(123-01-11) Kinship Cakes
Kinship Cakes
Summary: Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck and Princess Emira Martell meet by chance in the Good Queen's Cake House; which establishment is unlikely to welcome either of them again…
Date: 11/01/2016
Related: None

The tranquil respectability of the Good Queen's Cake House has been disturbed this afternoon by a lady in Dornish sandsilk robes more glaringly red even than her hair. She remains the cynosure of a good many censorious eyes long after it has become apparent to the genteel creatures who are this establishment's most usual patronesses that she has the voice and the manners of a lady, that far from being the glass trinkets of a woman who's no better than she should be her tremendous pearls gleam with veracity, and that the sorry-looking female who trailed in at her heels is her maid and chaperone.

Having come less to consume the dainties purveyed upon the premises than to place a very confidential order with its proprietors, she is only picking at the strawberry jam cake set before her (surely any friend of Prince Dhraegon's would care for a strawberry jam cake?) where she has been seated, flatteringly, to face the grandest of the tapestries of Queen Alysanne and Silverwing; she is waited upon by a representative of those proprietors, and hovered over likewise by her own servant, and the hushed discussion surrounding her is interrupted at frequent intervals by the sound of her laughter, spinning out over the heads of quieter folk, contriving somehow to get into every corner of the room and paint it likewise scarlet.

On the absolute other end of the establishment, at the farthest fanciful table, there is, indeed, another figure in Dornish attire — hers far less eye-catching, despite the distinctly Dornish skin beneath. The brightest is a tangerine-coloured veil covering her dark hair and doing a haphazard, vague job of hiding her identity, half sheer and speckled with small sewn beads of no real worth. The rest of her garb is distinctly Dornish, sandsilks in dull, sandy tans — of fine noble make (she might not be let in the door, otherwise) but nothing that shouts the fact that she is Emira of Dorne, with Martell and Qorgyle blood in her veins, not unless one knows her face or wonders over the striking black scorpion ring on her hand.

She sits across from a young wisp of a woman who works for the Dragon Door — a servant who cleans up prettily. A servant, for shame. Brave girl, that servant. At least Emira is making an effort to make friends with the locals at all.

Emira has been utterly, remarkably quiet, fitting well enough in the genteel atmosphere until— until— a platter of bewilderingly elaborate dessert is set out between her and the girl."What the fuck is this? I thought you took me here cake?" A pause. "Are you telling me this is cake? Alyra!" What sounded deceptively like dangerous crossness tumbles rapidly into laughter. Speaking of which— the vibrant laughter from the other corner of the room turns her head, too, strumming some distant memory, and she finds herself seeking out the face of Lady Joyeuse. She narrows her eyes across the room. It may have been many a year, but she finds the lady unmistakable. "Is that you Lady Joy?" The accented voice calls out with exactly zero care for the other patrons' quietude.

That voice, familiar and unfamiliar, cuts into a tender description of what ought to be done with fruity icing; and Lady Joy breaks off in mid-sentence and drapes her arm in its loose red silken sleeve over the back of her chair and looks across the room to regard… an unknown Dornish girl? "Yes, it's me," she calls back brightly, whilst the ladies at intervening tables exchange glances and murmurs; "but who's that? Do we know one another, sweetling?"

Emira murmurs something to her young companion, messily runs a thumb through the icing of the so-called cake, and pops it in her mouth before bouncing off her chair; quite literally, every motion somehow acrobatic and infused with energy. She walks buoyantly over to Joyeuse, crossing the cakehouse in no time flat. She plants her loudly hands on the table and leans in close to Joy's face, dark hair swinging from her veil, with a broad, toothy smile (decorated with a hint of icing), her eyes gleaming mischief. She just stares, waiting in anticipation of a guessing game.

The young person in charge of taking down Lady Hastwyck's order takes a step back, whitening, uncertain whether she ought to be calling for the manager, or the guards, or— or— Well, who can say what that wild, wicked, veiled Dornish hoyden might be about to do to a valued new customer? They oughtn't to have let her in! They ought to have confiscated her weapons! Oh, Seven!

But Lady Hastwyck returns the girl's gaze measure for measure — and after an instant's contemplation her grey-green eyes widen, her lips part, and she bounces (we use this term advisedly) up onto her feet to embrace the wild, wicked, veiled Dornish hoyden in question. Across the strawberry jam cake, and a table rocking upon its feet with the force of her enthusiasm. "Oh, Emira—!" she gasps. For it's hardly a challenge, is it, to imagine a girl of fourteen as a woman of twenty-five, to know the face of one's own niece, when one is well aware she's in Oldtown and one has thought of her so often and here she is quite twice as beautiful as one recalled.

A mighty "ha!" emerges from the small but fiercely strong Dornishwoman, sounding half laughter and half squeezed out by the force of Joy's embrace. She slings an arm around the lady's neck so fierce it might as well be the prelude to a take-down, although it doesn't become that martial and stops short of destroying that elaborate hairstyle. "What are you doing here!" Cakehouse, Oldtown; both equally valid, really.

Only one answer suggests itself to Lady Joy as she kisses Emira Martell's cheeks through her flimsy veil and offers no resistance at all to that ferocious hug. In fact it only seems to encourage her. She hangs on just as hard as she can with her less muscular arms, beaming benevolently, feeling all at once that it's all right and she was a fool to think it might not have been. "Why, I'm meeting you!" she explains promptly. "Whyever were you sitting in the corner? Sit with me, please, unless you're talking very great secrets with your friend — I'm only ordering cakes and I suppose by now she knows what it is I have in mind, don't you?" This to the cake girl.

"… Y— yes, Lady Hastwyck," the cake girl manages, and curtseys. "Will there be anything more, Lady Hastwyck?" She seems to be holding anxiously to that title, as though finding in it some justification for— everything else, and all the staring. The nobility aren't like you and I, are they.

Emira plops right down in the chair across from the aforementioned Lady Hastwyck, dragging her sandal-clad toes along the floor beneath. She pushes her veil back from her tanned face in what might have been meant to be an elegant gesture to spare her hair, but it's lost on her, and only serves to create static and wrinkle the entire thing; she winds up tearing it off and tossing it carelessly on the table. Hear near-black hair is a bit of a wild mess; it suits her. "I was having cake," she answers, her logic at odds with her naturally mischievous smile, which hasn't waned in the slightest since appearing. "It was so tall." Unlike her. She grew in strength and fierceness and reputation, not in height. "But Oldtown; why, Oldtown? This place…" She has opinions. Bold brows lift, curious. "Is it with or against your will?"

That business with the veil, it's so well-known to Lady Joy that she bursts into laughter again, shaking her head over how little, really, Emira has altered with the years… Perhaps she's not after all sitting across from a stranger. What a beautifully cheering thought. "Lady Emira's cake," she insists to the cake girl, "and everything that's hers, and her friend too if she would like to come — please." Her smile goes some way toward reassuring that uncertain employee, who throws in another curtsey just to be certain of it and departs upon her assigned mission without a thought for obtaining further consent from the obviously lesser lady — at least they can be certain now, can't they, of presenting Lady Hastwyck with both bills…

Meanwhile Lady Joy is sipping her wine and setting out the situation for her long-lost and blissfully-regained niece. "I came to see my friend wed, of course," she explains; "Marsei Hightower. Her mother and mine were cousins, ladies of House Tully, and so we're cousins too in a way. And you — you've come to be wed yourself, I know," she adds gently, "to Prince Rhaegor. I… have wished above all things, Emira," and her voice softens and quietens, to a pitch much more to the taste of the occupants of nearby tables, even if it does deprive them of the pleasure of eavesdropping upon her words, "to ask if that's your will." Rather a bald question; but she wasn't the first.

Since she left Dorne so quickly after her betrothal, Rhaegor has been asked that question far more than Emira. Rare has the Westerosi person who cares whether the Dornishwoman wants to wed to the Targaryen prince. She's been something of a prop in the whole affair, a subject of conversation few know how to treat like a real person just yet — helped none by how elusive she's been. But none of this seems to weigh on her mind; she simply tosses her head, giving a carefree sort of smile. "Mmm," she says thoughtfully, that, too, full of mischief. Her eyes, naturally slender at the corners, narrow further. "The decision was made for me; in that, they say I had no choice, so that it is against my will. But," she lifts a finger, "I would have found a way to shun him if I did not find him worthy. So it is." She leans back against the chair so quickly it creaks (sorry not sorry, management), folds her arms, and jolts her shapely chin up zealously. "Even if he is not Dornish."

To Lady Joyeuse, a veteran of two seeming mismatches and the confidante of many more, this is an arrangement at once comprehensible and meritorious. "That's rather what I thought," she confides, in that same urgent, curious whisper, her eyes intent upon Emira's, her forearms resting against the edge of the table and her enormous ruby ring gleaming as she toys with it. "I knew you wouldn't put up with a man who wasn't good to you, or good enough for you, but then, I thought it wasn't so very likely that after dodging the jaws of the trap for so long you'd suddenly make up your own mind to choose a Westerosi." Being one herself she gives Emira a helpless little shrug, a crooked little smile, to show that, well, she does see. Her own Qorgyle marriage was made for her. She'd not have chosen it either, in the beginning… "But if you've decided he'll do — then he will, won't he? Or at least, he'd better." If, she implies, he knows what's good for him, and the sort of woman he's pledged to marry. "And I know it— it isn't really my affair," the concerned 'aunt' admits at last, "or it isn't anymore, but I'm so pleased to hear you say, sweetling, that you're all right…"

Whereupon Lady Emira's towering dessert descends before her, and Lady Joy segues smoothly into a rhapsody upon its perceived virtues.

Emira appears a bit less fascinated with the dessert, although that does not stop her from digging her hand casually into a corner of it. "When have you known me to be anything other than all right, hmm?" True that the last time Lady Joy saw her she was merely four and ten, but even then she was a force to be reckoned with; she's always taken everything head-on and conquered it. She licks sugary confection off her pointer finger. "Rhaegor… we understand each other," she says with a grin spreading, but doesn't quite clarify. "What of you," she asks, dark eyes peering into Joy's lighter set, "since my uncle…? I heard this, and that, from Vanora. A Reachlord." Her eyes flare with instinctive ire at the very word, but it's fleeting. "Hastwyck…"

A grin is a grin and Lady Joy returns it, for it's just the right expression for the beauteous features of a bride-to-be. It reassures her more than any quantity of talk that matters have been arranged to Emira's satisfaction. And then she lets out a soft, "Ohh," and her smile dims and grows wistful but doesn't quite fade away. "Lord Hastwyck of Holyhall, yes. He was very good to me, for as long as we had; but he passed almost two years ago," she explains matter-of-factly. "There are rumours, of course, but I beg you won't believe all that you might hear — people do so like to talk over what they don't understand. A fever settled into his lungs and, rather quickly, that was the end… that's what happened to my Gylbert." Her shoulders shift beneath those red sandsilks which are, in fact, the exact opposite of a widow's weeds; she smiles deliberately and, a second cup having been brought, pours wine for them both from the flagon left near her own.

Sympathy isn't an expression that quite fits Emira's face, let alone for a Reachlord, even one married to her aunt of sorts; it's rather like trying to fit a block into a mismatched shape. She scrunches her features into some kind of shape, but it's not exactly the right one. Still, she takes the wine when poured and lifts the glass slightly in some manner of understanding for the misfortune of a loved one. Her other hand cuts to the side in a sharp gesture. "I do not like rumours, gossip; just words, nothing. It is never the heart."

"Oh, sweetling, you make me want to get up and kiss you again," sighs Lady Joy quite simply. She knows when someone is trying. She also knows what a Reachlord looks like, when trying to conjure sympathy for the Dornish she has loved and lost… "I always say that all I could hope is for people to judge me by myself, by what they know of me in truth, rather than what is said by those who think I'm only a tale to be told… I can't say I don't listen to gossip," she sighs candidly, "because it can be so amusing, and how else is one to pass the time when one isn't married and hasn't a home of one's own; but I hope I know better than to believe in it. Why, I've heard the gossip about me and I know that's chiefly nonsense. I haven't heard much about you," she admits, "if that's any comfort; and people would talk in front of me, I think, because nobody knows we know one another… or," a quick, mischievous glance about the cake house, "nobody knew. I've heard extraordinary things said about Manfryd," and she presses her lips together in auntly disapproval, only to be obliged to open them for a refreshing and strengthening gulp of wine; "the most appalling lies. I called on him, just before he vanished to Dorne again — he didn't know me, sweetling," sigh, "he looked straight through me. I've worried so that you'd only do the same."

On mention that Joy hasn't heard any gossip about her, Emira barely contains a burst of laughter; it's only kept in, held back with a fang of a tooth on her lower lip, so that she can listen to the rest of what she has to say. She bites her lip harder, then, the urge to laugh slowly fading. Anger rises in her gaze, summoned by the scandal surrounding Manfryd. "My Scorpion cousin stung many in Oldtown — only not, I think, how they say. It is good he went back to Dorne, where he flourishes." A frown tempts the corners of her mouth, but she vanquishes it with a huge smile, tipping her head up proudly. "I never forget a face," she declares. "Even," she leans over the cake, impish, "one that has aged." She then ducks behind the cake as if, humourously, expecting to get hit.

Alas, punching one's enemies is one of the Dornish customs Lady Joy did not take up during her long sojourn between the sandy wastes and the sapphire seas. She only looks a trifle wounded — her meticulously-plucked eyebrows draw together; her shoulders wilt — and she complains, "Oh, don't say it, you dreadful girl! Not out loud… Not when I was thinking only a moment ago of how little you've changed and fancying we might, at least for an afternoon, be as we were once—! Well, your time will come, and you'll wish you'd cared better for your skin," always a preoccupation of Lady Joy's beneath the Dornish sun, "and I hope I live to see it," she sniffs, "though I shall be sweetness itself and I shan't say a word."

But Emira only half falls over in her chair in a pile of loud, unabashed laughter, clapping her hands together once. "I never thought about living that long," she says — truly, not another remark on Joy's age, but her own general lack of forethought. Perhaps an expectation to likely die on some battlefield of her own making. She'll win, of course, taking down her enemy triumphantly before dying, in her mind. Once she sits up straight it's to immediately swipe icing off the cake. "Really, you look beautiful, Lady Joy," she says. "It is as though there is still the glow of Dornish sun on your skin." Remember she said glow, not sun damage.

And of course it's rather tricky not to laugh with her; and after several seconds of struggling to maintain her semblance of pique Lady Joy gives in. "Oh, bless you," she sighs in answer to the compliment; "you know, I never thought to live so long either. It quite surprises me sometimes, to have lived as long as I have, and yet to feel as though I've hardly begun… And you — you can't think how you look, Emira, when you've been ten-and-four in my mind's eye all this while and now you're…" Her hands rise, long-fingered and well-kept, in a salute to the icing-smeared princess opposite. "Almost as beautiful as Vanora," she opines, though most who aren't that lady's mother would be inclined (after suitable deliberations) to crown Emira the victor in such a contest. "Have you seen her lately, by any chance?" she asks then, trying not to betray the hunger which has far overtaken her interest in her strawberry jam cake, and failing as she was so bound to fail. "I mean — more lately than I have… She came only the once," she admits, "five years past, bringing her husband to meet me, and I have so little news of her that's newer… We're not very good at writing letters, either of us."

Emira smiles anew at the mention of Vanora; she's not offended in the least to come second in a mother's assessment of beauty. She tips her head to one side, trying to remember a specific time— she lands on, "It was awhile, but not so long; she was well. Her boys are getting tall. Last I saw her I remember she had just cut three fingers off a man." This, rather blithely — and seamlessly, she goes on, "Is that strawberry inside?" She looks around the pile of icing, having scarcely eaten anything but sugar. "I do not know what to write in letters," she says, and though it doesn't touch her voice, it's closer to sympathy than any facial expression. "I suppose that I should write my father."

The grey-green eyes which are Vanora Toland's most notable inheritance from her mother, seen here in their original form, widen. "Three— three fingers," says Lady Joy faintly. Another glance down at her cake, leaking stewed strawberries, syrupy red goo… "Why don't you try it?" she suggests, inspired of a sudden, nudging the plate over towards Emira's side of the table. "Three fingers… Well, I'm sure she must have had a good reason, don't you think?" Hope springs eternal in that ample red sandsilk bosom. "She… she's really quite formidable, isn't she? I can still hardly credit it… That beautiful, brave, fierce, clever, loving creature, with three little boys and a sword in each hand, and — Emira, I made her," she utters urgently, leaning forward, seeming inches taller as she boasts. "Well, I suppose your uncle helped, but she was all my idea." Ser Darion Qorgyle fathered but one child in his life, make no mistake. "Isn't she," demands her mother, "proof positive that our marriage had merit after all? … Sweetling, I hope you'll have one just like her, and I don't know what more I can wish you."

"Vanora is strong," Emira agrees, admiring, although her phrasing has something of the feel of assessing a fine sandsteed's breeding. She nods once, swift, enough to cause her dark hair to sway. She reaches for the strawberry jam cake. "I suppose she is … proof that good can come from such a union." But then Martell and Targaryen is an additional set of baggage, isn't it, and the young Dornishwoman grimaces a little to consider herself bearing children, even one so fierce as Vanora — motherly isn't a word easily summoned when one looks at Emira — but she smiles afterword, and fills said smile with strawberry jam and cake.

Knowing what a compliment that is from Emira, Lady Joy beams. "She is. And — and such unions as mine and Darion's, and the others made with ours, I do think they strengthen our kingdoms as well… I'm proud of you," she puts it simply, "for lending your own strength to another in the same vein."

She sits tall under the praise, but conflict passes over Emira's face; she's on the verge of saying something, but stops. A rare thing, for her to not say whatever is about to roll off her tongue. Perhaps she's learned prudence, now that she's grown. (No, it's not that.) She gives her head a dismissive shake of whatever it was. "Your friend's wedding is long done. Are you going back to…" What? Where? She has no idea where Joyeuse lives now, as it turns out. Is it still Holly-something?

"Oh! Well, I have a little manse of my own, on my late husband's lands — he built it for me because I didn't care for Holyhall…" And with a quick flutter of her eyelids Lady Joy lowers her voice. "The damp, you know, and the people. You must see it one day," she insists, "it's rather dreary on the outside, for safety's sake, but on the inside it's beautiful — like living inside a jewel-box! — and it's set upon a sheer cliff with nothing below but the waves…" Her eyes half-close, in memory of her sea view and her incomparable terrace; then they pop open again, and her optimism manages to get its feet back onto the ground. "But I'm living here at present, in the Hightower; I expect to stay a good long while and I do hope you'll come to call on me…? We might have a much better talk if we were alone — and, of course, if there's any service I might do you…? You have kin in Oldtown; and now you know it I hope you'll remember it, mmm?"

Emira listens with a smile over the description of Joy's little manse, which sounds lovely (especially the cliffs, to Emira's tastes). "Usually I stay behind when Rhaegor has diplomatic business at the Hightower; it is so dull there even though it is so tall. But," she says, rolling her shoulders luxuriously. "I could be persuaded to make an exception." She winks and nods assuredly. "I will remember."

"It's not so dull," maintains Lady Joy, who looks rather pleased; "some of the people are quite charming. Especially," she hints, tilting her head, regarding Emira with an arch little smile, "on the fifth floor…?"

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