(123-01-12) Cloistered with the Crone
Cloistered with the Crone
Summary: Marsei investigates the reason for Leire's sequester.
Date: 12 January 2016
Related: —-

It's been two days and two nights since Marsei has last seen Leire. She'd completed their usual nighttime routine, brushing out the noblewoman's hair, preparing her for sleep by bringing peace to her heart through prayer. And then Leire excused herself from the chamber. Their usual routines were interrupted from then. No morning prayer. No afternoon walks in the garden. No promenades to the sept. No one else could explain the septa's absence.

The door to Leire's chamber, if (when) Marsei eventually attempted knocking on it, or opening it, was locked from within, a sign of its occupation. Knocks and calls go unanswered. The septa has sequestered herself, and a tray of food left at her door sits there untouched.

The more time that Leire is absent — so distinctly removed — the more Marsei's concern and distress rises. Something is wrong; she can feel it in the hole left by Leire's solitude. That distress is beginning to peak now when, in front of the septa's door, in front of the neglected tray of food, Marsei makes a heartfelt and concerted effort to reach out and make contact. She lays both hands on the door, one curling into a fist, knocking, not for the first time. "Leire," she calls, soft, only because she does not want to alert anyone passing the hall. "Are you in there?" What if she isn't in there— ? No, the door is locked… she knocks harder. "Leire, I'm worried about you."

There is only silence from the other side of the door. No amount of pleading would seem to work to Marsei's advantage.

A frown pulls Marsei's lips taut; she rests her forehead against the door as she leans toward it, stretched just so beyond the tray at her feet. She sighs for a long moment and slowly peels herself away.

She whisks her way down the hall.

It isn't so long before she returns, followed by the ghostly jingle of metal-on-metal of one of the Hightower's many key-rings for its almost uncountable hallways. She singles out a blackened skeleton key — it likely opens half the doors in this whole hall - and settles it quietly into the keyhole, wincing with some regret as she opens the door. She calls out softly again as she does. "Leire…?"

The room is cloying with the smell of burning incense, a dozen candles lit throughout and a dozen more burned into a pile of wax. It's the only light in the chamber, and though it's the middle of the day the window is darkened to block out the sun. Leire's prone form is visible before the statue of the Crone that Marsei gave her for a gift, supplicating at it in a trance-like state. She doesn't stir when the door is slowly opened. Doesn't give any sign of having heard Marsei at all.

It's some relief to see Leire at all. Marsei is hesitant to interrupt the septa in such a deep trance-like state such as this; as she closes the door and steps inside, her feet so light upon the floor she nearly tiptoes as if wary of encroaching. Her eyes water, accosted by incense that also tries to snake into her nose and throat. "L-Leire…" she says worriedly, almost a whisper. She moves to her side, trying to get a glimpse of her face and reaching slowly for her shoulder; she stops just before touch, still holding the set of keys, their harsh jingle chiming suddenly into the quiet space.

Leire's eyes are halfway to unseeing, or rather they seem to see beyond Marsei and the four corners of the room, in whatever dark and heavy prayer she has enshrouded herself in. It seems it will take touch to rouse her from it. Even when Marsei stands there before her, Leire doesn't so much as blink at the sound of her name. She looks well(ish) otherwise, paler than usual, blood splattered at the base of the statue in front of her, a slender blade laid aside the droplets. Marsei knows enough of Leire's methods by now to know it for what it is. An offering.

Marsei slowly kneels beside Leire before she seeks to break her from her trance. She sits in front of the spatters of blood, and as they so often have, their skirts of their gowns — so contrasting, the quiet dove grey and Marsei's sea-green satin — mingling. She puts the keys down in her lap. Only then does she reach out and wrap an arm around the septa, holding her far shoulder. "Leire," she says, her voice a gentle, but decidedly firm nudge.

Like someone rousing from a deep sleep, Leire is stirred by the touch to her shoulder, though she remains bent before the Crone. Where her hands lay flat against the stone floor, her fingers spread, and her shoulders roll backward. She blinks, several times, and at last her eyes turn away from the holy face of the Godhead and to the skirts that mingle with hers.

Marsei touches two fingers — chilled from cool hallways and iron keys — to the smooth line of Leire's jawbone, trying to draw her gaze up from the pool of skirts to her. Her face, her searching, wide, worried, caring gaze. "Where have you gone? So deeply?"

When Leire's hands have pushed her up from her supplication so that she simply sits before the Crone, and beside Marsei, she holds them in her lap. Her palms have each been pricked by the blade, and the crust of blood in the shape of twin crescent moons reveals the source of the splatter on the floor. She doesn't smile to see Marsei, for maybe the first time… ever. Instead, she seems wearied by a burden that the Crone was perhaps not able to lift. "I hoped she would guide me."

That the Crone evidently did not guide Leire is a source of tremendous worry, but no worry is so great as how Marsei imagines Leire must feel for it. The burden Marsei cannot see. She lays her hand upon the septa's nearest wrist, leaning in. "Has something…" she searches quietly, " — did something happen? Is something wrong?" The questions seem too small. "Is it me?" she asks in a small voice with a pang of worry, studying the lack of smile on Leire's face.

Normally, Leire would be fast to reassure the redhead, first to quash the note of concern she hears in Marsei's tone. But it's only another sign of something being rather much amiss that Leire doesn't do so now. She lowers her eyes from Marsei's and says just a single word, a name, in her effort to explain. "Desmond…"

Marsei immediately clamps her jaw, her slender neck turning all to tense cords of fluttering muscles. Her hand instinctively tightens on Leire's wrist but, catching herself, the grip turns reassuring instead of simply tight. She watches the septa so intently her eyes seem to shine in the dark cloistered room. "What did he do now?" It is all she can do to keep the words from utterly rushing out; it's hardly successful.

The hand on her wrist grounds her, lures her back fully from the depths of her prayer. "He has asked me to pray upon whether we might be…" But the words fail her, and Leire hesitates, faltering over them. Her clear eyes fix on Marsei's hand, finding it easier to speak to it than to look upon her face. "He desires marriage." It's barely a whisper.

"Marriage?" Marsei inquires, the word sounding innocent in her confusion. The concept is so bizarre to her that it's difficult to piece together in the way that Leire means. "But…" Slowly, she lets the denial fade, and her brow begins to lower and tense in incredulity. Her throat is dry; it could be the incense… "You mean with— it is you he asked." The noblewoman looks as though she's been punched in the stomach, besides, and reels. It's her turn to look up at the Crone. "Why would he— how could— "

"He has asked me to consider him," Leire affirms, of it being her Desmond has asked. "To consider the life I might have had, if not…" Well, she need not say if not for what. Marsei knows the circumstances of her entrance to service to the Seven. It's so radical a concept to Leire, though, that her decision to ensconce herself in prayer to the Crone is suddenly a logical one. What Desmond has proposed, beyond marriage itself, is utterly radical and beyond the reckoning of a septa.

"He knows you are a septa," Marsei says firmly, harbouring a rare and now stronger resentment for the man. She withdraws her touch to fiddle with the keys in her lap. "To ask such a thing of you…" She trails off, her voice lowering and returning to its more characteristic kindness. "I see now why you were praying so," she says. "But there is no going back on one's vows…" She looks down, lowering her head, wincing ever-so-slightly.

Leire has the look of a chastized child, caught out in her naughtiness. But her slow nod is a knowing one, as if the stern words that cause Marsei to wince for saying them are nothing she doesn't already know herself to be true. "Perhaps I will pray further and see if guidance mightn't yet be had," she suggests, her voice still quiet. Vulnerable, she seems, kneeling before the Crone in what is nearly a three day long vigil. As if praying to the very authority she would renounce in the name of marriage might yield her anything.

Marsei is quiet herself for a moment, though not in prayer; a pink embarrassment colours her cheeks and she shifts her jaw about, frustrated by it. The keys jingle. She reaches out to touch Leire's wrist once more. "You must eat something," she says in gentle argument to the septa's plan to continue praying. "… Is it something that you want," she ventures slowly, clearly not speaking of the food that Leire is lacking; she sounds outright scared to ask, "Are you not… happy, as you are?"

Eating something is beyond Leire just now. She is still too sharply focused on the Crone and on her dilemma. "I am," she says; weaker reassurance than she usually summons for Marsei. "I only never thought to be asked. Or loved." When she glances back to Marsei, it's with the guilt of having taken Desmond into her confidence, and she admits it unwaveringly. "I told him of my mother."

When Leire looks at her, Marsei looks back down. Hair that isn't pinned back by braids at her temples falls forward and she seems to wish to hide behind it. "I will never believe that he deserves to know you," she says, for she can't bear to say love you, and her own guilt flashes across her face for saying so, knowing it can't help Leire's.

"I wouldn't consider him if I didn't think him deserving," Leire answers, simply, as her eyes go back to the Crone. Not to wound Marsei, but coming immediately to Desmond's defense just the same. She seems anxious to return to her prayer, her thoughts beginning to scatter.

The intent was not to wound, but the outcome is the same. Marsei, unsettled by it all, stares at the keys, simply to have something to focus on, clutching the iron loop tight. "I hope you find your answer, truly I do," she says earnestly with a lift of her head. She pushes her way slowly to her feet, recognizing the septa's eagerness to return to prayer. "But know that he is not— he is not the only one to care for you so," the lady says, gently placing a hand on Leire's shoulder before stepping back.

Leire sinks back into her prayer, but not without a last look at Marsei that not only recognizes the wound but would appear to regret having inflicted it. She bows her head thereafter, her lips moving in silent, beseeching prayer.

Marsei steps outside; before she leaves entirely, however, she carries the tray of slightly stale food inside and sets it down next to Leire. She makes sure it makes a small clatter as she sets it down, in the hopes that the septa notices its presence and will eat some time in the future before her fasting leads to fainting. Her departure is silent, then, leaving Leire to her beseeching prayers. Marsei has her own to do.

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