(123-02-22) Dolphin Arts and Crafts and Pies
Dolphin Arts and Crafts and Pies
Summary: The arts and crafts contest is a fixture of the Dolphin Festival. This year however it seems to be mainly a matter of pies. Perhaps that's why a number of cats are bussed in for the occasion.
Date: 22/02/2016
Related: None.

Music can be heard coming from the tourney grounds and the smell of cooking and fresh baked bread, pie, and pastry wafts out on every breeze. People eating dolphin bread, dolphin shaped pasties, meat on a stick, and cakes wander through booths and art displays and gawp at people working in the crafting areas. The music stops and there is a fanfare as the Prince Dhraegon Targaryen and his guards arive, the Prince on the back of a large pale bull with a flwer crown hung from it's horn. The Prince is all in white. Flox, walking alongside the bull and keeping a close eye on his unpredictable Prince, is in a drab sort of blue.

Camillo is a skinny man, but he is known to like a pastry and the Dolphin Festival pastries best of all. As far as crafts go, he looks on them with curious but untrained eyes. He's just heading for a booth that smells excellent when Dhraegon makes his appearance and he stops to look at the bull and the Prince and the Flox.

Janei is standing in with the painting display, where servants have already set up her painting for the upcoming competition. It's still covered, but she seems cheerful and excited to show it off. She's chatting quietly with her maid, as cheerfully as if there was no rank difference between them.

The economy of the Shambles being somewhat depressed when the whole city is preoccupied with its dolphin fervour, Mistress Esme from the grocery shop on the corner of Oldtown Square (not to mention the adjacent butchery) has put on her finest red and blue striped dress and taken a couple of hours from her ceaseless industry to acquaint herself with arts, crafts, and the sort of meat which comes on a little stick, perhaps with a few vegetables interspersed, and a dash of some sauce she can't quite identify. It shouldn't be so good and yet it is. She holds the stick between careful fingers and nibbles another bite from it. She has one eye on the fellow who sold it to her, having marked him down for further interrogation — from which he is rescued only by the advent of a dragon-prince riding almost towards her upon a garlanded white bull. Much like the other smallfolk in the crowd she turns, of course, to watch Dhraegon Targaryen pass by with his retinue. Here and now, her gaze betrays the same curious interest as anyone, but not a whit of recognition…

Dhraegon looks like he wants to slide off the Bull and make a run for the food displays, but Flox gives him a very firm look indeed and he shrinks a little and lets the stable lad lead Rosebud towards the art displays. The Prince is noticeably pouting, but obedient to his minder, it seems as they arrive without mishap. As Flox is handing him down, the Prince asks a little too loudly in that booming voice of his, "Will there be feet this time, do you think?" There is no sign Flox has recognised anyone in the crowd, and his attention does seems to be on his master.

Eonn comes along, slowly. He is mounted on his enormous white mare. The horse seems to be acting as a cat bus at the moment, there are a number of the creatures sitting behind the man, on the mare's ample rump. She's moving slowly enough that it doesn't unbalance them.

Camillo finds that, while looking on at the spectacle, he has drifted nearer to something that smells very appetizing. And Esme happens to be holding it. He notices her just a moment behind the food. "Ah, Mistress Esme," he greets, dipping his head. "Can I ask where you got that?" The food. "It smells very good."

Flox looks grim, "Let us hope not, your Grace." Dhraegon giggles at the 'Your Grace,' and lets Flox lead him into the artwork maze. "Is that Janei?" The Prince gives her a big goofy smile and a wild full arm wave and bounds that way, momentarily surprising his guards, who hurry to catch up. The thwarting over the cakes has already seemingly been forgotten.

With her mouth full of whatever it is, Esme looks away from the white bull and company and gives a friendly nod to Camillo. She swallows and declares: "Well, Master Camillo! … I had it from that fellow over there, the blond one, sleeves too short for his arms." She looks in his direction, nodding again. "It's goat," she explains in confidence, leaning nearer, "but tender'n goat is usually. The shoulder or the thigh I'd think. And fed very well. Comin' upon it here, sold out of a tray round the neck of a fellow I've never seen before along the Shambles — why, I might almost suppose I was eating a stolen goat." She quirks her eyebrows at him and gives her yellow-scarfed head a quick shake. "Not but what I wouldn't recommend it. It's downright tasty."

"Oh," Camillo says, craning his neck to see the stand she means and nods slowly, taking in all this intrigue about stolen goats. "Do you know who the best baker's stand will be?" he asks next. "I expect you hear a lot more than I do, among the city tradesfolk." Some might be surprised to see Camillo trading so many wordsfull, voluntary sentenceswith someone upon the street. But he talks to Esme with fair ease. Of course, she is neither noble nor in the hierarchy of Hightower servants.

Lord Lorant Tyrell is nearby as well, standing not too far from his daughter. The Lord of Highgarden is just finishing up a conversation with one of his men, though he's keeping an eye on Janei, a slight disapproving look on his face on how friendly she's being with the servant. His man turns to carry out whatever order he's been given, and Lorant turns, nodding in greeting to the Targaryen as he makes his way back over to Janei, "Prince Dhraegon." Janei looks up now, smiling brightly and waving back to the Prince, "Hello!"

There's a cat on the pommel of Eonn's saddle, too. Two of them, in fact, sitting check to cheek and looking out over the people. One's a big marmalade tabby, the other a small white one. For his part, the man is looking at Dhraegon's bull.

Another nibble of her illicit goat; then Esme is prompt to answer, "Best bakers I know are Master Terris and his new wife Audra. They're across the way from me and a few doors down in the Shambles — and selling their goods from carts all over the city, these days. I've done business with their family, both directions, for as long as I've been in Oldtown, and all my own pies are baked in their ovens too." She nods seriously. Pies are serious. "I know they've a stall here to sell all their dolphin what-nots — shall we step along and see if we can find it?" she offers, companionably.

Dhraegon seems oblivious to Lord Lorant Tyrell's expression. The massive Prince is focused on a friend he mostly only sees at these sorts of events and stoops to give her a hug, characteristically oblivious to proriety. "I loved the last one so much! It is in my rooms!" The Bull is extremely placid. Whatever Tellur Snow did to it to train it for a riding bull seems to be working. Unless the reason is pharmaseutical. Either way, the Bull slaps at flies with his tail. Two extra guards keep the crowd from getting to close while the stable lad leads it away towards the animal pens, where the beast judging is soon to begin.

Camillo bobs his head readily at Esme's suggestion, pleased at the idea of getting what Esme considers the finest baker's dolphin bread. "I am glad to see you at the festival," he says. "I wasn't sure if you would have time. But it is very fine, is it not. I expect the merchants do well."

Eonn directs his big white mare and her load of cats over towards Dhraegon and his bull.

Janei hugs Dhraegon back, smiling happily. This, her father doesn't seem to mind. She says as she steps back, "I'm glad you like it!" Then, she adds, "Prince Dhraegon, this is my father, Lord Lorant Tyrell." Though it's quite possible they've already met, Janei is playing it safe.

One more bite and that's the end of that little treat. Esme regards the stick between her fingers with brief dismay, for she can't immediately see where best to dispose of it — though since she's stuck with it she decides to gesture with it, suggesting a direction in which she and Camillo might walk in search of their dolphin what-nots. Not far, it must be said, from where the crafts are being crafted, and shall soon be judged. "Ah, well," she chuckles, "the more you told me I ought to find the time, the more I began to think I'd better. This year and not next year. It's a fine sight," she agrees, "but it's the fine day I like all the more, and thank the gods for giving us."

If Dhraegon has met the Tyrell before he gives no sign, but he gamely launches himself with a happy squeal at the nobleman with the same childlike trust he has for anyone introduced to him. Flox looks rather pained and gives the Lord an apologetic expression.

Camillo nods once, looking up to the sky. "It is fine," he says. "And there are many craftspeople. I do not understand how human hands can craft things as fine as some do."

Janei giggles, as her father looks first startled, and then awkward. He doesn't get angry, however, patting Dhraegon on the back, and saying, "Good to meet you, Your Grace. I'm glad to hear you enjoy my daughter's paintings as much as we do at home."

Dhraegon luckily lets the unfortunate Tyrell go. He bounces up and down, "I do! She is very talented! You are very lucky!" He bounces up and down excitedly. "What have you got for us this time, Janei?" That booming voice with it's childlike delivery does carry rather.

Esme narrows her eyes consideringly at nothing in particular as the two of them walk along, weaving in between other festival-goers. "To have such a talent, that's another gift of the gods — but to hone it so far, through hard work and dedication — that's a way of thanking them for the gift, I think," she muses, "and proving one deserved to be given it… Ah, look," she declares, nodding to a cheerfully-decorated stall not far ahead which is even now being replenished with fresh supplies of baked dolphins, "that's one of Mistress Audra's girls. A new scheme of hers, that as the men usually do the payin' a pretty girl can sell pies a sight better than anyone else."

Eonn stops the mare and just stands there, looking around. So do the cats. A high spot from which to observe human doings, and complete with an armed guard? Cat Paradise.

Camillo nods thoughtfully at Esme's religious interpretation of craftsman excellence. "It must take many years to learn and refine those things," he says. "I saw a box made with the tiniest inlay, perfectly true and even…" He follows Esme, looking curiously at the stall and the girl when Esme explains the strategy. "I see," he says. "Will you have a dolphin?" he asks. The offer to pay for both is implicit.

The gaudy little shopkeeper leans away and peers up into Camillo's face, a smile twitching at her lips as she shakes her head. "There, you see? It works, doesn't it?" she chuckles. "I don't mind if I do, Master Camillo. Thank you. Let's see if these things taste any better for being shaped like dolphins, eh?" And as he makes his purchase from the bakehouse's stall she looks on, trying to pretend she isn't pleased, not doing a very good job of it.

Janei smiles happily, stepping back to uncover her painting. It's an incredibly detailed piece, showing a dolphin leaping out of choppy waters. Lord Lorant, who apparently had been kept from seeing the painting as well, gives a proud smile and wraps an arm around his daughter's shoulders. "Well done!"

Dhraegon gives an ear piercing squeal of delight and jumps up and down clapping, "I can almost feel the spray on my face! Might I buy this one to give My sweet Oleander, do you think?" He is then giving Janei another hug.

Camillo might be horrified to hear that implication from someone else, but for once he takes something as a joke and laughs a little. "I always like the dolphin breads," he admits with a faint but relatively upbeat sheepishness. He buys the two dolphin breads and comes back to submit one into Esme's hand. He's smiling.

Sometimes a dolphin is just a dolphin. And Esme, who considers this a perfectly fair return for the slices of pie she is wont to press upon her curious quiet young friend — well, to her he seems young! — accepts her dolphin bread with another pleased little, "Thank you." She takes a bite and adds a considering 'mmm'. A moment later, as they begin to wander again, "Years since I've had one of these…" she marvels. "I used to take my son to buy 'em, till he was old enough to go on his own," she explains, though what age that was in Edmyn's case is left to the imagination; "but I haven't… Not bad at all, are they?" By which she means, jolly good indeed.

Camillo does not delay much longer in tasting the bread he's been looking forward to for months. And he seems quietly pleased, in his way, bobbing his head at Esme. "Should we look at the paintings? They are always surprising in one way or another." And the Prince is over there judging them! Though he does pause to talk, he doesn't neglect his dolphin.

Lord Tyrell looks a bit conflicted, as Janei looks up to him. He looks to Dhraegon, and asks, "Your Grace, would you be at all offended if a proud father would like to hang this one in his great hall? I think this is my daughter's most impressive painting yet, and I would love to show it off."

Dhraegon's eyes go wide and tear up a little, he's so moved, "Oh! What a wonderful idea! Of course you should have it! I didn't think!" Then he is hugging the unfortunate Tyrell Lord with all his might.

Eonn smiles, looking away so Lord Tyrell doesn't see it.

A young man who neglected his dolphin would not have deserved to have one — but that's not Camillo, is it. Esme thus has nothing of which to disapprove as they stroll along together by unspoken mutual agreement. "Surprising?" she echoes. "… Now that you mention it," she adds in a dubious tone, "I did hear one or two odd things over my counter last year at about this time. Don't always know how much to credit that sort of talk, of course." She is still holding her own fin-less dolphin in both hands; she takes another bite.

Alas, there are no scadalous fetish paintings on display, whether it is through careful advance screening or for lack of entries one can not say.

Camillo tilts his head slightly and shrugs, saying nothing more on the topic of 'surprising' art. But that does not mean that the topic is dead, for it is coincidentally at that moment that a youth jogs up to Camillo with a large piece of paper in his hand, folded once.

"Here, are you Master Camillo?" the boy asks. Camillo admits to that much, and the youth thrusts the paper into his hands. Camillo looks bewildered, then opens up the paper. And /immediately/ closes it and folds it again, turning red across his nose and cheeks and ears. "Who told you to give this to me?" he demands, but the youth just shrugs and runs off. Is that a snicker on the breeze?

It isn't that Esme is nosy — perish the thought! — it's only that they're standing right next to each other and she can hardly help getting a look at the picture, hardly avoid knowing what it depicts. But she does not blush. Instead she draws in a breath and shakes her head, and lets a wry smile play about her lips. "Friend of yours?" she inquires innocently.

This time, Lord Tyrell is a bit less awkward returning the hug. Still not entirely comfortable, but rolling with it more. "Thank you, your Grace." Janei smiles happily, pleased as they come to an agreement, and at how well her painting has been received.

Dhraegon lets go the Tyrell and offers Janei his hand, "Want to show me the rest of the exibits? After perhaps you both might help me judge the pies? I can't imagine any of the other paintings are as good as Janei's but there are two other prizes to award.""

Camillo looks both embarrassed and mystified. He turns one way, then the other, in case someone he actually knows is standing there snickering. But no such thing. "I have no idea!" he protests, looking back to Esme with a worried expression, still clutching the paper.

"Oh," says Esme mildly. A moment later she adds, as her gaze wanders with amiable unrecognition over various semi-distant Tyrells and Targaryens and their attendants: "I only asked because I've seen her in my shop."

"Seen…who?" Camillo asks, further confused. Then he eyes the paper in his hand and leans closer to Esme, volume dropping still lower. "Not…?" he jiggles the papers slightly.

Lord Tyrell says, smiling, "I'll let Janei help with that, I have a few people I need to speak to. But my daughter is a much better judge of pies that I am, anyway," he jokes. "Your Grace." He inclines his head, then he turns, catching the attention of another noble in attendance. Meanwhile, Janei takes Dhraegon's hand, and says, "I'll be happy to help."

"Her, yes." And Esme shakes her head and lets out a weary little sigh. "The way she goes about bold as brass with no clothes on to speak of, it's not difficult to spot the likeness, is it? But as long as there's no trouble in my shop, I don't refuse custom," she explains virtuously.

It is at this moment of embarrassment that Flox appears, sweeping a bow to Esme, "Goodwife! It is a pleasure to see you out and about!" He reaches for your dolphinless hand in the hopes of kissing a knuckle. He gives no sign of noticing the servant by her side.

Camillo lifts his eyebrows. "Oh," he says. "I didn't…look closely, but…it's…a person who…?" He is somewhat hindered in his verbal facility for the event. He looks down at the paper, then tucks it into his bag so he won't be carrying the thing around in the open.

Esme has just opened her mouth to say something else liable to keep Camillo's ears that fetching shade of red (they almost match her frock), when she becomes conscious of Flox's proximity and closes it again. With half a dolphin still in one hand, and perhaps a crumb or two upon the fingertips of the other, she lets him take her hand without complaint — and from him, she takes her cue. "Good day, Master Flox," she says, pleasantly. "I might have known I'd run across you here, eh?" Perhaps she did know. "How are you enjoying the afternoon? Have you had any of the dolphin bread? Master Camillo was kind enough to offer me one — it's very good," she informs him, looking from one Hightower servant to the other in perfect friendly innocence.

Camillo takes this opportunity to finish the last morsel of dolphin bread, which probably doesn't taste quite as rich after that shock. Then the looks up from his bag and dips his head in a nod at Flox.

Flox brushes his lips lightly to her knuckles like a gentleman does a fine lady, "You look resplendent as always, Goodwife." he gives a polite nod to the servant he must surely have seen around, but his eyes are all for the shop keep. "Is your fine son not here enoying the festival as well?" He looks around to see if he is not, in fact, nearby.

Dhraegon waves to Eonn but stays away from the Cat Bus as they inspect the pictures. He makes happy enough sounds. He's got a nice responsible minder and pretty pictures to look at.

Esme's quick black eyes have returned to Flox's face by the time his gentlemanly kiss arrives upon her hand. "Oh," she protests, sounding pleased but shaking her head in its bright linen scarf, "how you do go on!" She reclaims her hand and crosses her arms over her chest, her half a dolphin bread held carefully in her left hand turned up. "No," she adds, more seriously, "Edmyn's not with me today. The shop's still open, after all, I only thought I'd slip away for an hour or two and get a bit of sunshine."

It takes Camillo a little while to realize that there is a certain amount of woo being pitched here, and he might be the third wheel. "I'm just going to visit that stall a moment, but perhaps I'll see you later on," he tells Esme. "I'm glad you made it to the festival." He doesn't sound the least bit upset to be moving on. His tone is friendly.

Flox gazes upon her admiringly, "Sunlight suits you, Goodwife." He studies her, "Have you ever met a Prince?" To Camillo he says, "you needn't leave on my account. He offers the shopkeeper his elbow.

Eonn returns Dhraegon's wave, but moves mare and the load of cats off, out of the way of the art-appreciators.

"Oh, I do hope so," is Esme's sincere answer to Camillo's hope of seeing her later. She lifts the dolphin bread she hasn't had a moment to finish and reiterates, "Thank you for my dolphin, dearie, and Seven blessings to you. Enjoy the rest of the festival, if I don't see you." She bestows upon him an encouraging nod, and upon Flox a dubious raise of her eyebrow. "I shouldn't think I've met any princes," she explains, "unless there are some who like to do their own shopping of an afternoon. Why d'you ask?"

"Of course," Camillo says, lifting a hand. "Blessings." He nods to Flox again. "Not to worry," he assures, but he does move on his way.

"Oh, I do hope so," is Esme's sincere answer to Camillo's hope of seeing her later. She lifts the dolphin bread she hasn't had a moment to finish and reiterates, "Thank you for my dolphin, dearie, and Seven blessings to you. Enjoy the rest of the festival, if I don't see you." She bestows upon him an encouraging nod, and then for Flox she has a dubious raise of an eyebrow. "I shouldn't think I've met any princes," she explains, considering his elbow quite visibly before unfolding her arms and placing her non-dolphin-holding hand in the spot indicated, "unless there are some who like to do their own shopping of an afternoon." The idea seems to amuse her. "Why d'you ask?"

Flox gives her his most charming grin, "I thought I might introduce you to mine before he has time to get sticky." And the Seven help us all, he starts leading the woman directly towards Prince Dhraegon and Lady Janei.

"Oh, now," protests Esme lightly, as she is led away, "I really don't think… Master Flox, I don't know at all what you're about today."

Flox gives her what he very much hopes is a roguish grin, "He's quite nice, and don't you deserve a special treat?"

But the little shopkeeper, whilst contriving to keep their pace a slow one, gazes at him with all the misgivings appropriate to smallfolk being dragged before Targaryens. "Really, goodman…" she hesitates, and then leans nearer to that roguish grin and the ears between which it is situated, to whisper.

When Flox has murmured a word to her in turn Esme straightens her head, gives him a contemplative look with brows slightly knitted, and ceases to argue. It seems the shopkeeper shall be presented to the prince.

Flox leads the shopkeeper right up to his Prince and lady Janei. "This is a respectable local shopkeeper, Goodwife Esme, My Prince. Esme, may I present Prince Dhraegon Targaryen and Lady Janei." The Prince gives her a wide eyed look and squeals, "So many bright petals!" He flings himself at her for a hug, trusting as a seven year old, with large pale lavander eyes as empty of thought or suspicion as a cloudless sky.

Janei turns to Flox and Esme as they approach, smiling and says, "Hello!" She giggles a little again, at Dhraegon's exuberance, and in general looks very cheerful at the moment.

It's possible that, extracting her hand from Flox's arm and lowering it and the other to her bright striped skirts, Esme might have been going to offer a correctly humble curtsey to Royalty. Dolphin bread and all. But when the mountainous white-clad prince barrels straight into her with his own arms open wide and lifts her gasping straight off her feet and into his embrace, it's all she can do to conquer instinct and to hang on—! She's a scrawny little armful for him, smelling of plain soap, with a stiffly-boned corset beneath her loose-fitting dress (or 'petals'). When he's put her down again she gives his back a gentle pat with one hand and takes an unsteady step backwards.

"Y…Your Grace," she manages then, craning her neck to look all the way up into those happy and trusting Valyrian violet eyes, "it's an honour to make your acquaintance, to be sure." She nods then to the young Tyrell next to him. "Milady." She still has what's left of her dolphin bread safely in her other hand, when anybody else might have dropped it in sheer startlement.

Dhraegon smells of soap and vanilla and lavander. Apparently they bath him often. he beams at her, "Call me Uncle Dhraegon! Is that dolphin bread? I like Dolphin bread! We are having pies next first! Flox says I ought to judge the savery ones first before judging the sweet." He makes a face at the offending Flox. "Have you seen Lady Janei's Dolphin? It's quite good! I think it is the best here. I have one of her paintings in my rooms…. Janei, remind me to talk to you later about minitures… Do you paint minitures?" Chattering bhe tries to lead them back to Janei's dolphin to show off.

As smallfolk ought, Esme falls in with the intentions of her betters; and so if Flox should indicate by word or by gesture that she should remain one of their party, she'll trail along obediently behind the prince and the young lady. She will not, however, call a prince of House Targaryen — not even this one — 'uncle'. (For another thing he's years younger than she.) "The only dolphin I've seen today is my dolphin bread, Your Grace," she explains gently. Then, because something else seems called for, and he did just utter one of her favourite words: "Are you fonder of sweet pies, then?"

Janei nods to Dhraegon, smiling, "I do. I'll remind you later," she confirms. She seems happy to show off her painting again, and stands a little straighter as Dhraegon says it's the best one there.

Flox offers his arm again and murmurs, "Let him show you the painting." Dhraegon nods wisely, "And all I've seen are the painted kind. And the one in your hand…." He brightens up, "I really like the berry ones! And the ones with the lemon custardy stuff in them! Do you like pies too? What kind do you like! Oh! here it is! Can't you just feel the spray on your face looking?" He gives a florish as he shows off the fine painting, beaming at janei.

Taking Flox's arm and then his suggestion without her previous pause to contemplate, Esme inspects Lady Janei's work with respectful eyes. "I don't know much about paintings," she fibs to her, "but to me it seems very fine indeed, milady. I'm sure the gods must have smiled upon your brush." But then she can't resist all that talk of pies, and she turns again to Prince Dhraegon and admits, "I'm very fond of pies, Your Grace. I make two or three every week, one way or another. Usually meat pies, using up the leftovers from my son's butchery, but I'm partial to a rhubarb pie now and again, or rhubarb and strawberry if the strawberries are in season and not too dear."

Janei gives a curtsy at the compliment, "Thank you!" Then, at the talk of pies, she says, "I love strawberry and rhubarb." It looks like she might say more, but her father is waving for her attention. "Oh, sorry, excuse me." She turns to head over to her father, to see what he wants.

Dhraegon bounces a little. "Oh! Rhubard and Strawberry is the BEST! Do you want to come help us judge pies?" He waves bye bye at Janei, momentarily disraught.

Esme murmurs a correctly humble smallfolk-style farewell to the blooming young artist. And then she glances to Flox to gauge his opinion of the pie proposition. "If you're sure I'd be of help to you, Your Grace," she suggests, "and if Master Flox thinks that would be suitable." For she has verified to her own satisfaction the truth of the rumour that Prince Dhraegon goes nowhere without a minder, and now of course that minder's identity.

Flox gives esme a winning smile, "It's a chance to taste the best pie in the city free…." Dhrae looks at her with his very best puppy eyes, "Please? I… don't like being alone. There are… lots of people here." This seems very much true. "And I'm not suposed to drink anymore except special occations." He lifts his hands in suplication.

Esme's son Edmyn is not allowed to drink at all. He just doesn't do well with the grape and the grain. From that knowledge and all the rest, and something in the prince's tone, Esme deduces the situation more nearly than anyone could who is not the mother of an unusual son… "Then I'd be right glad, de— Your Grace," she says firmly. "… I ought to finish my dolphin bread, though," she adds. "It's a sin to waste good food. I hope someone'll be eating up the pies in the contest later on; d'you know what happens to them?"

Dhraegon giggles and wrinkles his nose, "Your Grace sounds silly. If you don't like Uncle, you can just call me Dhrae. I don't like ceremonies and things." He nods, "They take them to feed the children. There's a Septa thing? So the food goes there after we are done. Except the winners, of course. We get those to take home." He looks very excited at the prospect of a pie to himself. Flox murmurs, "The entrants are compansated, but it is good publicity for them either way." Dhraegon eagerly leads his small entourage towards the pie judging area. As he heads for the fruit, Flox clears his throat and blushing he turns towards the savouries instead. "Flox says I can not live on cakes, but I think he is wrong." Dhrae sticks out his chin, but knows better than to cross Flox when he gives him the Look. It's a blind test, though the pie makers are clustered together to watch the tasting. Flox says, "It's a shame you don't enter. I'm sure your pies are amoung the best here."

The thrifty little shopkeeper appears relieved to hear that the pies are disposed of so responsibly. She nods, and nods again, and follows Prince Dhraegon on Flox's arm with her brightly-scarfed head slightly bowed. "I'm sorry to say so, but Master Flox is quite right," she apologises, "a man can't live just on sweet things. I think my son would like to as well, but I don't let him. Good food makes you stronger and healthier." An unreadable glance up at that gentleman. Well, shall we say, unreadable to any but the two of them who know how many sweets Flox is apt to be in possession of when he leaves her shop… It's a fair bet she knows, now, where they end up.

Then she releases Flox's arm and joins the prince in his inspection of the savoury pies. "Oh, now, that's a very pretty crust," she says at once, indicating it, "I wonder how it was done…?" Something is still on her mind; looking over her shoulder to Flox, she then admits to Dhraegon, "I don't know that it's right for me to call you what you said. For one thing you're a wee bit young to be my uncle," rueful smile, "and for another—"

Dhraegon complains, "But I _like_ Sweet things the _Best!_" He perks up though at mention of her son, "Does your son like to play boats? I have lots of boats! I sail them in the Foutain! And Daevon gave me a kite for my wedding and it flies really well with the breeze off the bay. Would he like to come play? Does he know not to eat the flowers?" He slips his hand into Esme's for reassurance, as he pounts to a pie with crust cut outs shaped like dolphins, "That's a pretty one too!" Flox is grinning at her, pleased with her handling of the Prince, but offering no suggestions. Dhraegon asks, "What would you like to call me then?"

The prospect of her son going out to play with a Targaryen prince gives Esme a brief pause for thought — but the funny thing is, the picture makes sense to her. She wouldn't say no. "My son is quite big," she explains, giving his hand a squeeze and putting down upon the edge of one of the small plates set out for the judges' convenience the remaining fragment of her dolphin bread, which she didn't quite finish as they walked here. It's mostly tail at this point. "… Not as big as you, mind," and she looks again all the way up into his face, "but not many inches smaller either. He does like boats. I'm sure he'd like to play, and he wouldn't eat any of your flowers. Shall we have a bit of the pie with the dolphins on? … And once we've tried these, there'll be plenty of time still for the sweet ones. You can always have something sweet," she reminds him reassuringly, "but for afters, eh?" She hasn't yet addressed the question of what she might call him; that seems best deferred till she's thought about it, and what better way of distracting him than by reaching for the plate which holds three small sample slices of the pie she named, and setting it down again directly in front of him?

Esme's discription of her son perks him right up, "That's okay. I'm big too! Peri's son is very small and I am very careful, but big is better. We could play tag, maybe. We played tag and duck, duck, dragon at the party my Asphodel through that time in the garden. You need more people for Duck, Duck, Dragon. Maybe Lionel and Bryn will play too." Then he is stuffing the first slice of dolphin pie in his face and chewing with a curious expression. He chews with his mouth closed, which gets an approving look from Flox, "It's nice, but not as good as it is pretty, I think. What do you think?" he seems to genuinely want to know. He nods, "We can have the sweet ones for after."

With her right hand still tangled comfortably in his left, Esme employs her left to take up one of the forks provided for the judges as an especially dainty touch. She takes a much smaller bite, and then another, and chews with a suitably studious expression. Then she lets out a sigh and turns upon Dhraegon a glance which betrays her views. "Ooooh," she murmurs dubiously, shaking her head, "that beef was done a wee bit too well before the pie was put together. Not by much, mind, but it's not as tender as I'd have wanted it. Not if it was to be a special pie, made from the best cuts… Perhaps whoever made it was too concerned with the dolphins for the outside, and her attention wandered?" she guesses, though of course she's speaking very softly, so as not to affront anybody's feelings. Pies are a personal matter.

Dhraegon's eyes go wide, "Oh! you're really clever, Esme! That is exactly it, I think! Let's try the one you liked the looks of!" He grabs for that one, keeping firm hold of her hand with his other and gobbles that down happily.

Esme is again more measured in her attack upon the pie, and having seen Dhraegon dispose so swiftly of another slice— well, they're not especially big slices, but she takes the discreet liberty of choosing their third pie whilst the second is still under review, and separating one of the sample slices into two pieces with his fork, so as to direct him to one and put some natural brake upon his appetite. If he hasn't any room left for the sweets, she reckons, he'll be upset… "Not bad," she says of the second one, "but I don't know. I think it's a little bland, just for my taste. But I know my pies aren't to everyone's taste," she confides; "some people think I put too many funny spices in. My late husband used to be a sea captain, you see, and he liked foreign food, and I got into the way of cooking it."

Dhraegon is a man used to having other people cut his food and doesn't seem to mind or take offense. He nods wisely, "I like spicy things… strong flavours generally." He reaches for the half she indicates and tries it, wrinkling his nose, "Kidney!" Flox casts an abologetic look at the collection of bakers and under the guise of wiping his Prince's mouth allows him to discretely spit it out. "I like foriegn food too, Dornish, Essoi spices. If I have to eat things that are not sweet I would rather they be strong and hot!" He looks so excited, "might I try your pies, esme? They sound delicious…. Flox? Could we have a picnic, maybe? I could ride my bull and her sun could come and we could play!" Flox raises inquiring eyebrows at Esme.

The steak and kidney finds greater favour with Esme, who eats her customary two bites whilst Flox is attending to Dhraegon and Dhraegon is elaborating upon his favourite flavours. "I like strong flavours too," she agrees. And then, eyeing Flox with mild dubiety even as she speaks to Dhraegon with calm, friendly courtesy: "It's not always easy for my son and me to be away from our work at the same time — but if you'd like a pie of mine, you needn't go to any trouble for it. The Hightower often does me the honour of buying from my shops, and I'd be very pleased to make you a pie as spicy as you like and send it along with my next delivery." Not that her delivery boys have been allowed on Battle Island lately — Flox and Camillo have been unusually eager to send servants to collect their shopping — but one never knows. "Mmm. I do like this one," she admits, indicating the remaining pie fragments with her fork, "but we've not finished yet, have we?" And she metes out the same treatment to a slice of the next, separating it into two roughly equal halves, in case it happens to arouse the prince's enthusiasm.

Flox says, "It is a shame. My Prince so seldom has boys his size to play with. It would have been a treat for them both, I imagine." Dhraegon samples the pie with the same eagerness he has had for each. "Oh! This one is so much nicer than it looks and it has surprises in the meat!"

The implication that she's an insufficiently indulgent mother brings Esme's eyes to meet Flox's as she tries the next pie, though her back remains turned to the bakers and Hightower guards and other onlookers. It is a brief look, yet manages perhaps to convey that the subject is not quite closed. Then she looks down at the pie whence this slice came, slowly nodding as she chews, and agreeing the instant she's swallowed. "Now that's rather fine," she declares, pleased. "I don't really give a fig what the crust looks like if the meat's so good… I'm tryin' to think what it must've been marinaded in." In the ultimate tribute, she takes a second bite larger than her previous bites, chewing slowly and with a slight 'mmm' of appreciation.

Flox gives the ghost of a bow as he meets her eyes, though perhaps it's just him discreetly disposing of the pie bits, and that small smile is not for her. Dhraegon mouths the word 'maridade' nearly inaubily five times, then nods. "I _Like_ it. Can we have this one for dinner Flox?" Flox nods, smiling encouragement to his Prince. Then the Prince is reaching for the mutton pie, a look of curiousity on his face as he figures out the venting dots make the shapes of dolphins, "Oh!"

"Now that's useful and pretty," pronounces Esme, two adjectives which in combination constitute a high compliment from her. Her fork breaks a slice of it in two according to what has become the custom, and she nudges one part of it in Dhraegon's direction and again waits for him to take a bite before she does herself. Some manners she has discarded easily enough, seeing they're to no purpose with this prince, but that small politeness remains. Still, she's not far behind him. "Mmm… I ought to recuse myself from this one; I think it's neighbours of mine who made it. I've had their mutton pie before," she confides, "and this tastes as though it's just about the same recipe."

Dhraegon giggles happily in response to her approval of the pie, happy she is happy. He pops his share in his mouth and munches, obviously delighted. "Or this one! Can we have this one too? It's…tangy!" Flox nods. Dhraegon contemplates the pies, "What's.. re…" Flox helps gently, "Recuse. It means you will have to decide for yourself with this one." Dhraegon nods, expression grave as he conteplates the offerings. "I think the one we just had should be first, and then the one we both liked for second. Who should get third, do you think, Esme?"

The little shopkeeper appears briefly abashed, at least to Flox as she meets his eyes, at using words with which a prince is unfamiliar. That's a mistake difficult to correct — the occasional excesses of her vocabulary… "The one that was all right but a little bland," she supplies promptly, pointing with her fork. "The meat at least wasn't overdone… I'm a butcher," she explains to Dhraegon, who might not have gathered that, "so I never can forgive people not making the most of their meat. If it's bland, well, you can always put something on it, but if the meat's overdone there's nothin' else to be done." She gives a quick nod, standing confident in her opinion.

Flox's expression is reassuring. The Prince is listening to Esme with the expression of a general listening to a trusted advisor about the disposition of troops. When she is done he points to the pie she has chosen, "That one for third, then." He beams at her, delighted for her help, "I've never met a butcher before…" Then he looks worried, "That I know of. I meet a lot of people. It's not an on purpose lie if I have…" Flox gives him a reassuring pat. Dhraegon smiles a little shyly at her, "Is that all right then? Do you want to go see if they have strawberry rhubarb for us?"

It may just possibly flatter Esme a little to be regarded as a pie expert even in the highest circles. Thus her reluctance ever to accept compliments may be why she says nothing more of pie-ranking, only looks on and smiles as the general utters his final pronouncement. When his face seems rather to fall, at the thought of speaking an untruth, she puts in: "I've never met a prince before, so that's something new for both of us, isn't it, eh?" And she lifts his hand still held in hers, and squeezes it again by way of promising him (just as Flox did) that what he said is all right. "Let's see, shall we…?" She takes a step toward the table reserved for the sweet pies — but slowly, waiting for him to catch up and then letting it seem as though he's the one leading.

Dhraegon immediately perks up at the hand squeeze. Just as shes starting to lead him away, he lifts her off her feet in another hug, giggling happily. When he sets her down, he calls, "Race you!" and runs towards the sweet pires. At least the rather put upon guards had warning this time.

Of course to pick her up he's obliged to let go of her hand; and that's just enough warning for Esme to master the sudden tension which flickers through her when someone's arms come toward her out of nowhere. She's ready this time. She lets out a little 'oof' and reaches her rather shorter arms around him in agreement that, yes, this is a hug, and adds a murmured, "So strong," which might even sound like praise. She does not however race him, but brings up the rear more sedately in company with Flox. Her hands vaguely smooth imaginary wrinkles from her striped dress. "This is a test, ain't it?" she drawls to the ubiquitous minder, in an undertone for only his ears.

Flox is…very close behind her during the hug. just in cae, but seeing all is well, takes two steps back. Dhraegon giggles happily at the possible praise, but soon he is bent over the pie table, examining them excitedly, at a loss as to what to try first. Flox flashes her a wicked grin and murmurs something in her ear.

Esme gives Flox a discreetly withering look and whispers something to him.

But then they're at the pie table; seeing Dhraegon spoiled for choice, knowing just what a grave situation that can be, she begins at once to chatter about the various pies, to admire the look of them, and to lead the conversation naturally to the selection of, oh, this one. Again she sets the plate of sample slices before him, and again she separates a slice into two parts, one quite small which she reserves for herself, one larger for the sweet-fancier. This time she happens to have the fork in her right hand rather than her left, though she operates it with a like dexterity. "Oh, that does look good," she declares, as the pie slowly oozes sweet fruity red juices.

Flox shakes his head, and murmurs softly. "Not of that." Then Dhraegon is taking her hand again and happily munching pie. "The bottom is soggy, but the berries are perfect!"

Esme tilts her head and studies Flox for a second or two, before trying the pie for herself. Again she's nodding to Dhraegon's verdict as she chews. "It's difficult," she sighs, "to keep the bottom from getting that way when the berries are so juicy… What I do is," and she launches into what is in fact a very detailed explanation of pie physics and crust technique, though she frames it in small words and shortish sentences, accented by hand gestures.

Flox is making a bland face, letting her work it out for herself. Dhraegon watches her in awe as she explains, the second pie forgotten. Eventually he pipes up, "I made cookies once! Keli snuck me out to visit a nice lady and she let me play with the dough and roll it and cut them out with little metal things. I got to lick the spoon after." Flox looks embarrassed.

To her credit Esme looks no more embarrassed by spoon-licking than by Camillo's delightful drawing. "I always think things taste better when you make them yourself, don't you think?" she suggests. "You can make them just as you like, and have the first taste, and feel as though you've done something useful, too…" She turns away from him as she speaks — but only to choose the next pie, and to separate a slice of it into the usual two portions. If he's still hungry when he's tried them all, there'll be no harm in having more, but why fill up on the losers when you're allowed to take the winners?

Dhraegon blushes, "I never made anything before that." He eagerly reaches for the next pie, "Oh! Lemon custard! The tart to match the sweet!"

"But when you did make the cookies — they tasted particularly good, didn't they?" suggests Esme, holding her other hand cupped beneath her forkful of lemon custard tart as she lifts it, in case of drips. She doesn't react as enthusiastically as se did to the taste of the berries, or the best of the meat pies. It's perhaps just a little too sweet for her.

Dhraegon nods his head emphatically. "It's like when we worked out how the garden should be. For My Crocus. When she agreed to marry me." He blushes, "I was really scared when they told me I was to wed, but I stopped being scared because she is so nice." his eyes go wide, "And Ormund was kind and let us make her a special garden and I play in it every day now. It is full of bright petals, like her hair, and bright wings and it is peaceful there. I like her petals. She smiles and is kind and she understands me."

Esme forbears to take a second bite of the lemon custard tart and instead just looks up at him with interest for as long as he speaks of his wife and their garden; "Ah, now that's lovely," she pronounces firmly. "That'd be Lady Marsei Hightower, I understand? A friend of mine told me she nursed a wounded dove back to health last year. She sounds like a very gentle lady."

Dhraegon nods excitedly. "I was to marry a different lady, but she ran away. Marsei likes cakes and gardens and we get along really well! She still has the dove!"

"That sounds like a very lucky dove," confides Esme, with the ghost of a smile. "Shall we try… this one next?" she suggests, picking up a different fork (the last one is still disturbingly lemony) and indicating another pie. (Not the one that looks like strawberry and rhubarb, she's quietly saving that one for last.) "Here, let me just…" And she draws the plate of cut slices nearer, and busies herself with her fork. "Oh, now," she says in surprise, "the crust of this one does feel firmer. See what you think."

Dhraegon looks very interested in a firmer crust. He gives that a try. He's grown noticeably sticky about the hands and mouth, but Flox is holding on the cleanig up until the tasting is done. "Oh! It's lovely! I like berries better than apple, though the spicing on these is really good!"

Esme nods. "Plenty of flavour, but not so much it'll burn your mouth," she agrees. She's not sticky in the least, but nor is she dismayed by the company of one who is. She's cleaned worse. "I like green apples better'n these red ones… it might taste better if it weren't such a warm and sunny day — I always think an apple pie is a bit more for autumn and winter, really. When you want something warm and spicy and sweet after your supper but the berries are more or less over till spring. It's good to have it then." She does take a second bite of it, but her mind has already moved along to the next pie, and so her fork quickly moves along too.

Dhraegon nods his agreement, "But then the flowers go away." His mind is also on the next pie, and said pie is soon in his mouth.

Perhaps because it's a well-known fact that Prince Dhraegon Targaryen judges these things, more sweet pies than savoury have been submitted for his consideration — perhaps enough to satisfy even his appetite for sugar, at least for an hour. Esme is rather more sparing in her attempts upon them, and less effusive in her comments. She usually has something to say by way of gentle criticism, drawing attention to characteristics of each pie which might at least make it easier to narrow down the good ones. At last they arrive at the rhubarb and strawberry pie she's rather been looking forward to, as the most direct competition with her own dessert pies, and rather than splitting a slice in half to save the prince's appetite as well she simply takes a bite from the slice on the side of the plate nearest her, and leaves him to fend for himself, pie-wise. She has an air almost of holding her breath as she chews.

Dhraegon noticeabley prefers berries over things like apples and pears though he tries to be fair to them. Dhraegon grabs his portion and eagerly chews it, eyes closed and clearly trying hard to match her focus on the distinctions she helped point out in the other samples.

Esme doesn't give her verdict upon the strawberry and rhubarb till she's had another bite. "Now that's rather good," she admits, tone grudging but lips betraying her with a smile; "but if it were me, I'd have done it with a wee bit less sugar… I like it to have more bite, and a fresher, fruitier taste on the tongue. But I don't deny it's good," she insists, in the name of justice, "and the crust is wonderful, isn't it? Very crisp and light. Since you like sweet things more'n I do, I think you might be wise to have that very flavourful meat pie we both liked for your supper, and then this one for your dessert." She underlines her recommendation with quick small nods of her head.

Dhraegon opens his ees when she starts talking and watches her face, nodding along. Then he gives her a big smile and another lift in the air hug. He ends up choosing that for the winner and whichever of the more savory ones she liked for second and his favorite of the berries for third. "This was really fun! We should do it again!"

Well, that's the nature of princes, isn't it. They sweep you off your feet. You barely touch the ground when you're with them. Esme can't help but chuckle this time, despite the smudges of sweet and sticky pie-filling which now alas adorn her frock, not quite blending in with the stripes. "Not how I expected I'd spend my afternoon," she admits, "but the pies were just as good as you said, and if it was helpful to you to hear what I thought," she knows it was, she's being modest, "then I'm glad I could help." She pauses. "I've been thinking about what you said, though, about what I ought to call you. We weren't friends then, when you said, but if we are now, and if Master Flox says it's all right…" She would never do other than defer to Flox in Dhraegonian matters, never fail to reinforce his authority; her eyes are upon him now.

Dhraegon nods eagerly, "It was fun and you are very clever about pies, Esme. I would like to be friends." Master Flox nods encouragingly to them both.

"I'm glad we are, then — Dhrae," the little shopkeeper pronounces carefully, giving him another smile. "I shall remember to send you one of my pies, one of these days, and I hope you'll find it compares well with all the delicious things we've had today… I ought to be going now, though, eh? I've my son to see to and my shop to shut up. And you must have things to do too, the both of you."

Dhraegon beams his delight that she calls him Dhrae now. he gives her yet another hug. "I like you. You're fun!" Flox gives her another subtle bow on her going. About an hour later, a big basket of ripe strawberries and fresh rhubarb arrive at her shop.

Much better than a bunch of flowers.

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