|The Flower and the Bluebird|
|Summary:||Lady Marsei meets a little bird.|
|Related:||A Little Bird Tells Me...|
Hightower Square - Oldtown
This is a broad cobblestoned square, ringed by grand buildings hewn from stone. A massive fountain, also hewn from the same strong grey stone, stands in its center. It is wrought in the form of the Hightower in miniature. A tiny flame burns at its peak, and crystal waters pour from its base, pouring down the stony pedestal into the mirror-smooth pond below.
Stone benches offer places to sit, vendors cry their many wares, merchants ply their trade, and all around one can see the finely-dressed Oldtown wealthy meandering about. There is a pleasant smell of cooking food in the air, tingeing the ever-present smell of the salt sea, and a hint of perfumes and spices.
To the West, the Hightower street leads away. To the South, the archway to the Beacon Boulevard rises. To the North, with the Watch House standing alongside, is a stretch of street leading to the Beacon Gate and out to the Roseroad beyond. The cobblestone market square is quite clean and fresh, with nary a sign of any beggars, street rats, or grimy peddlers hawking stolen goods. The buildings here are in pristine condition.
Before evening takes a full hold, Lady Marsei takes advantage of the fine day to stroll through Hightower Square, browsing the wares the vendors have to offer. She's unaccompanied, a rare thing, although men wearing Hightower colours, not far off, may or may not be lingering on the outskirts of the Square when the lady is ready to be walked back home. She carries a quaint basket (empty, as yet) and wears a gown primarily of pristine white, trimmed with a scattering of delicate pink silk flowers around the neckline, and dyed softly at the bottom of the skirt; altogether daring cloth to wear out of doors, braving dust and dirt, but cobblestones are cleanly swept, nearly as pristine as the noblelady, inspiring confidence.
It really is a beautiful hour, perfect for setting off lovely ladies to their best advantage, so it is well that Marsei is not the lone noblewoman in the square. For Aelia soon becomes visible on the path with a red-haired maid. Aelia is young and lovely, if slight, in a lavender gown, and at the moment quite animated. "I /must/ have blue," she is crying excitedly, interrupting her gait with a little hop. "I am blue and must have blue. And /no/ snakes!" The maid nods and says something in a soothing tone, putting out a hand to stroke the young Targaryen's arm. The maid is built more sturdily than Aelia without being quite heavy, and has a pretty, rounded face. She doesn't seem the least surprised by her lady using such unhushed tones or sprinkling skips and hops among her steps.
Marsei is forever drawn to the vendors selling fabrics, although there's nothing remarkably new about the offerings and she has finer waiting for her at home. She fawns quietly over them all the same, more as a pastime than a true shopping tactic. Aelia's words drift to her ear, and something about her enthusiasm (and, truth be told, mention of snakes or lack thereof) pulls her attention; more, when glimpsing the skipping steps and the potentially Targaryen look of her. She rises from what had become a slight interested lean toward the rainbow of fabrics, smiling in the direction of Aelia and her maid without quite beckoning them.
In truth, Aelia is drawing more than just Marsei's gaze, but most of the people don't smile. Most of them look a little apprehensive. But Aelia is much more drawn to smiles. Especially since Marsei is there amongst the fabrics. "Look!" she says to her maid, already headed off in that direction, though the maid has taken hold of her hand now and is slowing her down a little. "She has beautiful red hair like you do!" She's on a march straight for Marsei, smiling.
Marsei, listening from afar as well as watching, pays close attention to Aelia and the way her maid reacts to her lady — it's familiar, given that the Hightower's own husband must often be handled with caution in not a wholly dissimilar way. Her smile is unfading, welcoming. "Hello," she greets with an easy kindness to both the lady and her maid, she of the red hair. "And how lovely yours is," she tells the rounder-faced woman softly, to say nothing of her own ginger locks, and turns attention to the blonde. "Have we met? I don't imagine I've seen you before," she says like a regret.
Aelia seems very pleased to be greeted while the maid seems to blush with genuine modesty at the compliment. Her hair is a fine shade, and kept quite long, perhaps because Aelia likes it so or perhaps out of secret pride. Aelia is a little smaller than Marsei, but not by /so/ very much. She beams at her sunnily. "My name is Aelia," she says. "I am a bluebird! You are very beautiful," she adds unreservedly.
Normally, it would be Marsei's turn for a rush of modesty; now, however, she's overcome with bright realization — followed by a brief moment of blinking when the woman announces that she is a bluebird. "Princess Aelia!" She beams sunnily right back, lighting up. "I have been so looking forward to meeting you, ever since I heard you were in Oldtown visiting your brother," she says sincerely, "My name is Marsei. Hightower— but married to one of your kin, Prince Dhraegon," she explains, uncertain how up to date on such things Aelia might be. "He spoke so kindly of you."
Aelia hops back a little when Marsei exclaims, but then reaches forward immediately to take one of Marsei's hands in both of hers. "You are a flower!" she says to Marsei with earnest enthusiasm and recognition. "Prince Dhraegon said that you and I are going to be friends," she says, looking into Marsei's eyes, smiling wide. "I am going to stay in Oldtown, so you will be my friend here." That's said with a little more seriousness and resolve, accompanied by a small, decisive nod. "Prince Dhraegon is very large and wonderful."
Marsei is slightly taken aback, although not all with distaste, seeming rather pleasantly thrilled by Aelia, odd compliments and all, once she recovers. She laughs lightly, a musical sound, her smile widening, all bright teeth. "He is!" she agrees. "But he didn't tell me you were a bluebird," she adds — it sounds quite like the revelation is a compliment, the way she says it, sweet and intrigued. "And I should like very much to be friends. Did Dhraegon tell you we shall have a party, in our garden?"
Aelia twists a little without letting go of Marsei's hand so that the hem of her dress flares a bit. Even though it isn't blue. "I don't remember, but I am looking forward to it," she says enthusiastically. "He said that I could meet the Flower, so I am very pleased." She takes one hand off of Marsei's, but the other moves to take her hand more casually. "Help me find a nice blue," she requests, since Marsei seems on-board with the bluebird business. "I like grassland with scattered trees."
Marsei watches Aelia with outright fascination. Unlike most glances her way, thinking the Targaryen a plainly strange creature, hers would rather peg the young woman as a beautiful wonder of nature. Strange is secondary. Strange gives Marsei pause to consider grassland with scattered trees. "Of course," she agrees happily, tugging her hand along with a friendly hold, as if they've known each other longer than a minute. "There's plenty of fabric right here; I know there's more than one blue. You'll need the bluest of blue."
"That's right," Aelia agrees, a little wide-eyed at how perfectly Marsei grasps her needs from the get-go. "I think flowers will be good at choosing colors," She hypothesizes. To make further conversation as she peers at the fabric, she volunteers: "I once heard a story about a man who transformed into a bluebird to meet his love." She pauses and blinks. "I suppose she must have lived in a tower or a tree."
Slipping the handle of her basket onto the wrist of the side not claimed by Aelia, Marsei browses the fabric, touching it here and there to move corners aside to look for hidden blues. She looks from the wares to Aelia, curious about the story. "I don't think I've heard that one, but it sounds lovely," she confesses. "It must not have been the Hightower; I've never seen a bluebird fly so high, at least not as high as the upper floors." A thoughtful pause; not wanting to possibly worry this person turned bluebird, she smiles reassuringly, "but you should have no trouble!"
"That /does/ seem very high," Aelia allows realistically. "At least, the top. But your garden is not at the top, is it?" She seems to trust that it is not. "I am supposed to not go very high by myself." Her maid drops a few paces back since Aelia seems in Marsei's charge now and Marsei doesn't look distressed by it. "Yes…they turned him into a bluebird because they wanted him to marry the wrong girl," she recalls. She looks at Marsei. "Do people marry wrongly very often?"
Marsei has an instantly reassuring smile - her smile is, almost by default, reassuring — but it begins to fade ever-so-slightly in consideration over Aelia's question. She looks over the fabrics while she answers. The vendor has heard the word "blue" enough times that he's making a harried attempt to push the blue fabrics to the forefront and pulling out a new bolt of vivid cerulean silk. "… Yes. Too often. They are caged," Marsei answers quietly, looking to Aelia for her response.
"Oh," Aelia answers, brow puckering a little. "That sounds very sad. Do other people help to release them?" She looks curiously at the different choices of blue before her. "And what is the best blue?"
"If they can." Marsei looks on Aelia with empathy, whether the woman knows she's deserving of it or not. "I think these are the purest of blues," she says more cheerfully of a gathering of a few fabrics, including the new shade the vendor has just laid out. "What one do you like best?" While Aelia theoretically dwells on that, Marsei casually — but nevertheless with a hint of concerned, vested interest — poses, "Do you look forward to being married yourself, Aelia?"
Aelia bounces just a little while she considers her options, then picks one that she considers closest to the color she's seen on a bluebird. Or at least, a picture of a bluebird. She seems happy about the choice, but is reluctantly distracted by Marsei's question, which she considers more seriously. "Yes, they are pleased with the match and Jurian is the heir so we will have the same home always," she explains. "I have not met very many men but I have always known Jurian."
"Dhraegon lives in the Hightower with me — it's wonderful to stay living in the home that was always mine," Marsei says, by way of relating, though a look of concern lingers in her eye over talk of Jurian. She turns her attention purposefully back to the fabric, though, laying a hand admiringly over Aelia's choice. "It's beautiful! I think it's perfect. A bluebird blue."
Aelia stands close beside Marsei, allowing her less personal space than most would. "That is very nice of him to come to you," she says. "Sometimes bluebirds gather in scores and /scores/ until a whole clearing goes blue." That's not necessarily related. The servant steps up and gives the merchant money and information on how much fabric exactly is wanted. Aelia blinks a few times. "Dhraegon said something important about eggs. And tea…"
"Did he?" Swept out of what was most certainly an imagining of a clearing of bluebirds, Marsei's concern switches paths slightly, and she glances at the merchant almost nervously, suddenly wishing he would hurry up his effort to hand the fabric over to the servant but is too polite to even consider saying so. She doesn't seem to mind Aelia's proximity; rather than treating it as an invasion, she in fact turns and leans slightly toward the Targaryen to ask, soft brows raised, "Do you remember what it was he said?"
"No," Aelia admits, blinking at Marcei a few times. "But I think I was supposed to." Her gaze wanders in search of information. "It was about eggs." She's sure about that. "Do you think he'll be angry if I forgot?"
"Not at all," Marsei assures with certainly so absolute, it's effervescent. "Dhraegon is not one to anger." Turning more fully away from the fabrics, she begins to stroll hand-in-hand with Aelia, an idle walk that has little direction except to lead by happenstance to the fountain in the center of the square. "I expect…" She presses her teeth to her lower lip for a second or two before continuing, upbeat but with a tone of ladylike conspiracy, "I expect he meant to talk to you about babies."
Aelia seems pleased, more than happy to wander with no apparent destination, wherever Marsei leads. "Oh, yes," she says, recalling at the prompting. "About if I don't want them. But having them is normal, isn't it?" She tilts her head. "Do you have babies? Bluebirds have two to four broods. But the males and females look the same."
"Two to four, and how many eggs? Oh, it sounds quite overwhelming to be a bluebird mother." Marsei shakes her red head; not sorrowful nor regretful nor wistful, either, a simple fact. "I don't have any babies," she answers; however personal, it's Aelia who she watches with wonder. "It's expected, so that makes it normal— having them. But I suppose it's not meant to be for everyone."
Aelia nods several times. "Bluebird eggs are light blue," she says. "But /sometimes/ white. I don't know why." She loks thoughtfully over at Marsei. "But flowers must be very different in babies. So that is all right."
"Not so different," Marsei reflects, but says no more on that particular note, no matter how many odd and confusing gardening metaphors she's learned from Dhraegon. They approach the fountain, and she watches the water flow from the miniature stone Hightower with a fond familiarity for the piece of art. "Dhraegon told me you would sing."
Aelia looks into the fountain, but soon turns to regard Marsei with a fresh smile. "Do you like songs and singing?" she asks.
"I love them!" Marsei returns with absolute, merry enthusiasm. "Mostly— listening to them. It's rather another matter if I have to sing around people," she admits freely, smiling, "I am … no songbird."
"Then I will sing to you!" Aelia resolves. "But at the party. It will be best, then." Her servant finally catches up to them with the bundle of cloth.
"Oh, I'm so looking forward to it," Marsei says with a cheerful little swing of her arms, swaying both Aelia's arm and her basket. "I hope you like the garden party; I think you will. Do feel free to visit me at the Hightower, even besides," she offers— since they've been deemed friends.
Aelia sways a little with pleasant anticipation. "Bluebirds go tu-a-wee when they are looking for each other, but when they sing long songs they go on a high branch," she says. Then she smiles. "I will pay calls if I am allowed," she says. "I am already allowed to go out much more."
Marsei tips her head to one side, quite intrigued by Aelia's knowledge of birds. Curiosity stretches beyond as she inquires softly, "May I ask who determines if you are allowed?"
"Well, when I am at home it is father," Aelia explains, wide-eyed. Though she is so different in manner, there is a resemblance between her and Jurian, after all. "And the servants have to do as he says and I have to do as they say. But here it is different and I ask Mae or Jurian and they decide if it is wise," she concludes. "They say I will get lost or go places I am not meant to be if I am alone. But things look very different if you fly or if you go along the ground."
"The Hightower is the safest place in all the city." Although it has the sound of something she's been made to recall with family pride ever since childhood, Marsei is utterly reassuring in this, too. "No harm would come to you under my roof, and you shan't be alone." A warm reassurance is directed back at the maidservant, in lieu of Jurian.
"He says I should try to be quiet at formal gatherings," Aelia further reports. "But. I will sing at your party anyway!" She lets out a small laugh.
Marsei gives a little laugh as well, gentle and overlapping. "Good!" The laughter colours the word buoyantly. "It will be a small party, of friends, and so he need not worry." She turns and holds out her empty basket to the maidservant. "For the fabric, in case it rains," she offers; indeed, there's a cloth on the bottom of the basket in case of such an event. Turning back to Aelia, she frees her hand, only to rest it companionably on the Targaryen's shoulder. "But for now perhaps we should each go home before it grows dark."
The maid dips a quick curtsy and gently places the fabric in the basket. She looks up at the sky when Marsei mentions darkness. "I am very happy I met you," she says, still looking straight up.
"Yes!" Marsei is quick to agree. "How fortunate we met each other before the garden party." She finds herself looking straight up at the sky as Aelia does and smiles, amused, when she realizes her mimicry. "Have a good walk back," she tells the two of them, mostly Aelia, letting her hand drop. Walk? Fly? "And I will see you soon."