(123-01-25) Summit Meeting
Summit Meeting
Summary: For the first time in eight years, in the aftermath of their son's demise, Lord Rowan pays a call upon his absentee lady.
Date: 09/02/2016
Related: None

A pair of Hightower guardsmen flank the door of the small parlour on the seventh floor into which Lord Rowan of Goldengrove, in quest of his wife after her eight-year absence from his keep, is duly conducted.

The room is charming, fresh, quiet. The woman occupying it is the same, at a glance: dressed for the Oldtown summer heat in a plain and pristine gown of white linen, modestly cut and without any adornment but her wedding ring, more slender than he'll recall her and with a complexion become again as flawless as when he wed her. Her hair falling in soft black waves about her shoulders. Her eyes lifting from the embroidery frame set up before her, to find his face and show themselves hardly creased by time, but dark beneath, and swollen till the delicate skin of her eyelids has more pink in it than her lips.

Her embroidery occupies the best light, as ever, she sitting slightly shadowed beyond the frame; by the second window sits a septa, reading aloud from a holy text, breaking off at the servant's announcement of their visitor.

Someone must have told her he'd arrived in the city, or that he'd come over the bridge to find her — there's no shock in her, only a reserved and untouchable dignity, and she says no more to him than: "My lord."

Antony is a broad-shouldered man and takes up a goodly portion of the doorway as he stands in it, looking down at his wife. Despite his beard, his face looks pinched beneath the cheekbones, at least to one who knows it well. His hair, too, is dark as ever, though his face has probably gathered more lines in the past eight years than Margot would remember. He is clearly still a man who spends much time in the sun and the wind. His posture is correct and rigid. "My lady. We have things to discuss. Send the septa out."

"Septa Melarie is privy to all my discussions," Lady Rowan explains tranquilly, "for I hope I say nothing that is not fit for her ears. However, if you prefer it." She looks away from her husband and nods to the septa, a woman of about her own age and not bad looking, as far as can be discerned in those shapeless grey robes, with her hair and half her face hidden.

The book is shut; there's a rustle of grey towards the door.

"Wait for me outside, if you please."

"Yes, my lady."

Antony says absolutely nothing until the septa has gone out of the room. He steps inside in order to make room for her to go. Once she has quit the chamber, he looks to Margot. "I thought that after eight years I might have lost the ability to predict what you would say," he says. "But there you did not disappoint me." He takes a breath and lets it out audibly. "I thought you might have come to see the grave."

When there's only one correct thing to say, what can she do but say it? … Though in these present waters, even Lady Margot Rowan's maps and charts may not quite suffice for navigation. She spends a moment in threading her fine silver needle through the cloth stretched across the frame before her, and then her hands come to rest in her white linen lap. She doesn't quite look at him. "I have not felt capable of the journey," she explains softly.

"He is laid amongst his ancestors," Antony continues with grim determination, gaze firmly on Margot's eyes. "And I put up a stone near the place where he fell." He does his best to appear as stone, but the edge of his voice still subtly bleeds for the boy.

His wife manages to keep her eyes open, albeit unfocused on anything in particular in this pretty chamber, until he utters the word 'fell'. Then they close tightly and her mask of calm almost becomes a grimace before she… controls herself. She has always been a champion at controlling herself.

She sits there in the dark with her imaginings for a long moment before clearing her throat and lifting her eyelids. A discreet sound, unnaturally loud in the silence left her to fill. "The letter didn't mention precisely how…" He died. "Only that it was…" A hunting accident.

Antony is quiet for a long moment, mouth pinched and small. He sometimes looks like this before he yells. But he doesn't yell now. He's quiet. "He was…riding very well, in the hunt. Flying first. But…he was thrown. We are not sure if…the horse tripped on a root or if it was spooked by…a bee or…a snake." He sounds tired recounting some of the theories. "But it threw him hard, and when I got to him, there was…" Nothing he could do. Antony squints against any moisture that threatens to collect in his dark eyes. "I sent the horse elsewhere."

It may be that look about his face, visible out of the corner of Lady Rowan's eye, that inspires her to sit so absolutely still, to keep herself so absolutely contained, to avoid meeting his gaze, to speak as little as possible. The old habits coming back, after eight long years.

She listens to this tale of misadventure, and she notably fails to reassure him that she knows he did all he could. "A bee," she echoes dully, "or…" And then, "The horse…" There's nothing she can do with that knowledge, yet, except parrot it. A bee, a snake, a root — and her son is dead? "… What garments did you bury him in?" she asks, an oddly feminine worry.

Antony pulls his jaw slightly to one side as though he almost does not like to give Margot the satisfaction, but he admits, "The fine things with the rowan trees." Though he may not have liked to see the boy run round in the clothes much while he lived, he could hardly turn away from the garments of his own house and bury the boy in something poorer. Of course, he does not acknowledge what hand made them now. "They…" Whatever he was going to say, he doesn't. "It's all done and seen to. You might've sent some word if you wanted something else done."

The hands that embroidered hundreds — thousands? — of rowan trees in every size and hue for that boy as he grew, weedlike, from year to year, tremble where they're knitted together in Lady Rowan's lap. She breathes out, her eyes gleaming with some sudden release of emotion. "Thank you," she manages after a moment, "for seeing to it." For putting her arms around her son just once more, which is all she has been wishing to know, these last weeks. She adds in tones of resignation, "What word could I have sent? It was too late."

Antony's nostrils quiver. "I did it for him," he says, still keeping his voice soft as a means of controlling himself. Not for her, he implies. "And now," he says, "It is time for you to come back to me. I have been as indulgent as I possibly could these last eight years, but I can extend no more patience. You can return with me to Goldengrove when you are well enough to travel and see things for yourself. And return to your duties."

Those blunt words from her lord don't seem to surprise Lady Rowan any more than did his advent in her parlour; she listens, she breathes in and out, and she blinks the tears from her exhausted blue eyes and lets them roll unheeded down her cheeks as she returns her gaze to her embroidery. She slips her needle free of the plain cloth edging outside the frame, which has become marked already by the tiny paired pocks of such pauses, and essays another tiny, infinitely delicate stitch. It's a winter garden she's creating, perhaps to cover a chair, in silver and gold and white: a wilderness of golden rowan trees barren of leaves, flowers, and fruit, and snowdrifts covering whatever blooms might have grown beneath. Of course so far it's chiefly an outline sketched upon the cloth. One tree is complete. "How many minutes," she muses in a soft, low voice, almost to herself; "three, or four? How many minutes for Gareth," and she is the first to speak his name, "before you began to…"

Antony shakes his head immediately when she mentions the boy's name. "No," he says. "Do not dare. When you were not even /there/, when you /left/ your own home and your child and you make /yourself/ the martyr, do not /dare/ to say I did not love that boy, that I did not care for him, that I did not see to him, that I did not—" His voice gets louder in spite of himself until he cuts himself off and starts low again. "I cannot move time. We are where we are."

Lady Rowan's shoulders shake once when her husband's voice reaches a certain pitch; and then, appalled by that most of all, she stiffens herself against any recurrences of such weakness and stares deeply, fixedly into her miniature silken world of order and quiet and delicacy. "How is your lady mother?" she inquires, feinting further away from the subject which can only ever be the subject between them, now. "I hope she was pleased with the gift of handkerchiefs I sent her some little while ago." Embroidered, of course, with a border of the Dowager Lady Rowan's favourite flowers.

"The Seven Hells do you care how she is?" Antony retorts. "Go and see her. She is bereaved. She has a son humiliated by a wayward wife and a prospect of death without grandchildren. How would you be?" His jaw is set, now, and he is ready for battle.

The lady's cheeks are quite wet with tears she won't deign to acknowledge, or to show to her husband more than in profile. "I know how I am," is her rather wooden answer to that, as she places another slow, precise stitch. She told her husband once that if only he had a quiet indoor pastime to calm him, perhaps he wouldn't frighten the servants so much with his shouting. It was not a helpful remark. "I cannot imagine she is much better; and I regret sincerely any pain I have brought to add to what she must already bear."

Antony snorts air out of his nose like a bull. "Will you or will you not return?" he asks bluntly, able to think of nothing better to say in return for that.

"As you see, my lord." Lady Rowan pauses. The silvery tip of her needle breaks through again; she swallows. "I am not well, and I have no wish for a scene."

"By which you mean 'no,'" Antony concludes. "And you don't want to be troubled by the consequences of that 'no.' You would like for me to go away and leave you in your retreat to ignore your duties indefinitely while carrying on draped in my house colors. I tell you, I will not wait forever. Do you hear?" he wants to know.

"… Tell me," inquires Lady Rowan softly as she stitches, "is Goldengrove fallen into rack and ruin under your lady mother's care? Does she not see the servants set your supper before you at the appropriate hour, and sweep your chamber daily, and launder your smallclothes? Has your house lost its wealth or its high position for want of a word in the right ear among my relations? Have you not all the amusements you prefer, with your horses and hounds and hawks, your wine and your ale and your dice? Is it my harp you find so indispensable, or my incessant stitching, or my foolish fiddly handwriting?"

"Do not pretend to misunderstand me," Antony says in a warning tone. "Or to think that wine and dice are on my mind at such a time." His lips thin into a hard line. "You are no wife. And if you will not /be/ one, I will find a way to free my house of you and find another. You may find me repellent, but others would count themselves lucky to have me." He tugs one of his sleeves straight. "I suppose there is not much point in trying to discuss it any more. If you wish to find me, I am at the Rowan Door Manse."

Another stitch. This in a darker shade of white, a shadow upon one of her burgeoning snowdrifts. "I wondered if you would say it." Lady Rowan looks straight at him, then, confronting him with the tear-tracks running down her cheeks and the signs of sleeplessness and grief and tense restraint in her still-youthful ivory face. "I wondered what else you would say to me, when that boy I carried in the warmth of my body for nine moons has barely cooled. And now I see…" Her eyes look up into his with a steely reluctance, as though she's burning into her memory a scene of carnage. "Simply what a peerless opportunity you see. My lord, no woman would count herself fortunate to be subject to you. You have my word upon the matter."

Antony returns Margot's gaze and, though his face isn't contorted, it is furious. "You were hardly a mother to that boy," he snaps. "And I do not know how any man can tell real sorrow from false in a woman like you who can fill jugs with crocodile tears! Fine, then. Make your own reality where you were the one who looked after the boy and watched him through every sickness and injury, where I refused to touch you and snuck off in the night!" He goes to the door and grabs the handle. "I leave you to your selfishness." And at that he steps into the hallway and slams the door.

Lady Rowan flinches, turning her head away. But when Septa Melarie returns a moment later she finds her lady composed, dry-faced, intent upon her embroidery.

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