(123-04-11) The Willow, the Oak, and the Rowan
The Willow, the Oak, and the Rowan
Summary: Lady Miranda Merryweather calls upon Lady Margot Rowan to discuss matters of perennial relevance to them both. Marriage. Religion. A woman's right and proper path.
Date: 11-13/04/2016
Related: Related Logs (Say None if there aren't any; don't leave blank. You have to use full URLs, like http://gobmush.wikidot.com/logtitle)

The next time Miranda receives a letter in the almost unreadably elegant hand of Lady Margot Rowan, it is addressed to Lady Miranda Merryweather. It would appear the news has been circulating… She is invited to afternoon tea at the Rowan Door Manse some days hence, far enough ahead that perhaps she'll be free; the terms in which the invitation is couched convey no indication of her hostess's thoughts or intentions, only a very civil hope to see her.

The manse is in Beacon Boulevard. It is not the city's largest but very old, and very handsome. A servant whose pristine white tabard bears a stylised golden rowan tree receives the young lady and conducts her through the foyer into a pretty sitting-room with a floor of polished cherry-wood, where Lady Rowan's standing harp is apparent at once to the eye — and then her familiar figure, black now rather than white as it was in the beginning, seated before the embroidery frame upon which her winter garden grows. She is just threading her needle through the cloth at the edge of it, in order to rise. She is quite alone. Well, what need has she of a septa in her husband's house?

She greets her visitor with a reserved smile. "Lady Miranda," she murmurs, giving her new and secular garb only a passing glance — how they've both changed the faces they present to the world; "a pleasure as always."

Miranda seems a little embarrassed as she's shown in, the young woman dressed primly in a gown of soft blush with roses embroidered on it. Her own house is presented in the golden pins in her braided loops of hair. "My Lady Rowan, a pleasure to see you once more. I do hope you received the invitation to the betrothal party?" It's hardly a secret despite the lack of the 'b' word anywhere.

A glance, no more, of Lady Rowan's cool blue eyes serves to signal to the withdrawing servant that they'll take their tea at once; she comes forward, dignified in her high-necked black silk and with her lace mantilla draped to cover hair pinned up in a plain new style she has lately adopted. Her seven-pointed diamond star glitters upon her bosom. Her hands take Lady Miranda's in a gentle clasp. "I did; thank you," she confirms softly, "and I am pleased you accepted mine, that I might offer you so soon my best wishes for the future you have chosen." She inclines her head toward the younger woman in a small nod, seeming sincere if not effusive. "Do sit, please." She releases her and gestures to a low table cleared for tea, at either side of which they might sit at their ease upon well-cushioned pale sofas.

Miranda's only nod to her prior path is her own jeweled star, still worn primly at her throat. "I hope the events of the Festival were to your liking, my lady? I know there was a spot of… difficulty involved." With the husband and whatnot. "But in the end, the children were fed and offered their devotions as we had hoped." She smiles sweetly at that.

The self-control which wavered now and again in the depths of Lady Rowan's grief for her son, is now sufficiently shored up that she can hear the mention of that difficulty without a flicker in her expression; she waits for Lady Miranda to sit first and then perches across from her, calm and upright, her white hands clasped in her lap and her wedding ring uppermost. "By the Mother's grace and your own," she murmurs, nodding again. "It has been a comfort to me, to be sure, and I hope the memory of the good we were able to do will be something for you to carry forward into your new life."

Two servants in rowan tabards come in, discreetly, carrying trays. The repast is rather more lavish than anything Lady Rowan offered to the then-Septa Miranda in the Hightower: the usual lemon water and a choice of two herbal tisanes, lavender or mint; plates of small sandwiches and savoury treats; four different varieties of cakes ranging in size from one bite's worth to six; every imaginable summer fruit, from whole strawberries to slices of blood orange, disposed in fanciful patterns around the edges of the rest. The placement of each cup and each pot and each plate upon the table forms an asymmetrical but pleasing arrangement around the low green glass bowl of scentless white flowers which was there to begin with. Golden rowan trees are embroidered upon the white linen napkins laid next to the empty plates nearest the ladies themselves. The servants withdraw having made hardly a sound.

Miranda offers her hand to Margot comfortingly. "I may have decided to withdraw my devotion to the Sept, but my love for the Seven is unchanged. As is my compassion and my concern for you, my lady Rowan. Are you adjusting well to your new home?"

The evidence of the tea suggests that Lady Rowan's home is adjusting well to her; for the rest of it, she raises her eyebrows into a studied expression of mild, pleasant surprise. "How could I not? You see I have here every comfort, every convenience — and far fewer steps to climb…" This last becomes by means of a faint curve of her lips, a confidence. "And you, my lady? … Ser Loryn is a young man with a good heart," she allows softly.

Miranda says, "It is both frightening and familiar." She folds her hands around her tea-cup as she admires the setting. Everything in its place and a place fo everything. "I was ignoring the signs the Seven were sending me until the last night of the festival at the masque. I realized that the path I was to walk was not the one I was on.""

Lady Rowan, previously the alleged vessel of a sign pointing Lady Miranda in quite the other direction, takes up her own cup and saucer and breathes in the aroma of lavender. "You seemed so certain," is her only quiet comment before she takes her first sip of it. The perfect temperature too.

The young woman hangs her head in mild embarrassment. "I had convinced myself I would not have a 'normal' life in the way the Gods had set forth for a woman. I thought I was safer hiding from the world instead of dealing with my own fears and hesitations." She takes a drink of her tea and tries to smile. A bit of nerves show through. "Ser Loryn helped me realize that I wanted to do things properly, and that he would be there do help me on the right path."

Her hostess regards her with grave interest. "Of course there was nothing improper for a woman in the life you were leading in the Sept," she insists in a murmur; "how could the gods not be pleased to see any woman — even a lady — take holy vows and consecrate herself to Their service? There would be no such creatures as septas," she suggests, "if They did not wish for septas… Still," her lips shift into a faint, thoughtful smile, "if you feel your place is in House Tyrell, more even than in the house of the gods — you are the only proper judge of such a matter," she stresses gently.

Miranda puts her tea in her lap, soft smile fading. "The role of a woman as maiden, mother, and crone. I had been a maid, and yet I never truly served as a wife and mother. My late husband was unkind, and did not bear issue. A sign the Gods frowned on our union, and why it was annulled." A bit of color rises in her cheeks. "I had wondered if I could serve the Mother properly having never known her true face. I asked which I would regret more - never knowing Her properly or leaving service to the Seven for now." Meaning if she was widowed again she would likely return to the orders.

In deference to Lady Miranda's modesty Lady Rowan lowers her eyes at the mention of such matters, occupying herself with putting down her tea and transferring several small pieces of fruit to her plate.

When she judges her visitor has had long enough to compose herself she looks up again. "There is no question in my mind," she promises Lady Miranda in that low and rather earnest voice of hers, "that your service to the Mother was true, and that it pleased Her. I wonder even whether serving Her by a choice such as you made for a time, might not in its way be still more pleasing than— the casual way in which most women come, as you say, to know Her, never considering or questioning their fate. The gods have given us the power of choice; surely they are pleased by such loving choices…?" she suggests. "I do not think you acted improperly, Lady Miranda, not at all. I think your care for all the Mother's children is a beautiful sight. The love the Mother has already placed in your heart, seems proof that you do know Her, and She you."

The reassurance seems to help as Miranda looks up with a shy smile. "I question my choice daily but I do not regret it." She takes a small sip of the tea before setting it back in her lap. "And I will not stop my support of the Sept, or the orphanages, or the needy of this city. I may even be able to do more with the power of Highgarden as a lady of House Tyrell. Ser Loryn hopes I will not abandon my calling to the Seven entirely, but… just the devotion of a lifetime of service." She blushes a little since there are things married couples do which septas do not.

Some married couples.

Whatever Lady Rowan might really think of finding herself across the table from a blushing young bride-to-be instead of a grey-robed septa steadfast in her vocation, she keeps it to herself; she nods, and taking up the delicate pot which contains the lavender tisane she refreshes her own cup, and if Lady Miranda is drinking the same makes a gesture toward hers as well. "I'm sure you'll do all you can," she agrees; "Oldtown is fortunate indeed that Ser Loryn has such strong interests here," the Whimsy Theatre is just up the street from the Rowan Door Manse, "and that it won't be his first thought to spirit you away from us." A slight smile as she sets down the pot. Because of course after her marriage it won't be her own wish that carries the weight. "Have your families arranged the date yet? Or am I too forward in inquiring?"

Miranda offers her cup for the refill. "My father and his mother are no doubt arranging that now. Likely a few months time as is proper. I think the wedding will be at the Starry Sept as opposed to Highgarden since we both have such vested interests here; and he is not high enough placed within his own house to warrant a grand wedding there." She doesn't seem to mind that fact, but nothing of her speaks of a drive for power. "I am leaving the planning to his lady mother- no doubt she will be pleased that things worked out so very well for us."

"Indeed… A remarkable time in your life. How well I recall," muses Lady Rowan slowly and distantly, looking through her visitor in that moment, "the pleasure of making the arrangements for my own wedding… Embroidering my gown. Auditioning the minstrels. Visiting the gardens each day in the hope the flowers I'd chosen would bloom in the right time. My sister and I gave names to some of the doves for the wedding pie, and then rather foolishly we began to worry for their fate…" She sighs, and gives a small shake of her head for her youthful fancies as she reaches again for her tea. "Of course having had a wedding before must dilute your interest in such tasks; and perhaps tending to them will draw my aunt out of herself," she suggests with a tilt of her lace-draped head. "She has lived so quietly since she was widowed." Feeling this requires some explanation she meets Lady Miranda's eyes again. "Lady Josanne is my late father's sister," she adds, "and my own sister Lady Bryony of course is married to Ser Adarian Tyrell. It might be said that Ser Loryn is my cousin twice over — so shall you be, in time." Which thought she greets with another small, courteous, perhaps faintly wistful smile.

The young Merryweather keens her head curiously at the rather pleasant description of Margot's own wedding. "It is… a memorable moment although truth be told I have been trying to forget that day for some time now," the widow says with downcast eyes. "I mean, my own. It was the last happy day I had for several years that I could recall." She tries to keep the topic more upbeat, though, and nods to the idea of kin. "It's unsurprising; the houses of the Reach do tend to keep to themselves - who can stand to forgo the beauty of a Reachmaid or the joy of proper Reachlord in company?"

"This time… I wish you all of the beauty of such a day, and none of its horror," Lady Rowan murmurs, very coolly but very gently. She drinks a slow mouthful of her tisane, and lets the quiet clink of cup into saucer underline a minor change in her own direction. Rather than following Lady Miranda into mutually complimentary pastures she gazes across the table to her with a steady blue gaze and intimates, at last, her real concern. "I hope you know I have become fond of you, my lady, during our late meetings… and so I beg the privilege of speaking to you as though I were, already, your cousin. I so wished," she confides, "to see you before any public announcement had been made, for when I began to understand what it would be, when I reckoned up the days since your lord father's visit to Oldtown, I found myself concerned that you might have found yourself subject to— shall I say, a very tender and well-intentioned influence…?" she inquires, trailing off tactfully. "But I see you now quite aglow with the altering of your situation, and I hope indeed I am right to rejoice with you." This from a lady who smiles only by rote, when a smile is the most appropriate decoration for her words. "Am I right, Lady Miranda?" she asks her earnestly. "And can you forgive such an indelicate question, prompted as it is only by my sincere interest in your wellbeing?"

Miranda looks down again but this time with a shy smile. "It was even before my father came to Oldtown. I suspect word had leaked from the Tyrell servants seeing as I was keeping Ser Loryn company in regards to his theatrical persuits. I discovered he was… kind and sweet and cared for those less fortunate, and saw the beauty in the common man as much as in those of higher blood." She laughs and guiltily admits, "I accused him of being sent BY my father, as he met those qualities I would have wished for in a husband myself."

The very upright black silken figure of Lady Rowan inclines fractionally nearer, as she lifts her cup once again to her lips. She had no colour in her face when the ladies first began to see one another, except the constant swelling and darkening about her eyes; she has by now recovered her health so far that her lips are rosy again as well as pleasantly full, and even her cheeks have in them, today, the faintest touch of pink. Her gravity however remains intact. She listens as though the weightiest of matters were at stake. To her, they are: the life, or the living death, of a lovely young woman… "Then you are most fortunate," she decides quietly, "and I hope and I trust that Ser Loryn shall prove himself worthy of the esteem in which you hold him. Perhaps… perhaps he was sent after all, by your other Father," she allows, with no hint of a jest, or flattery toward the young man.

Miranda touches her hand to her holy star - a symbol of her life then and now. "I… have thought perhaps he was. I have been earnest and devoted and done as the Gods commanded a woman do in her life." She smiles kindly to Lady Rowan. "And through my… hardships my faith never wavered. So when I come to Oldtown to continue my training, and the first person I meet outside the sept - while I was scrubbing the stairs no less— a face I recalled from happier days at Highgarden." Her cheeks color faintly under her tan. "And when a wagon ran wild, he was there to carry me to safety. I think I was afraid of what I was feeling and seeking any answer to avoid it."

The elder lady gives the younger a slow nod, echoing the gesture which is a comfort to them both, her pale fingertips just barely brushing her diamond star. "… You have known him longer than these few months, then? Though knighted now he is still so young," she confesses; "I had not thought of a prior acquaintanceship between you. But that is indeed— a touching story, Lady Miranda. I do hope it," she draws in a deeper breath, "the first of many."

"It was a tourney one of my brothers was riding in. Ser Loryn was doing some kind of dramatic monologue about the Greenhand kings," Miranda says with a tiny laugh. "It was ages ago, and he and I never truly were introduced. He was just familiar to me." She pauses and then asks, hesitantly, "And your own lord husband, my lady Rowan? How is your own story unfolding?"

And Lady Rowan's lovely face grows, if possible, even less expressive. She covers her slight pause before speaking, by setting down her cup and reaching again for the pot of lavender tisane. "My lord and I are in mourning," she murmurs tranquilly, "and it is too soon to say what the future may hold."

Miranda flusters and bows her head. "My apologies, my lady. I had simply hoped that perhaps you would have found comfort in grief with one another. He… does care," she offers simply.

Silence across the table. Then, "Of course I understand," and Lady Rowan gives another small and deliberate smile, "that for you the world must at present be a place of hope and delight and renewed purpose. It is not my wish to present a less than encouraging spectacle, or to presume upon our friendship to oblige you to be concerned any further than you already have been with matters more properly private to those directly involved. For your sake I do regret that my lord's choice fell upon you as a confidante, and that with your gentle heart you naturally consider some such obligation already conferred… The future is uncertain," she reiterates, "and best left to itself, I believe."

Miranda nods slowly as her shyness catches up to her again. She takes a slow drink of her tea and admires the lovely setting once again. "I can only pray that your future holds hope, as mine does, my lady Rowan. I did not think it would, but the Gods reward the faithful in their own time, in Their own way. We must ever hold on to our faith."

Again Lady Rowan's fingertips brush her star pendant by instinct. "By such testing our faith is strengthened," she insists softly; "though following such logic I may be the one to end her days a septa, in your place." She draws as deep a breath as a lady may in such tightly-laced stays. "My lord and I would greatly appreciate any prayers you have the leisure to offer, Lady Miranda, and I assure you we shall pray in turn for the success of your marriage."

"The reward of a woman's life well lived in virtue and grace is the peace and comfort given in service to the Gods," Miranda says devoutly. "I did not think the Gods would nudge me into another role, but I trust in their wisdom. And am happier for it," she admits with a tiny blush.

"We must do what is right, as best we can understand the gods' will," agrees Lady Rowan in one of her most distant and tranquil tones; "there is no other hope for peace or comfort, than in quieting one's own heart."

Miranda nods in quiet agreement. "A woman's lot is to submit to the will of the structure of the world. I sometimes feel bad for women who rankle against that. There's a peace to be found in surrender and trusting the Gods will do right by those who honor them; even if there are times when such only causes pain and discomfort. In the end…" She sets her tea down as she smiles gently. "In the end they will make it right."

At the end, or is she, of her famous eight years of rankling, Lady Rowan regards the Reach's newest and most sanguine bride-to-be with eyes which reveal a hint of her own exhaustion. "You are fortunate indeed, my lady," she murmurs, "to have come to desire precisely what all others desire for you."

"Being stubborn and holding to what we think we want only can hurt us in the end. Like a willow tree versus the oak. The willow will bend and sway and let the wind guide it. The oak holds firm but the storms can break it." The former septa laughs gently. "I'm sorry, I'm starting to quote again. I'm not here as a counselor or guide, just… a fellow Reachlady. But perhaps I should be returning, my lady Rowan. I wouldn't want to take all of your afternoon. How are your embroidery projects coming along?"

"And tempests which would uproot the willow, the oak, and the rowan alike, break themselves futilely upon the Hightower, Lady Miranda," explains Lady Rowan of Goldengrove, formerly Lady Margot Hightower, "century after century…" She glances to her standing embroidery frame; "My garden grows," she adds, "though I am forbidden to work too long a time at it."

Miranda chuckles a little at the tree metaphor. "Whyso, I thought you enjoyed your embroidery," she asks curiously as she looks to the frame.

"It is a great pleasure to me," agrees Lady Rowan, her voice still carefully, deliberately uncoloured, "but in the last year or so, my eyesight…"

Miranda colors in embarrassment. "My apologies, my lady. I'm sorry for bringing it up." She shifts uncomfortably in her seat.

Lady Rowan lifts her hand; "No, no," she says, calmly reassuring, "it was a natural question, and in truth by keeping to my maester's recommendations my eyes seem not a great deal worse than a year past. I see you well enough," she gives her a small nod, "sitting where you are." But perhaps this is why she gazes, sometimes, with such fixed and intense attention.

Fortunately the rest of the ladies’ conversation contains fewer pitfalls for Lady Miranda, by nature of its very brevity: before long the one departs and the other repairs up the stairs, leaving that lavish repast which has lain between them untouched to be cleared away and made a feast of, more jovially, by servants.

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