(123-05-04) The Enigmas of Cats and Foreign Lands
The Enigmas of Cats and Foreign Lands
Summary: Marsei explains cats to Camillo; there is wondering over the religions of those outside the Faith of the Seven.
Date: 04/05/2016
Related: Kitten Club, Mercy Bath

Chaos has not yet broken out in the chamber of Lady Marsei, where bird and cat share space. Contrary, perhaps, to certain fears, it's actually rather calm — at least at present, in the sitting room where Marsei holds court over her small feline charge, the dove at home in its cage afar by the window in the main room. An embroidery hoop depicting a half-sewn tree rests Marsei's lap, its only use now its loose thread, which she entices the one-eyed kitten with while ladies serving as handmaidens bustle about doing something-or-other deemed important in another chamber — yet are attentive enough to scurry forth when needed to attend to anything else, such as a knock at the door.

A knock does come, and there's a certain quality to it, soft but audible, that suggests it probably belongs to Camillo. He quickly nods his thanks to the handmaidens who let him in and immediately looks for the cat, though he doesn't forget to say, "Good day, your ladyship."

"Hello Camillo!" Marsei greets, a ready familiarity in her voice that suggests she expected it was him before she looked up. She sits up straighter as she does so, and the kitten chases the dangling thread onto her lap atop the embroidery and the lady's soft pink dress which likely shouldn't stand the test of claws, standing on its little hind legs and promptly tumbling over. Possible lack of coordination besides, it's looking better than it did — certainly cleaner, and fluffier as a result.

Camillo comes a little closer to get a look at the kitten. "How is it?" he asks. "It's good if it's chasing string. That must mean its eye still sees well. No signs of sickness, my lady?"

"It's a bit bumbling," Marsei admits, smiling down at the little creature as she attempts to help right it; it promptly makes a game of clinging to her hand and biting — a much more inert chomp than whilst it was bathed. "I don't think it quite knows its own paws, but I can't tell if that's injury or because it's simply a baby. And aren't all babies clumsy?"

"That's right, my lady, they are," Camillo agrees. "And it's been hurt and tired so I'm sure it'll get stronger, at least." He watches it carefully while it goes at biting Marsei, though it doesn't seem vicious. Camillo glances over at the birdcage. "But…it might prove to be more trouble as it gets older…"

Marsei's attention is easily captured by the kitten; she's readily entertained by its every little move. Still, she manages to notice Camillo's glance and turns her head to follow it out to where the birdcage hangs. "I think most cats become more calm as they grow older," she points out — not utterly certain, yet optimistic enough to make up for it. "Are you worried about my dove?" She turns her smile to Camillo and then back upon the playing kitten. "So far it only seems to bother with the cage when the dove is moving about in the cage, and I shan't let them free at the same time," she says cheerily. The kitten pounces the thread with its uncoordinated hunter's instinct. She picks it up, raising it to face level, beaming at it eye to — literally — eye. "I shan't let anything bad happen!"

Camillo tilts his head slightly at the idea that cats get progressively more calm with age. He smiles uncertainly, looking back at Marsei and the cat. "Yes, my lady," he says. "But…should you be out of the room, it would be terrible if… Cats can be very clever, and it is their nature to hunt birds."

"I've been putting it in my bedchamber with the doors closed when I am out or asleep," Marsei assures just as cheerily. "It has a little cedar box for a bed it can go in and out of that it seems to enjoy when it is not with me." She sets the kitten down and it hops onto the arm of the sofa she's sat upon, closer to Camillo, and wobbles back and forth trying to stay balanced. "It's very thoughtful of you to worry so, Camillo."

Camillo inclines his head, accepting Marsei's ruling on the cat/bird case. He reaches out a finger in the cat's direction. There's still a scratch mark in evidence. "Are you and His Grace well, my lady? I know there has been much excitement with the Maiden celebrations." And perhaps he has heard other rumors.

Marsei's quick look away suggests that she may expect the question arises from knowledge of those rumours, but she's just as quick to smile anew. "Yes," she says, leaning over to gently pluck the kitten off the arm of the chair as if by sudden compulsion; just as well, as it was on the verge of falling off while looking at Camillo with its one curious eye. "All is well. I believe Dhraegon especially enjoyed the party here in the gardens."

"His Grace does love the gardens," Camillo agrees mildly. "I am glad if you are both enjoying the festivities." He pauses, sifting through various comments that don't seem /quite/ right. "And the cat is letting you handle her so nicely," he settles on changing the subject back for. "She must be grateful to you, my lady."

"Do you think it is a girl?" Marsei inquires, looking into the fluffy little face; but before Camillo is forced to once again consider the obscure sex of the animal, she goes on to ask wonderingly, "Do you think they feel gratitude the way we do? Well," she hugs the cat gently to her chest with her folded, cradling arms, "I feel that it is happy, and that is good enough for me." She gives pause, looking up at Camillo in a gently studying manner that seems to consider more deeply — him, more than the cat — though all she asks is, "Would you like to pet it?"

"Oh," Camillo says, only now realizing that he said 'she.' "I suppose I must have said it from some feeling, my lady, though I admit I don't know." He looks thoughtfully at the cat. "Gratitude, my lady?" He looks a little doubtful. "I've been bitten by a horse I fed and cleaned every day its whole life. So…I don't know." He looks down at the creature in all this talk of petting. "Do they like that, particularly?"

"Of course," Marsei replies, a hint of a laugh in her words without being mocking; instead, the sound is warm, welcoming. "Perhaps the horse was simply having a bad day. Come here." The lady carefully deposits the kitten back on the arm of the sofa where it resumes its balancing act, its tail high and happy, giving Camillo — the new thing in the room — a mostly soundless meow.

Camillo takes a step closer and looks at the cat. He puts his fingers out again. "Do you think I'm frightening it?" he asks. He did, after all, brutally bathe the thing not long ago.

"It's curious!" Indeed, the kitten is eager to investigate the outstretched hand, pleased as can be — until it gets a better sniff of Camillo. And remembers. It gives the tiniest of hisses, perhaps thinking itself fierce, except that it promptly bounds back toward Marsei, across her lap, kicking the embroidery askew, off the other end of the sofa and all the way under the adjacent chair. "Oh…" Marsei quells her disappointment — not getting to pet a kitten, after all, cause for considerable disappointment in her book — with another smile up at Camillo. "I'm sure the grudge will be forgotten in time!"

Camillo steps back from the cat when it shows such displeasure about him. He's probably hurt by the reaction, knowing Camillo's personality. "I'm sorry to upset it, my lady," he says. "But really it belongs to you."

"It's all right," Marsei says, heartening. "The very same thing happens I've my own bath drawn. It tucks itself away for awhile and then all is well again." She turns a fond smile to the dark space beneath the chair, an expression that lends itself also to her next words, "Rather like Dhraegon and his pillow fort, I suppose."

Camillo makes a vague nod, but it's plain that he doesn't consider the kitten's discontent with him the same as its avoidance of Marsei's bathwater. "Yes, my lady," he says. "Cats are careful not to get themselves in trouble, I suppose. I think they might be smarter than some animals."

Marsei gives Camillo a sympathetic little expression, a fleeting indication that she might be aware that he doesn't hold the two incidences in the same category. "If that's true, we could all learn something from cats," she posits with a light air; amusing, but not without thought. "Keeping out of trouble, I mean." She picks her embroidery back up but has little true interest in continuing with the needle, simply picking it up for the sake of doing something with her hands now that the more favourable pastime is in hiding under the chair. Some of the stitches have, besides, become frayed or undone by the kitten's tear across it, not that it was a particularly notable work of art to begin with.

Camillo watches the kitten. "Does it come to you of its own accord?" he wonders. "Or do you usually pick it up or give it something to hunt nearby?"

He watches the cat and Marsei watches him, intrigued somehow by his questions. The kind of questions someone more unfamiliar with living side-by-side with a cat would produce. "All of those things," she answers brightly. "It comes and goes, and sometimes it stays if I pick it up while other times sometimes it wanders off right away unless there's something to eat or play with." And who can blame it?, her tone suggests affectionately toward the critter. "You've never cared for an animal that wasn't a work animal," she supposes.

Camillo looks thoughtful about that answer, and then about what he's going to say in return to her supposition. "I don't suppose I've known many animals who didn't have a task to do, my lady. Small folk…we don't always have enough food for ourselves to eat. If there's an animal, then we have to have some way to have the surplus to feed it. And most animals are inclined to work." Or so he thinks.

The lady nods a little in understanding, of this life that is not hers. "Not cats," she points out, far more curious than contrary. "Unless it is in their nature, like catching mice. And like chickens, to lay eggs. Have you ever wondered if horses like to be ridden and pull carts?" She seems to be wondering it herself this very moment, gaze grown slightly distant upon this new enigma.

Camillo tilts his head. "Perhaps they do not like it, my lady, but they are born for it. We train them to it. There are many people, too, who are not happy with their work, but they must work if they wish to eat." Which, of course, doesn't include noble people.

"Yes…" Marsei considers, leaning down whilst thinking on this, reaching out to try to lure the kitten from beneath the chair with a bit of dancing string. It peeks its head out, sees Camillo, and scrambles back under. "Perhaps we are all born and raised for a purpose, but that doesn't mean that purpose is in our nature. I suppose that is why sometimes horses bite and good dogs go mad." She settles back and looks down at her uneven embroidery. "As well as people."

"I think maybe thinking too much about purpose and nature is…to hard for most of us," Camillo concludes, frowning thoughtfully. "I talk to so many people who all have different ideas about what people are for and how they should live." He pauses, "My lady, does it not seem like there are more foreigners about than there used to be?"

Marsei is delving into thought about nature and purpose whether or not it is too hard, perhaps to her detriment, given the faint frown her mouth begins to take on. She's begun idly pulling threads from her needlework and halts to consider Camillo's question. "I … can't say that I'm sure," she admits. A look drifts up to Camillo, questioning. "There have always been so many people coming into port in Oldtown, and … the Dornish are either scarce or flush depending on the state of politics at any given time, it seems, but they are only from as far away as across the Red Mountains."

Since the kitten is hiding, Camillo tries moving his position slightly so the kitten won't see him as easily if she pokes her head out. "The other night I was walking and saw a light and there were two people about to worship at the godswood tree, I think. With a sacrifice of a rooster. What do you think of that, my lady? Other people's ways?"

"A sacrifice?" Marsei repeats with wide-eyed alarm, yet seems to accept the fact rather quickly, although her lips tug down. "I feel that other people's ways, if they are not dedicated to the Seven, must be misguided," she says quietly, a strong conviction that is, nevertheless, not without conflict. "But I know that the gods the northmen worship hold dear… some of the same values as ours do, such as… kinslaying, and so I think their worshippers are perhaps… not bad people at heart."

"So…what should a person do about things like that?" Camillo wonders. "If you meet someone who worships like that? What do you say about it?" He occasionally looks to the place where the kitten disappeared.

Marsei has no immediate answer; she takes her time, having a considerable amount to think on. "You do not have to do or say anything, unless to ask questions," she suggests. "I think they will do what they will, unless it is they who have questions to ask of you." While she is still considering — not utterly at peace with her answer — and looking at her embroidery, the kitten sneaks carefully out from under the chair and trots boldly through the open space toward the bedchamber. Marsei looks suddenly up to wonder, "Why did they sacrifice the rooster?"

Camillo keeps very still while the kitten is doing her trotting, then looks to Marsei. "I…can't say I'm sure," he says. "I think…for protection or…good fortune. They said…their god can see them at the tree. I don't understand it." He looks thoughtful. "Do you think it is all right to…talk to these people often? Who follow other gods?"

Marsei softly opens and closes her mouth, considering and reconsidering a response to the sacrifice and the weirwood. She moves on as well. "If one is confident enough in their own gods, I do not think it is wrong to talk to those who believe in others. I believe most people are deserving of our kindness." A benevelont smile at Camillo fades as her face falls into a worrying thought; she's wary to go on, but does so with a tone of caution, "Except… I have heard… of worshippers of foreign religions who can put curses on you, or … use magic drawn from an evil source. I would not wish to talk to such people so often — but they are not of the Old Gods."

Camillo seems cautiously pleased by Marsei's words of tolerance, though he listens seriously to this talk of curse-religions. "Where do those religions come from?" he asks. "Yi Ti or some place like that?"

Marsei's focus narrows ever-so-slightly on Camillo, trying to place the place with a meaning in her mind. "Where is Yi Ti?" She must have fallen up short; no, it is elsewhere she thinks of, going on to state broadly, "Essos. There is a temple in Volantis, where Siva came from, and I am told there is one here as well, but I have never seen it. They say it is for sailors." And thus not in a part of town she would be likely to glimpse. "They call their god a strange name I don't recall and…" She tenses her shoulders, spooked by the thought. "He is said to speak to them through fire."

"It's far off," Camillo says, as if that means anything whatsoever. He looks thoughtful about Essos. "Is Essos where Peri comes from?" he asks. He makes a bit of a face. "Through fire? But not all the people there follow this faith?"

"Peri is from Essos, but I believe she is from Lys. Lys has…" Marsei swallows the entire thought of whatever she had even considered saying; something more difficult to speak of than ominous gods of fire, for she swipes a hand lightly across her cheek to chase away an embarrassed flush at the entire concept of what she knows of Lys. "…Siva told me that in Volantis, there are many faiths. When she was small, her family worshipped the gods of Old Valyria who had names like dragons, as the Targaryens did before the Doom. But when she came here, she came to know the Seven. She said the clergy of the fire god are called priests and I have listened to maesters tell stories of them kill with fire and see the future." Again her shoulders tense and she shakes her head. "I do not know what it is they see in the flames, except that it must be evil."

Camillo looks curious, but doesn't press Marsei on what Lys has. Probably ladies who try to take baths with you. "It must be a strange thing to convert," he says of Siva. "But…I am sure once she was near to the Seven, she saw their beauty."

"Yes, she did," Marsei confirms with a touch of pride as well as a fondness for both Siva and the gods they speak of; the familiar, true gods, an especially welcoming thought. "But she was very young when she came over. And there is no better place in the world to learn than Oldtown." She smiles a little, lifting her brows questioningly at Camillo. "I hope I did not alarm too much with talk of such frightful things."

"That is true, it has been a fine thing to be nearer to the Starry Sept," Camillo says. His gaze has wandered, but he brings it back to Marsei. "No, my lady. There are many…strange things in this world, but…I don't know so many far-off people."

"Nor I," Marsei admits, Siva notwithstanding; she's an honorary Westerosi now after so many years. "I think they're interesting when they're not frightful." A definition which must be broad, considering Lys. "I like to learn about faraway places!" From faraway. "There's so much to know." The chatter and laughter of the handmaidens in the other room rises, now that they've been joined by the kitten, and Marsei is drawn out of her thoughts to smile in that direction. "I wish you luck with your Northern friends," she tells Camillo with only a hint of question over her guess that they aren't entirely theoretical figures.

"Oh," Camillo says, either surprised that Marsei has seen through his clever ruse or because he senses that she may wish to move on to other matters. "Yes, my lady, thank you," he says, without claiming that he counts no Northrons amongst his friends. "Shall I leave you, now?"

"Only if you wish, Camillo," Marsei allows graciously. The lady seems to have no pressing plans but to pick up her embroidery once again and undo her work thread by thread, which she may or may not even persevere all the way through given the tedium. "When you do leave, will you bring back a treat for my kitten? If you set it down and let her come to you, perhaps she will consider being your friend," she suggests. "I should like her to be friendly."

Camillo lifts his eyebrows. "If you like, my lady. I can get a bit of chicken or something like that from the kitchen. Do you think they prefer meat cooked or raw?"

"I don't know," Marsei realizes suddenly in the moment — but not to worry! She has a plan: "Test it!"

Camillo smiles at Marsei's solution and inclines his head. "Very well, my lady. I'll come with a little of each the next time and we will let the cat choose. Have you thought to name it yet? Or are you waiting to know if it is tom or a queen?"

"I called it' her' just then, didn't I," Marsei says in another realization; she lifts her chin up, satisfied with her mistake. "Perhaps I simply have a feeling too. At any rate, I'm hopeless with names. I was thinking of asking Dhraegon. I expect it will be some flower or another before long." But it is hardly a complaint, the notion bringing about her frequent smile instead.

Camillo smiles a little. "She's dark for a flower, my lady," he comments. But argues no further than that. He makes a little bow. "I'll leave you, then, my lady," he says.

The lady nods her head of gentle red waves in response to the bow, offering up sincere words for his departure. "Seven be with you, Camillo."

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