(123-01-24) Fortifications
Summary: In receipt of troubling news, Lady Rowan has one or two small commissions for Camillo, aimed at strengthening her position within the Hightower itself…
Date: 08/02/2016
Related: None

Late one morning Camillo receives via a serving-maid of far lesser significance than he a request to attend upon Margot Rowan, the new Lady of Goldengrove, in the sitting-room she shares with Lady Bryony Tyrell. These two, Hightowers by birth and cousins of Lady Marsei's, came for the wedding and have stayed, and stayed, with a household of waiting-women and septas and small children and nursemaids, mostly attached to the fecund little Lady Bryony, but interchangeable so far as anyone outside their inner circle can determine. Any reasonable person with a Hightower to run would consider it the Garden Isle Manse's turn to host them, or even the Rowan Door Manse's if the lady of that house weren't so famously at odds with her husband, but that a fortnight past a raven brought word of the death of the Rowan heir.

The little lord's mother is said to have taken to her bed in grief. No one seems to have set eyes upon her graceful white-gowned figure since, and Lady Bryony's infectious low laughter no longer echoes in every corner of the tower. Younger male servants are betting upon whether they've bunkered down till the spring, it not yet being autumn. Younger female servants have always gone misty-eyed at the mention of the ill-fated Lady Rowan; now the older ones are getting in on the act. Certainly her generous tips for services rendered are missed.

When Camillo is admitted to the lady's presence he finds her not in black, as might be expected, but in white seemingly purer than ever. She stands before a window overlooking the Whispering Sound, her shoulders slumped and her arms tight around herself, her head slightly bowed as she gazes down into the waters. The very edge of a small piece of parchment may be glimpsed sticking out of one pale hand. His knock, his admittance, the words of the maid… she doesn't seem conscious of anything much. High-pitched children's voices can just be heard from an adjoining chamber; but she is at present alone.

Camillo is quiet as ever slipping in. He is never one to make much disturbance with his coming or goings, but now especially he seems to leave not a ripple behind him. "My lady," he says, voice as soft as his steps. "One of the maids said I might be of some use."

At the sound of a man's voice in this den of petticoats, where the only trousers are as a rule quite short ones, Lady Rowan turns suddenly as though surprised; her fine blue eyes find Camillo's face and reveal themselves to be wider than eyes have any need to be, and faintly swollen besides.

Her arms relax. She settles into a posture in which she appears less poised for flight. "Yes," she breathes out, "Camillo." There's a pause. "I understand you're the man to speak with," she suggests, essaying a slight smile, "regarding a change of quarters… My sister and I have no complaint about these rooms, of course, we've found them charming. But we feel for the children's sake it might be preferable to move higher, into the clearer air, now that most of the wedding guests have gone. Perhaps the seventh or the eighth floor, if there should be a suite of the right size empty…?" Her speaking voice is low, soft, a trifle detached. Correct as always.

"Higher, my lady?" Camillo repeats, nodding his understanding. "I am sure something can be arranged, with some of the guests departing, as your ladyship says." Because they have not known one another long, and because she is a lady of refined manners, he is careful to address her properly. "But will it be all right for the children, to have all the stairs to climb, my lady?"

The piece of parchment is now out of sight, tucked away more deeply within Lady Rowan's hand as it rests upon her opposite arm. "The little ones can be carried when they're tired," she explains seriously, "and for the older ones it will be good exercise, as it always was for us when we were children and forever running up and down to the beacon…" The curve of her full pink lips deepens, only to droop back into a straight line. Thinking, perhaps, of a boy who'll never climb the Hightower. She swallows, and changes the subject. Every word now measured with care, as she stands there still as a statue.

"Of course I know that waiting upon us in higher chambers will entail more labour for you and the other staff," a subject one might well have suspected her of failing ever to consider, given her wardrobe of white gowns to be kept spotless — fresh bleached linen today rather than silk, with loose sleeves and delicate flounces, "and I assure you our own women are prepared to do as much as they can to look after us. I hope we shan't be too great an inconvenience to you, if such a change can indeed be arranged."

Smallfolk who don't grow up in tenements probably rarely have stairs in their houses at all, but Camillo seems to accept the answer easily enough, gaze wandering a bit to the side as he tries not to see the lady's smile bloom and then fade. But then he glances back to her face. "It is no trouble for the staff, my lady. They must climb, regardless. We will have it arranged before very long. Are there any other…preparations you would like, for the new chamber?"

"Only, I think, that we would appreciate it very much if the change could be made soon," suggests Lady Rowan, with studied tranquillity. A thought occurs. "Though perhaps if the gardeners could spare a few vases of lilies for our new suite—? They are Lady Bryony's favourite," she explains, "and with so many guests, moreover guests of importance, naturally we haven't had our pick of the flowers." Even that isn't a complaint, somehow, when uttered in those reserved, cordial tones; though she does glance at the dining-table, at a bowl of colourful blooms of a more modest kind. The leavings indeed.

"Yes, my lady," Camillo says softly. "I am certain we can find something. But otherwise we will make the change as quickly as possible. "Is tomorrow morning soon enough? I want to have time to be sure everything is quite clean, for the children. But otherwise it is only a matter of changing linens and moving things."

"Tomorrow morning would be ideal." The small smile makes another appearance, deliberately, in honour of Camillo's courtesy and consideration. "I'll see that our packing is begun as soon as possible. Thank you so much for attending to this matter for us," and her eyes meet his in brief token of her sincerity, "as I know you attend to so many others for House Hightower."

Camillo seems just a little surprised that the lady should acknowledge his work for the house, but he nods. "It is my duty, my lady," he says. "And I am pleased to do it. If there is any other thing you think of, please send word at any time."

Dark hair ripples about Lady Rowan's white shoulders as she nods her head to him just once. "Thank you, Camillo. We most certainly shall."

It is a dismissal; he has his hand on the doorknob and is beginning to turn it when she lets out a low "Oh!" intended to arrest his flight. "Perhaps," she allows, "there is one other small thing you might do for me…" A suspicious man, adding the smoothness of that phrase to the calm of her visage, might wonder whether this isn't what it's really all about.

Camillo is moving alread toward the door, but he stops when the lady thinks of something else, and turns back to face her. "Yes, my lady," he says. His tone does not betray suspicion, but he generally keeps such things to himself on the job.

The lady regards him in silence for the length of a breath, perhaps considering her next words, perhaps considering the man to whom she proposes to speak them. She displays not a single sign however of discomposure, beyond that pause. "I wonder if you might by any chance be in a position to inform me," she murmurs, "if and when a certain person should cross the bridge to the island…? Inform me immediately, I should say," and as she stresses that word, she lowers her pointed chin and yet her eyes once again find his.

Camillo hesitates just briefly at that request. "Well, my lady, I am not always present in the Hightower, but I can give instructions to be sure that someone informs you, if you wish," he offers. "Who…are we to be watching for?"

"Lord Antony Rowan," explains Lady Margot Rowan, calmly, coolly, though without specifying what sort of a welcome she intends to prepare for her husband, should he climb how many flights of stairs to her.

The faintest tilt of Camillo's head registers that name. "I see, my lady," he replies, carefully neutral. "You wish to know if your husband, Lord Rowan, is approaching. I will give word to the guards and the maids."

Holding that fragment of parchment hidden beneath her palm Lady Rowan agrees, "I do wish to know. Thank you. Of course I am usually… in my chambers," she mentions, keeping at the last moment from saying 'here', "though I propose this evening, when it is cooler outside and everyone is at dinner, to take a turn in the gardens." She pauses. "Thank you again, Camillo."

She moves at last from her place silhouetted by the window, where her face has all along been somewhat in shadow; her arms unfold; her hand dips into a hidden pocket of her crisp white linen gown. Her movement brings a soft cloud of some white floral fragrance in which lilies are a dominant note, and a very faint clinking, audible only because of the hush in the chamber, explained when she offers him half a dozen cool and gleaming silver moons. Now of course she doesn't meet his eyes. This is offhanded, discreet, one of those small matters of course for which she doesn't expect to be thanked in turn.

Camillo tucks the coins away deftly, as if they were never there. "Very well, my lady. I'll bring word to you as soon as the new chamber is prepared. Good day, my lady."

Another low, ladylike "Thank you" follows him from the chamber; and then Lady Rowan releases a deeper breath and returns to her contemplation of the ocean.

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