blaze in competition with the sultry heat and fragrances of the summer garden below, and Vhaerys's own sharp scent — reminiscent of a citrus grove — which strikes immediately, unavoidably all who cross the threshold of her suite. Her occupancy of years' duration has overlaid many another personal touch upon the splendour of these rooms, the most characteristic being the perfect symmetry of every chair, every table, every smaller object, set out as though the squares of white marble underfoot form a grid to which her possessions must always, sooner or later, snap back.

The other two handmaidens sit with their instruments, playing with tenderness and skill a ballad half-familiar to any Targaryen ears; a chair grouped with theirs but empty save for a hand-drum marks the proper place of the youngest of their number, who having shown Prince Jurian to the open doors of a smaller chamber adjoining the princess's chief sitting-room, leaves him to fetch another goblet of cool lemon water. One wall of the private retreat in which she has elected to receive him is filled by a massive desk of golden hardwood engraved and inlaid with dragons, flames, and motifs suggestive of old Valyria; shelves and cabinets rise above it and are built in below; shelves of the same wood continue on to line the wall opposite the door, holding books, manuscripts, alchemical paraphernalia (all of it strictly orderly and without a speck of dust), and closed cupboards which might contain anything.

She herself sits in a comfortable padded leather chair set at a slight angle to the desk. Set before her with great precision are an array of unspeakable anatomical drawings; fresh quills, a gilded inkwell, sticks of charcoal in different thicknesses fitted into jeweled ivory holders to spare her hands any smudges in pursuit of Knowledge and Art; a gilded goblet of lemon water; a broad and heavy and elderly book which was open, but which at the advent of her 'nephew' she shuts to look up at him. Her customary war braids inspired by the late Queen Visenya's own are drawn up into a coil on the back of her head; she wears a draped gown of pale violet silk held in at her hips by a golden chain belt, which performs exquisitely its assigned task of bringing out the hue of her Targaryen eyes. Her lightly muscled arms are bare but for looped golden chains. Her jewels are rubies, and they are glorious.

The magnificent hulk of a knight who recommended, the day before yesterday, that she take a cloak out with her, is leaning against the opposite wall with his arms folded across his chest. He's another Targaryen bastard; she seems to have no shortage of those in her service. The other gilded goblet, left upon a side table next to one of the fireside chairs, may perhaps be his…?

"Jurian. Have you decided you wish something of me after all?" the princess inquires, rather distantly, exhibiting no visible impatience with him.


Jurian is probably more annoyed at being asked his name by a servant who works in the Manse than he is to be kept waiting. But he keeps his peace and follows the maid when she is ready to conduct him. He has dressed with some precision and a touch of formality for the occasion, perhaps having gathered that his aunt has a liking for things done correctly and for aesthetic appeal. Open eyes take in the details he passes by. The girls. Their instruments. What differences can be discerned between them. The order. The fine, matched wood of the appointments. The alchemical items. The anatomical drawings, which are particularly interesting. But he does not allow his notice to protract toward distraction and soon has his gaze on Vhaerys, to home he inclines his head respectfully. "To apologize," he replies smoothly, bringing his hands together in front of him. "You were kind enough to offer me help the other day when we met, and I did not receive it with proper gratitude. But I have thought a great deal about the things you said."

There are eleven thousand Targaryen men. They don't all live in the manse. And Vhaerys's girls aren't allowed to look them in the face without special permission. They simply don't know the ones they haven't waited upon personally — and my, it puts them in tricky positions sometimes.

She herself, sitting upright despite the comforts of her chair, and with her long legs stretched out and one crossed over the other, regards Jurian with cool interest. "You surprise me," she remarks, and exchanges a glance with the empty chair like unto hers standing between the crackling fire and the other goblet of lemon water. "Very well, I accept. Let me make you known, then, to your uncle — Vhaeron, another 'nephew' of ours. Baelon and Aenerya's heir; I believe I mentioned him two days past, apropos of the matrimonial entanglements our young relations are variously seeking and avoiding…"

Is she addressing her bastard knight? How can she be? But, equally, how can she be speaking in such terms to — that empty chair?

Two things happen then: the handmaiden comes among them, bearing a third goblet, which she presents with a curtsey to Prince Jurian. And, blocked by her body between himself and Vhaerys's seated figure, the knight does his damnedest to catch Jurian's eye and indicate by means of a low, firm gesture, the empty chair which is at present the recipient of Vhaerys's dry smile.

Jurian meets Vhaerys's gaze without any sense of uncertainty or sign of guilt, despite the idea that he has come to apologize. But he is momentarily thrown by this talk of Vhaeron and an apparent introduction when there is no one to receive it. But between being given a moment to think by the advent of the wine, the knight's gesture, and Vhaerys's gestures, the matter quickly dawns on him, eyes widening a little at the realization. Then he makes a quick bow to the chair. "Uncle Vhaeron," he greets without further hesitation, tone respectful. "Forgive me for disturbing your conference. /But/," he says, turning back to Vhaerys and helping himself to the chair that 'Vhaeron' is not 'occupying', now glad that he didn't sit immediately upon his entry, "I realized, Aunt Vhaerys, that your counsel was wiser than I had the wit to see. Old ways are good ways. Why should I not take my sister to wife? I know her birth to be as good as mine. And as I am heir, how right for us to inherit the house we were raised in."

And Vhaerys Targaryen, who can hear both sides of this touching exchange between uncle and nephew, smiles upon them both; and she un-crosses and re-crosses her legs as she shifts in her chair to face the men more fully. "There are some in Westeros who presume to criticise our ways," she drawls; "the truth is, as I'm pleased you've come to agree, that none but a Targaryen is a fair match for another Targaryen, and that when we mingle our blood with that of the Andals we do them perhaps too great an honour. If by such a match a true advantage may be secured to our house, that reason may be set upon the scales in balance — but in the absence of such… A union in our own traditions has profound advantages of its own. If your sister is troubled," such delicate phrasing, from a princess serene in her own sanity, "who could understand her better than her brother? And as a man makes his way in the world, what woman will be more loyal to his interests than his sister? In purely practical terms your parents' fortune need not be divided, and your own arrangements need not alter so much… I think you will find, Jurian, you've made the correct decision. Though I cannot speak without a certain bias, for I have had a lifetime's happiness with my own brother."

Her violet gaze travels from one chair to the other, softening subtly, the look of a woman still in love with the man her eyes rest upon; a breath later she murmurs, "You always say that." To her, for her, he does.

Jurian watches the face of his pseudo-aunt quite a bit, though just for effect he makes the occasional glance at her husband's place. If he's lucky, it will sometimes coincide with when the uncle is meant to be talking. And even if not, it shows he hasn't rudely forgotten the man. "Well, I realize I must learn by your example," he says, a small gesture making the 'your' include the two of them. "The advantages you mention are all true. And is it not better to marry my dear sister than someone I hardly know? She will bring no unfortunate surprises."

That thought seems to amuse Vhaerys; after picking up her goblet of lemon water (her guest was served with wine, a decent Arbor red, but she and her husband don't drink in the afternoon) she shares another glance with her 'husband' and then turns to her nephew with a quiet chuckle. "Now, that is true. All knowledge is valuable," an unsurprising opinion from a woman whose personal library runs to quite so many volumes; "speaking one's vows with true knowledge of she who is speaking her own, is priceless. Any other bride's family would assuredly be swindling you in some way, to secure a prince for their daughter — the same can hardly be said of your sister's family." She raises a pale eyebrow. "And have you decided where the happy event is to take place? If it's in Oldtown we'll attend, naturally." Whatever her words her tone implies the granting of a minor favour by such attendance.

Jurian takes his wine without concern that it is different from his hosts', and helps himself to a sip. He smiles at Vhaerys's estimation of things, looks to the empty chair, and back to Vhaerys. "That I suppose I shall have to discuss with my father," he admits. "But it may be here. Everyone who matters will naturally be invited."

Knowing she matters, Vhaerys nods judiciously. "I wish you good fortune with the arrangements; of course, if you don't care for that sort of thing, I'm sure the women will be only too pleased to manage it for you," she suggests, "and leave you with no task more taxing than arriving at the sept at the appointed hour… Even Dhraegon managed that." She rolls her eyes at her husband, or his chair, or whatever it is; but with a quiet amusement rather than the exasperation 'Uncle Dhrae' more customarily provokes.

Jurian smiles fondly, sharing the expression with both of them. "I think there was much speculation that he would give a worse showing than he did. All things considered, we all got off lightly."

"It was irresponsible, putting him on display in that fashion in front of hordes of strangers…" By the lamplight and the firelight, Vhaerys's pale golden head gleams as she shakes it. "Crowds alarm him; noise alarms him; a private ceremony with none but family and a septon to hear the vows would have been easier for him," she insists, pressing her lips together in an increasingly disapproving line. "Seemly, too, for the remarriage of a widow." She draws a breath — and pauses, listening: "I'll tire of saying so," she informs Vhaeron, rather more mildly, "when it tires of being the truth."

Jurian glances to the chair, then back to Vhaerys. "Well, I cannot disagree," he allows. "But someone must have thought it would add some dignity to do it openly. And Lady Marsei is very popular with the smallfolk," he adds.

"'Add some dignity'?" drawls Vhaerys. "Is it the swooning you mean, or the weeping?"

Jurian laughs and leans back slightly against the upholstery. "I did not say it was wise, Aunt Vhaerys. "And I know it was not Uncle who wished to be married so publicly. I don't know whose hand it was to force that."

The princess's lips twist; she apparently has some knowledge, or at any rate an educated opinion, but chooses not to share it. "You know he'll go to any lengths to keep the peace amongst those he cares for," she points out. "Ser Jaemion," and this is to her knight, who has all this while been propping up the wall, or seeking perhaps to blend directly into it, "leave us."

Ser Jaemion Waters thus detaches himself from the marble at his back, bows low to his princess and then to the prince whose presumed existence makes it in Vhaerys's mind unexceptionable for her to be so closely attended by a fine-looking single man in his thirties, and backs out of the chamber.

Jurian glances at the knight when he is addressed, then at Vhaerys, his goblet hovering halfway to his mouth before moving aside again. "You have something of greater sensitivity to say?" he wonders about the dismissal.

Vhaerys takes another mouthful of her lemon water and turns to set the goblet on the desk at her other side. In the very place she took it up from, aligned precisely with her drawings, her tray of quills, that gleaming golden inkwell. "We trust those who serve us," she states with absolute certainty. "I wondered only whether you might have something of that nature to say… or whether you did truly come to us only to speak of your marriage…?"

Jurian smiles, and since Vhaerys is not going to say something earth-shattering, he takes that sip of wine, now, and sets the goblet aside again. "No, truly. I wished only to make amends and hope you will be so kind as to share your advice again in the future." He gives another respectful nod to the chair and speaks in its direction this time. "But I've interrupted and taken your time. Shall I leave you to it, then?"

Another glance exchanged with her beloved, another communication between them which the visiting prince can only hope isn't verbal; and Vhaerys turns outward to inform him, with a regal inclination of her head, "It's no trouble to us to spare a few minutes for such a purpose. But certainly you've done your duty; you may go if you wish, if you've business elsewhere." She gives him a slight smile, implying that naturally a young Targaryen prince has a great deal to do with her time, and that she, perhaps… "And if you've a wish for our advice upon any other matter, you're welcome of course to call again."

Jurian does indeed get up, a little leverage on both arms of the chair helping to make the movement as smooth as possible while he mostly puts his weight on his good leg until he's up. "Very well," he says. "Good day to you both." He gives them another inclination of his head, then quits the room.

The succeeding discussion is a frank one indeed.

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