(123-02-25) What Good Servants Know
What Good Servants Know
Summary: … Just about everything, actually.
Date: 24/02/2016
Related: This and this.

Fresh lilies have appeared again in the seventh floor suite occupied by Lady Margot Rowan and Lady Bryony Tyrell: resplendent, fragrant, wholly to the latter's taste. Perhaps that is why a faint smile touches Lady Rowan's lips as the servant Camillo is shown into the sitting-room in answer to her summons, whilst she for her part is plucking with delicate fingertips at the strings of her standing harp. The melody is a slow and plaintive one, in keeping with the state of mourning for her son now indicated formally by her black silk gown and the black lace mantilla perpetually veiling her black hair.

She finishes the phrase and then her hands trail away from the instrument, to be clasped in her lap as she shifts upon the edge of her chair the better to face him. "Camillo. Thank you for coming to me so swiftly," she murmurs, inclining her head. "I hope I have not taken you away from any urgent matter."

Camillo is efficient as ever in response to a summons, but he shakes his head faintly. "Of course not, my lady," he replies, gaze taking in the harp she was just plucking, but not lingering too long on her new black garments. "I am at your service. I hope everything in your stay has been as you would have it."

"Very much so," Lady Rowan assures him, giving a regal yet sincere nod of her head. "The flowers in particular have been delightful… I'm sure it is you we must credit with making certain we always have lilies; and such beautiful ones, too. Of course Lady Bryony and I both think of the Hightower as our home — but it is by such considerate touches, that it remains so even now."

"It seems they are changing over a section of the garden, my lady, so I have been able to cut from it as freely as I like," Camillo explains, inclining his head slightly at Lady Rowan's notice of his work. "We are very happy to make you at home. Lord Ormund is a very hospitable man."

Lady Rowan nods twice again as Camillo explains about the flowers, and lets out a little 'ah' of understanding. Her hair is pinned up for a change beneath her mantilla; her throat appears particularly pale and slender and striking without those shining ink-black strands to obscure its line.

"He is," she agrees.

One of the closed doors beyond where she sits opens wide, then immediately narrows to a crack, before anything can be seen of the person beyond but a pale blur. Lady Bryony's voice calls out urgently: "Oh, I didn't know you were— but I still can't make up my mind. The green one or the purple one?"

Lady Rowan's gaze, drawn by the opening of the door, lingers upon it: "They both look lovely on you," she points out mildly, her voice lifted just far enough to be heard those few yards away; "but I think it may be very warm with so many people present… The green gown has thinner sleeves; you may find it would be more comfortable. Wear my pearls with it, and Aneira can carry a shawl for you in case you feel too cool outside later on."

"… If you're sure—?" calls Lady Bryony, still divided in her feelings.

"I'm certain," insists Lady Rowan.

"Oh, bless you!" And the door shuts; and one can only assume the dressing for some special occasion proceeds without further mishap beyond it.

Camillo stands still for all this. He does not do anything so rude as to peer towards the door. His eyes wander to the corners of the room to be sure they are kept well clear of cobwebs. "If it would be more convenient, I could return later," he offers, just in case Lady Rowan needs to attend to dress selections. But he doesn't seem to assume she will.

"No, no," Lady Rowan assures him; "it's no matter." She draws herself gracefully up onto her feet, facing him, tall and dignified in her mourning attire. "And the other matter is one with a degree of urgency in it. We shall oblige you for no more flowers, Camillo," she explains, "for we shall all of us, Lady Bryony and I and the children, be leaving the Hightower in two or three days. I thought it best that I notify you at once of our plans."

"Oh," Camillo says, his eyebrows lofting. "I see. Will you need help in packing your things? I am sure your maids will see to your clothing and personal items, but shall I have some of our people deliver larger items? Or will you be going far?"

"Not far. We are removing to the Rowan Door Manse on Beacon Boulevard," the lady explains in an absolutely steady and tranquil tone of voice, as though this were only to be expected, and not at all a drastic turnabout of all the circumstances of her life. "Of course our own maids will see to our packing, yes; but we should much appreciate the assistance of your staff in seeing that all our belongings are transported safely… Men to lift the heavy things," she glances to her hap, "and the use of a cart, perhaps, for an hour?"

"Ah," Camillo answers, nodding. "Of course that can all be arranged. You're…both moving," he seeks to confirm. Because he had heard that Lord Rowan moved into town, and wondered if and when Lady Rowan would join him, but had not expected both ladies to go. "And…Lord Adarian's chamber?"

"Lord Adarian expects to leave Oldtown on business in four days' time," explains Lady Margot, who was in fact the one who notified the Hightower's staff of the Tyrell's impending arrival a week or two ago and the arrangements to be made for his reception; "the morning after the tournament, very early. Lady Bryony and I are arranging to move a day or two earlier in order that he might see her and the children settled before he departs. He expects a long absence," she adds smoothly, "and does not ask that his chamber be kept for him."

"Ah," Camillo says, nodding obediently, though there is the faintest shadow of…something like confusion in his expression. But nothing so serious as to be disrespectful. "Very well. I shall see to the arrangements, Lady Margot. I hope you shall be comfortable in your new home. I suppose we shouldn't…anticipate Lady Bryony's return here?"

Studying him more closely, perhaps, than he her, for it's the nobility's privilege to stare but not be stared at, Lady Rowan gives a gentle shake of her head beneath black lace. "I don't imagine so. From now on when Lady Bryony is in Oldtown she will reside in the Rowan Door Manse. Though I'm sure we shall both take every opportunity we are afforded to visit our family and friends here, and to enjoy the Hightower's splendid gardens."

Camillo does not do any sort of rude staring, but this new information is…somewhat unusual. "Very good, Lady Rowan," he says. "I am sure many people will be glad that you are not going terribly far." He pauses. "I heard there is to be an Absolution soon, performed at the harbor."

This unexpected information, offered out of nowhere, inspires the briefest narrowing of Lady Rowan's cool blue eyes. She's curious. "Is there?" she inquires slowly. "… You are a religious man, I take it, Camillo?"

Nobody mentioned it before, but her septa is probably sewing in a corner.

Camillo nods once. "Yes, my lady," he replies. "I am planning to attend, for I think such Absolutions are rare. But I am certain it will not interfere with my duties in arranging this move. Is there anything else I can see to for you, my lady?" He moves on as if he had not struck such a strange note by volunteering that information.

"I trust you will find your soul lightened and comforted by the gods' absolution," Lady Rowan offers, bowing her head a moment, "and that our requirements shall not interfere with your higher duties." She straightens, her eyes cool and considering upon him. "There is nothing else, no. I wished only to inform you of our plans as soon as possible…" Her hand strays near the place at her hip where there may be a concealed pocket; she apologises, delicately, "I'm afraid I have no coin to offer you at present. But I shall not forget all you have done for us; and I hope, at a later time…" To be once again as generous with her tips as she was until this month.

Camillo quickly shakes his head. "None is required, my lady," he says. "You have been very generous in your stay." He takes a step back, inclining his head, but then hesitates. "My lady, you will be happy in your new home, I hope?" Perhaps a strange question. It would probably be more rightly phrased as a statement.

Bowing her head Lady Rowan murmurs some low and courteous remark upon excellent service and just rewards; then as Camillo asks that question which comes so near to impertinence her gaze lifts to his face. "But of course I shall be happy," she assures him, steadily and quietly, without a hint of a smile upon her lips or a softening about her still-shadowed blue eyes. "I wonder, if I were to ask you…" she ponders then.

Camillo seems about to depart on that assurance, but her half-finished remark makes him pause again. "Yes, my lady?" he invites.

The lady sits again, in the chair drawn up to her harp — or rather perches perfectly upright upon the edge of it. "It occurs to me that my removal from the Hightower will give rise to talk," she remarks, "among the servants here… More talk than, I think, there is already." Her eyes narrow again and she concedes, "My maid has told me that several times conversations below stairs have broken off at her approach. Would you think me indiscreet to ask what it is that is said of me—?" Not that she's asking the question itself: she is only asking, with cool diffidence, his hypothetical opinion of such a question if it were to be asked of him. "Of course I should not dream of acting upon such knowledge, even were it to be confided to me; but sometimes one feels a certain curiosity regarding… other views."

"I hope it shall not, my lady," Camillo says gravely. "Not all the staff are under my control, but I do not like to hear the young ones who are indulge in gossip. It is very dangerous for everyone. But," he adds, glancing aside, "I am sure you would have no need to fear. People do know that…it seems you and your husband have not been…at liberty to live together for some time," he proceeds cautiously. "But it appears that that will soon change now that you are now in the same city. I am sure people will be satisfied by that."

Lady Rowan receives his very limited answer to the question she didn't precisely ask, with an equal gravity and a slow nod of her head. "We women especially are weak creatures in that regard: other people's business is often of interest to us," she concedes, "particularly when it is none of our own…" As, for instance, the state of her marriage is no affair of her cousins' cooks and maids and stableboys. "I think you are wise, Camillo, in discouraging such talk, as I do myself amongst my own women." Maids, nursemaids, laundresses — whether or not they wear Tyrell colours, the whole pack of them seem to answer to Lady Rowan before Lady Bryony. "It is irresponsible, of course, and apt to become needlessly damaging as falsehoods repeated again and again are given the weight of truth… I am glad to know that, in visiting the Hightower, I need not fear such harm being done to my reputation by talk below our many stairs. You reassure me greatly." She inclines her head to him.

"It can be damaging for the staff themselves," Camillo puts in. "To be known as a gossip is to become unwanted, in our profession. A good servant holds his tongue and, if he wishes to know things, it is only in order that he may help make life less difficult for everyone. Not to share stories for pleasure. I am sure, Lady Rowan," he adds, "That you need fear no such trouble from Hightower staff. But if you suspect anyone on our staff is harming any guest at the tower, I hope you will tell me."

"A good servant always knows a great deal…" agrees Lady Rowan. "It is only to be expected." She had one hand resting lightly upon the arm of her chair; she folds both her hands together now in her lap, her left hand and her simple white-golden wedding ring uppermost. "Naturally I have no such suspicions," she insists, despite the turn their talk has taken, "but if they were to come to me, now or in the future, I should be certain to inform you. I understand that you have the interests of the Hightower very much at heart."

Camillo inclines his head. "Yes, my lady. And of the people who stay here," he says, and his tone is quietly sincere as he risks a glance at her face. "I would not want anyone to be harmed."

There's nothing to see, of course, except a beautiful woman who keeps herself coldly composed, whilst saying all the right words in a pleasant low contralto voice. "Such sentiments do you great credit. I can only hope that in my new home I shall find servants who are your equal."

"I am certain the servants at the Rowan Door Manse are very well trained and behaved, my lady," Camillo says. "But that is very kind of you to say."

A different door opens: Lady Rowan's own. Lady Bryony stands there resplendent in high-up hair and a low-cut gown of pale green silk which contrives to turn her figure from 'maternal' to 'downright enticing'. The sleeves are, as Lady Rowan pointed out, thin and gauzy and transparent; and upwards from the hem climb embroidered golden roses of a fantastical delicacy in which it is reasonable to theorise Lady Rowan had a hand. "But where are your pearls?" she laughs, shaking her head. "I've looked and looked—! … Oh, Camillo, it is you. You know we're to be leaving soon? I shall miss your lilies."

Lady Rowan rises again in a rustle of modest and severe black silk. "Don't let us detain you any longer," she insists, giving him another slight smile.

Camillo inclines his head to the other noblewoman. "Lady Bryony," he returns. "Lady Rowan has told me. We shall be sorry to see you all gone," he says, including the children in that 'all,' presumably. Even though they make a lot of work around the Hightower. "But I am sure you will be comfortable." He nods to Lady Rowan and moves to the door, closing it gently behind him.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License