|A Little Bird Tells Me…|
|Summary:||Princess Vhaerys Targaryen is by chance on hand to greet a new arrival at the Dragon Door Manse; and to deliver her expeditiously into the arms of her betrothed.|
|Related:||This conversation the previous day.|
It's afternoon when a few horses can be heard to stop on Starry Street, the sound of rolling wagon wheels accompanying the hoof-falls. A man dismounts from the wagon and goes to the door. There is a little not-too-loud disagreement between him and one of the servants, but soon he and another footman are unloading boxes from the back of the wagon and carrying them inside to thump them down where they can clutter up the lovely great hall. There are quite a few boxes within a few minutes. The wagon door opens after a little while and a red-haired woman of twenty-two or so steps out. She's dressed in good-quality, but modest and muted, clothes. But as soon as she's out of the carriage, she turns around and pokes her head back in and offers a hand up, so there must be at least one more person to come.
That person is Aelia Targaryen. Coaxed from the wagon by her maid, she carefully hops down the steps and onto solid ground. She has the classic Targaryen features: fair hair, pale skin and violet eyes speak to relatively "pure" breeding. Her small, slight figure is delicately wrapped in a pale blue gown, trimmed with silver accents. Her eyes are round and wide as she approaches the unfamiliar manse, led through the open door by the red-haired servant.
On her way up from the garden to her chambers when the boxes (of no interest, and all in the most distasteful muddle) are succeeded by the newcomers in person (mild interest, befitting a trueborn Targaryen princess: her face and form recognisable at once by a specialist in the breed though her specifics are as yet unfamiliar), Princess Vhaerys lingers with a hand upon the bannister, a sleek creature in golden silk and long whitening braids.
Two steps below her and subtly behind stands a dragonseed girl in pale violet linen, her eyes downcast and hands clasped before her. So similar to the casual glance and yet relentlessly schooled into such differences.
"A cousin of ours — or a niece?" calls Vhaerys in dry query, lifting an eyebrow, her inspection plain and its results far from predetermined.
The house servant was perhaps not going to bother making an announcement since no one was in the room, but at the advent of Vhaerys, he knows he had better do his duties properly. "Princess Aelia Targaryen!" he announces formally. Then he starts having a desperate but quiet conference with another servant just out of the room about who needs to be pulled in right away to clear out another chamber on the third floor and get all of these boxes up there.
Aelia's eyes are on Vhaerys immediately once she speaks, round and wondering. Her mouth remains in a pleasant, absent smile. "Oh," she says with great warmth and interest, stepping forward toward the staircase. "I am a robin," she explains. "Do I still look mottled brown?"
A… robin. Vhaerys turns to confer with her husband, standing just below her due to his long-standing penchant for watching her walk up stairs; but all he offers is an eyebrow lifted in mischievous curiosity and an inclination of his handsome golden head which suggests she should go ahead and see what she can discover. Her glance shifts smoothly to the young princess, or possibly the young robin. "… You look as you are intended to," she offers coolly. "I see you're newly-arrived in Oldtown; have you come to stay long?"
"My breasts never seem to get redder," Aelia says with faint disappointment, glancing down at her chest. She is probably about seventeen or eighteen years old, and despite the efforts of her dressmaker, a woman with Vhaerys's sharp eye will be able to tell that her figure tends toward slim and boyish rather than bountiful. But perhaps she is comforted by the assurance that she looks as she should. She looks back up to Vhaerys and explains, "We sing to fallen men and they stain us with their blood." But Vhaerys has something to say to her, so she smiles and blinks placidly at her, then answers, "My brother is a trumpeter swan. A robin can make its nest anywhere. Even in a hole. Or a hat."
"… Then I trust you shall be comfortable enough in this manse," Vhaerys concludes smoothly, marking down this creature for pity, forbearance, and absolutely no dinner invitations. "It is apt to be noisy, untidy," her gaze flits to Aelia's boxes, "and too much inhabited by our relations; but the appointments are a degree more luxurious than those afforded by most hats." A pause. "I am Vhaerys Targaryen; this is my husband and my brother, Vhaeron." She lifts her hand to indicate the place in time and space which is, to her at least, occupied by the shade of her beloved; a small smile paints her lips as she feels his hand brush over hers, as she hears him speak to the new girl.
Aelia doesn't spare much attention for the empty air. She looks at Vhaerys's hand instead, the way most animals do when you try to point something out to them. She then stares at Vhaerys's face long enough to need to blink, and tilts her head. "Zeeup," she says rather cheerfully. Servants are going up and down the back stairs as quickly as they can to get a new room opened up.
This discourtesy would be intolerable from almost anyone alive; but one doesn't grow up Targaryen without learning how to spot the enfeebled ones, and a low gesture from Vhaeron behind the carven balustrade persuades Vhaerys that it's all right, he hasn't taken offense. There's something amiss in that beauteous silvery-golden head; the girl clearly isn't in command of herself.
"… How long," she inquires after a moment's thought, leaning again on the bannister, "have you been a robin?" She hasn't heard of a young princess who is a robin. Perchance she was something else beforehand.
Aelia appears to think about what it is that Vhaerys has to say. She makes her thumb and forefinger into an oval shape. "Robins," she explains in her gentle soprano tone, "Start from a little, blue, egg. And they spend two weeks in the nest." She seems very pleased to impart this information.
Vhaerys considers she has only herself to blame; she did ask. And there's a fascination, to be sure, in any specimen so unique… "I see," she states gravely. Recognising that look in her eye (and she that look in his, as he touches her waist lightly in passing) Vhaeron leaves her to the pursuit of knowledge and climbs the stairs alone, pausing at the head of them to beckon her with eyes which catch hers and divert pointedly along the corridor toward their suite: she smiles faintly up at him, but turns again to the princess below her, whose possibilities she is far from exhausting. "And whose nest were you in for those two weeks, little robin?" she drawls.
"It was time for me to leave my father's next," Aelia answers, nodding at Vhaerys. "I was told." She seems a bit solemn on this point, apparently respectful of the authority that imparted this message to her. "All robins must leave the nest," she says. "Motecilla rubeculla. Ruber…should I be draped in rubies?" She looks down at herself, but she isn't wearing a single ruby.
The elder princess, by contrast, sports a favoured black pearl and ruby ring, and a ruby gleaming below each of her pale earlobes. "It would be fitting," she hazards. "Your father," she echoes; "what is his name?"
Aelia looks pleased, but also uncertain. Vhaerys agrees about the rubies, but Aelia doesn't have rubies, and perhaps she should. But then she remembers, while looking at the other princess's fine earrings, that she has been asked a question. "Oh, Baelon," she answers, looking back to Vhaerys's eyes.
Light dawns. The mad sister to whom that occasionally insolent whelp of her acquaintance has elected, with some reluctance, to betrothe himself — but with what speed, what expedition, she has arrived! What a treat for Prince Jurian to have his wish answered so soon. Vhaerys's slight, encouraging smile doesn't flicker. "Then you are Aenerya's daughter and Jurian's sister," she pronounces aloud, "and you may if you wish address me as 'Aunt'."
It seems as if she could hardly have covered the distance in time, if he only wrote his assent after the first time he spoke to Vhaerys. But love conquers all. "Yes," she agrees warmly, lacing her fingers together and smiling. "My brother is a trumpeter swan."
"… Tell me," suggests Vhaerys to this innocent baby robin, holding her gaze, looking down upon her from above as though a golden goddess, "what do you know of trumpeter swans? For I must confess I know very little of them."
Aelia blinks her round, violet eyes up at Vhaerys. "They have great wings and beautiful white feathers," she says. "They can swim away on the water. They sing their most beautiful songs when they die." Whatever all that means in connection to Jurian.
"Come upstairs with me, and I shall show you the way."
The way to what Vhaerys doesn't specify; she only lifts her hand in a graceful gesture of command, and her dragonseed handmaiden effaces herself yet further, ceding the place nearest her mistress to the younger princess. "… You sound," she adds in a more thoughtful vein, "as though you have a great fondness and admiration for trumpeter swans. Is such the case, child?"
Aelia seems perfectly trusting of her relative, following immediately. "Swans mate for life, Aunt," Aelia informs Vhaerys as she mounts the stairs. Her maid, who had been discussing the proper placement of things in her room with the house servants, looks up to see that her charge is on the move and seems just a little startled, but after rushing forward a few steps, perhaps she thinks better of disturbing an elder Targaryen. She follows behind Vhaerys's handmaiden at a bit of a remove.
The quartet of women move almost in single file, Vhaerys confidently in the lead, Aelia at her elbow (robin's wings don't sweep her along with the same speed as her 'aunt's' long legs), the handmaiden's eerily soft steps in line behind her mistress's, and the redheaded maid (not yet the recipient of a single glance from Princess Vhaerys) a belated addition to the party.
"Do robins mate for life?" the historian inquires of the ornithologist, glancing sidelong and slightly backwards to gauge her reaction, whatever it may be, and already looking forward (it must be said) to Jurian's. Surely he can't have expected his bride so soon. Surely not…?
Aelia tilts her head. "At least the breeding season," she answers, sometimes tripping up a little because she tends to forget to hold her hem. The contradiction in the answers doesn't seem to bother her, nor does she seem to be making any deliberately witty innuendo. "Robins live about six years."
At the top of the stairs Vhaerys releases her handful of shimmering golden skirts and proceeds with her hem sweeping the floor and yet causing her no trouble at all. Practice, one can only assume. Nearer to her Aelia might note that her draped gown is of two layers, sheer and shimmering golden sandsilk over some more substantial cloth in the same hue, and that it is secured at both her shoulders by golden brooches in each of which a multitude of tiny rubies form House Targaryen's sigil, the three-headed dragon. "And how long do swans live, before they sing their most beautiful swans?" she inquires.
"Someone wrote they live twenty years," Aelia says. "But they say there is a swan that swims in the underworld and lives forever." She smiles at Vhaerys. "Do you think it is better to be a bird than an egg?"
"I have not been either, and nor have I given the matter sufficient thought; I couldn't speculate," is Vhaerys's honest opinion. She holds up her hand to halt the procession of, shall we say, ducklings marching behind her; takes another two steps; and raps lightly with her knuckles upon Prince Jurian's door.
"Oh," Aelia says softly, and nods, apparently accepting that answer. And she stops when she's supposed to stop, too. Jurian must be alone in his room at the moment without a servant, because he calls, "What? Is it mealtime already?"
"May I come in?" calls Vhaerys drily through the door. "Or do you only receive visitors who bring you your supper?"
"Oh, Aunt Vhaerys," Jurian says. That tone in his voice is the sound of Jurian abruptly changing tack. "Just a moment, please." Who knows what he's using that moment to do, or to hide. But before keeping her too long, he says, "Enter freely, Aunt."
And that is why she didn't simply barge in. A prince's chambers — or a princess's — can be relied upon to conceal a multitude of secrets.
When he's had his moment, however, and she hers to note the alteration in his tone, she opens the door and glides tall and golden into his presence. "You're well, I trust?" she inquires first of all, keen violet eyes taking in the man and his habitat in a glance as she knows he must have done hers.
"Naturally," Jurian answers. He's on his feet, a hand on the back of a chair. It looks as if he hasn't changed the decor particularly from the standard around here. There is one book on naval tactics on top of the writing desk in the outer chamber, and there is a small golden bull, perhaps of Essosi craftsmanship. Otherwise, the appointments are comfortable but not specially ordered. The door that presumably leads to the bedchamber is currently closed. "To what do I owe the pleasure? Shall I call for wine?"
"It would be fitting," is Vhaerys's opinion, delivered with a wry, pleasantly amused twist of her lips. She takes a step or two through the sitting-room and then drifts nearer the door she left casually open behind her. "I found something of yours," she confides, "misplaced in the hall downstairs… something I thought you might appreciate having restored to you directly."
"Sorry?" Jurian asks, caught rather off guard. He's probably more accustomed to being the arch one setting up uncomfortable situations for other people. "I can't think of anything I'm missing…"
The princess, rather more accustomed than he to the married state, lifts an eyebrow. He'll have to learn to think, won't he? "A little robin," she explains drily, "who has been told it is time for her to leave her father's nest." And, regarding him closely, she extends a hand through the doorway in an elegant gesture, palm-up, and beckons Aelia forward to join them.
"What?" Jurian asks. When his eyes go round with surprise, the resemblance between him and Aelia is especially apparent. Aelia may need a little prod from her maid to get her going in response to the beckoning gesture, but she soon appears in the doorway. "Aelia, you're /early/," Jurian can't help complaining.
"Robins rise before dawn," Aelia answers.
The conjecture is proven. And yet Vhaerys, an interested spectator at this touching reunion of brother and sister, husband and wife to be, lingers; she folds her arms over her chest and regards them with benevolent curiosity. "I was certain," she adds to Jurian, "you'd wish to know at once that she had arrived… Aelia, child, have you a letter for your brother?" she suggests. That may offer some further initiation into Baelon and Aenerya's thinking; and if only she can goad Jurian into opening it straight away, in front of her…
Aelia gives Vhaerys a 'huh' look, but sure enough, at the prompt the handmaiden sidles up and slips a letter into Aelia's hand. Aelia looks down at it as if it appeared there by magic, then holds it out at Jurian, who is already struggling to conceal his annoyance. He reads over the letter quickly and only /slightly/ crumples it in his grip. "Well!" he says, jaw momentarily clenched, "Apparently father in his great wisdom has sent you here to await our union. How thoughtful." Aelia for her part senses none of the sarcasm in his tone. She goes up and puts her arms around his neck.
His irritation, her innocent fondness — it's all squirreled away in Vhaerys's capacious mind, as though in a folio lately acquired and marked with his name and then hers. "Perhaps you shall indeed be wed in Oldtown," she remarks, "and sooner than you had supposed. My felicitations to you both."
"Yes, perhaps so," Jurian manages to smile through saying. "But /not/ earlier than is time. I have other matters to attend to before then. It shall be /after/ my nameday." After enduring Aelia hanging round his neck for that long he takes her arms and unloops them, putting them in front of her instead, and pulling her next to him. She doesn't seem resistant.
The display of pliancy is almost enough to content Vhaerys — for the time being. She rests her hand high upon the edge of the open door, leaning into it in a casually graceful pose, indicating the imminence of her departure even as she inquires, "And when shall we celebrate that happy occasion?"
"About a month's time," Jurian says. "I've had a pleasure barge made for the occasion. We can celebrate on the river," he says, trying valiantly not to let that potential pleasure be tainted by this current outrage. "Well, Aunt Vhaerys, how kind it was of you to reunite us," he says in a tone that invites that departure.
"It was nothing, truly." Truly. "I knew," Vhaerys repeats, lifting her shoulders in a slight shrug, "you'd wish to be alerted at once to her arrival, to welcome her in person… How fortunate indeed that she shall be here for your nameday, to act as your hostess." With which pleasant thought she bestows a small smile upon the poor girl, and leaves her to her betrothed.