(123-02-13) A Second Sign
A Second Sign
Summary: Faith, hope, charity, patience, and what makes a woman selfish.
Date: 15-16/02/2016
Related: Charity Begins.

Shallow dishes empty of fruit and plates bare but for crumbs and the occasional tiny crustless sandwich surplus to requirement lie between Lady Margot Rowan and Septa Miranda (once Merryweather), in company with a camaraderie slowly built through their second exchange of hopes, plans, and numbers. And now even the pitcher of lemon water is almost empty, the yellow slices of fruit lying in a sad little heap in scarcely an inch of water.

The lady whose seventh floor chambers these are sits resplendent and shining in her accustomed white linen, ruffled by the slightest of warm summer breezes from windows left ajar. As well as a plate of her own she has before her a leather folio containing pertinent correspondence and her careful notes; there's a silver inkwell next to her silver goblet and to it she restores the fresh white quill with which she was just marking, with pleasure, the product of her multiplications. "Then you may consider," she states gravely, but not without a certain pleasure, "the matter of the toys settled, if we can give them on the later date… I should like to leave those two days between Master Jacor's estimate, and the day we tell the children, in case."

The young septa seems to have thrown herself into the project, spending an almost obessive amount of time and effort in ensuring that as many of the city's youth are reached as possible. Her mind is sharp enough but sometimes she seems to fade out as if her thoughts are elsewhere - but the young woman quickly apologizes and refocuses on the task at hand. "I've yet to be able to speak to the bath-house mistress. I may just end up writing her a letter in request - I know she has her letters so it will not go to waste." Her smile is apologetic again as she ducks her head, "My apologies, Lady Rowan. I've been busy preparing for the rites to be performed at the Festival when not counting heads and small bodies."

Throughout their three meetings Lady Rowan has exhibited a like efficiency, coupled with the courtesy of her birth and the dignity of her present rank; she has not alluded again to the death of her son, nor permitted any sentiments of her own to stand in the way of the work to be done. The only difference in her is that she appears, this fortnight later, a trifle less worn — her eyes are no longer quite such a stark indication of misery. Perhaps she has even been sleeping again. "Of course," she murmurs smoothly; "I imagine this is one of the busiest periods of the year for the Faith… I appreciate even more your willingness to come to me in person at such a time." What's left of the lemon water she pours first for her visitor, and then the final dregs for herself. "The spirit, the sheer stamina with which you approach it all… I find it inspiring, septa. I feel you must truly have found your place in the world, and the Seven be thanked for it."

Miranda smiles at that though it is slow in coming. She ducks her head modestly as her fingertips touch her holy star at her breast. "You are too kind, my lady. I was afforded the chance to serve the Seven and embraced it; for myself at first but I soon learned there is no peace and joy like service to a higher calling." There's a faint flicker in her expression which she politely keeps under check. "I can only hope this task grants you some joy as well, my lady. You seem renewed."

A breath after Miranda's fingers touch her own seven-pointed star, Lady Rowan's casually graze over her gown in a place similar but higher — perhaps where the delicate white golden chain visible about her throat connects to a pendant of some sort worn tucked inside her modest neckline. She doesn't appear to have done it consciously; she's speaking all the while, and studying her visitor. "Thank you… There is a satisfaction in it, to be sure," she acknowledges steadily, "though it is not for such a reason…" She pauses. "I am glad your service has brought you joy, septa. When I was very young," she has a habit at times of speaking as though they are separated by a wider gulf than eight years, "I considered the sept… When I see a calling such as yours, I understand all the better that I had not such a calling myself."

"I do not know how much of my life you know, my lady - nor do I expect you to," Miranda says with a kindly smile. "My husband passed on and I was in need of solace and healing afterwards. My faith had long been my refuge during our marriage and it became one physically when I went to the Motherhouse." She sighs faintly at her memories and sips the remaining lemon-water with delicate care. "My father would prefer me to re-enter the world of men as a widow and a future wife, but the Seven have greater need." She says it with an almost desperate conviction as if trying to convince herself of the words.

Lady Rowan lowers her gaze to the papers her hands have kept so tidy on the table in front of her, and gathers them unnecessarily together to tidy again. "Perhaps I have heard your other life spoken of," she grants, looking up again with a very small, apologetic smile. She lives after all between the two great seats of noble gossip in the Reach, Highgarden and the Hightower. "If you will pardon me for speaking upon a subject so personal… I think, septa, we must believe that everything happens for a reason; and that if upon your husband's passing you were drawn more powerfully to the Seven, if your faith and your vocation were both strengthened, it must be because They called to you. Even kings and queens must obey such a calling. I hope your father will come to respect the strength with which you pursue yours, and to understand that not every maid of high birth must share the same destiny."

The gentle yet resolute words of the white-clad woman give her a bit more strength, her shoulders squaring a touch more than they had and a bit of a weight removed from her expression. "I did have a recent quarrel with a… friend, who thought as my father does. It does not do one good to be told they are selfish for loving the Seven and service to Them. But it would be worse to deny my heart and my calling. I think." She punctuates the last with a tiny smile. "The wisdom of the Crone has not entirely been given to me."

Her hostess shuts her leather folio, as though to signal they've finished the day's more mundane business and may turn freely to matters of greater significance; she listens gravely, and then presses her lips together, so swiftly that if Septa Miranda isn't attentive she might miss it, before taking up arms again in defence of her own beliefs. "Is it selfish to devote yourself to the praise of the gods who made you, and the succour of those whose needs are greatest, in body and soul? Will the Mother find your care for Her littlest children less sweet an offering to her, if they were not borne of your own body? Rather the opposite, I should suppose…" Again that flicker in her expression. "My dear, men will always name a woman selfish, if what she wants does not accord with what they believe she ought to want."

There's a small sigh of joy as she nods, her wimple gently swinging by her sun-tanned cheeks. "I begged our dear Mother for a sign my path was the true one and twice she has given me the words of women who have walked and lived similarly; showing me that my faith is true and my heart following as She would intend. Thank you, Lady Rowan. I lament the disagreement that led me to my fears but am thankful for my faith being made stronger by them."

The habitually poised and restrained Lady Rowan is caught off guard; she breathes in her surprise, sitting up straighter than ever, her clear blue eyes intent upon the septa's face and the light somehow shining now therein. "If I have truly been of aid to you," she says slowly, "then… I thank the Mother for bringing us together, and for placing those words upon my tongue." She bows her head a moment, touching her fingertips on purpose this time to the shape of a seven-pointed star she can feel through the layers of fine white linen which comprise her gown. "Everything for a reason,” she repeats. Then, with a catch in her voice: “Septa, please… If there is anything I might do for you in your present situation… I hope you will ask it of me, in Their name.” She clears her throat quietly. “Though we must be tested — though it is only by persevering with such tests when they come to us that we may find our faith strengthened and purified — somehow I feel that one need not, indeed one ought not, to face such tests alone. Surely it is not the Mother’s way ever to deny one of Her children a hand offered in comfort.”

"No, there's little you could do for me, Lady Rowan. I simply must be patient and pray that others realize my calling is true and earnest- and not simply a silly young woman hiding herself from the world of men." Miranda offers a small but sincere smile at that.

Saying it once is enough for Lady Rowan; she doesn't press, doesn't insist, but gives a small, carefully reassuring smile. "Then I won't worry. … Patience is a virtue it becomes us all to cultivate," she remarks; "and I hope those most concerned with your life will study it too… be patient with you as you are with them, until the Crone lends them too her wisdom. And I don't think…" She considers, lowering her eyelids as she regards the septa. "That you are hiding yourself. My impression is that a young lady following your path does so in the hope of bringing herself further into the light."

Miranda finishes the last of her lemon-water with a smile. "I hope the festival will show them I am serious about my devotion. I have the honor of assisting with the absolution in the bay this year." Her eyes shine brightly. "I am looking forward to the service. And - of course - the orphan's meals."

"Perhaps seeing with their own eyes the good work you've been doing for the Seven and for Oldtown's children, will soften their objections," agrees Lady Rowan gently. "To understand is often to forgive, don't you find?"

The septa folds her hands primly in her lap. "I can only pray that is true, my lady. My father may be joining us for the Festival but I am unsure. Perhaps he will see then that I am serious and be happy for my choice."

"Then I hope he'll come, and see, and be proud of his daughter." The elder lady breathes out a quiet sigh. "And I shall pray, septa, for your resolve and your joy. Thank you so much for calling upon me today… it was a great relief to see so many of our arrangements in order," she confides as she rises from her elegant little armchair, "and to be certain we didn't begin too late!"

Miranda stands as well, her hand flicking her robes neatly down from her lap. "Yes, it is good to have our plans more solidly laid out. I'll continue to speak to the mistress of the baths - as an added gift to our small ones and their part in the festivities."

Lady Rowan nods as she moves round the table with a swirl of bright white linen skirts, to show her visitor to her well-guarded door. "My thanks to you again," she murmurs, "for all you've done to help my wishes come true."

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