(123-05-22) Mother Knows Best
Mother Knows Best
Summary: Princess Vhaerys arrives upon Dragonstone, having decided her daughter's future — in consultation, of course, with her beloved prince.
Date: 19-21/06/2016
Related: On the Breeding of Dragons

The arrival of Princess Vhaerys upon Dragonstone is not such a flurry as it was in the old days, when she’d come on dragonback and expect the immediate provision of half a dozen sheep to sate great Vhaelyx’s appetite; nonetheless, with only a day’s notice and a night’s, the servants are thrown into a particular kind of uproar which would all by itself warn Princess Ardaerys of her mother’s imminence, even if the handmaiden sent ahead of her did not punctiliously pass the news to her through her own retainers. If anything at all of Ardaerys’s could be said to be her own, and not the property of her generous but forbidding parent.

When the princess has bathed, eaten, rested, and settled into an unfathomably luxurious apartment arranged for two, about which her and her late husband’s own stored possessions have been disposed in anticipation, naturally she calls for her daughter to attend upon her.

She has seated herself in a bay window looking out upon the open sea; she is dressed rather formally, not in the golden leathers she often favours at Dragonstone, but one of her Valyrian gowns, a sweep of blood-red silk breathtaking on a woman of her height and lean, muscular lines. Her hair is braided for war, after the fashion of certain Targaryen princesses present and past; the profile she presents, from the vantage point of the door held open by one of her handmaidens, is serene, thoughtful, still lovely. In one hand she holds a jewel-encrusted goblet unlikely to contain anything stronger than lemon water. A second goblet, placed within reach of a certain chair, suggests she does not believe herself to be alone.

And sure enough, when Vhaerys turns to speak, a cool smile upon her lips, the pronoun she selects is a plural. “Ardaerys. We bring glad news for you.”

In the months that have passed since Vhaerys last visited Dragonstone to bestow her presence upon her daughter, Ardaerys has grown. She’s not only grown — she’s flourished — like some beauteous weed within the garden of training and education that her mother has surrounded her with away from Court, and now cuts a striking figure of around five-foot-eight in height. Pale and perfect, and blessed (or some might say cursed) with the genes of her parents, she already shows the bearing of her bloodline, and there’s a cool reserve to her that prevents an emotional show of affection towards the parent that’s only ever been a distant figure within her life.

“Mother. How good it is to see you again. Glad news?” There’s a formality to the young Princess’s tone as she dips a full and formal curtsey towards Vhaerys, and without hesitation another to the chair in which her father silently sits. She completes such a duty without a flicker of emotion, her expression giving nothing away as she rises and thereafter allows the full weight of her attention to rest upon her mother. It is, after all, Vhaerys that acts as spokeswoman for her parents in all things, and she flicks at a singular crease in the folds of her skirts before taking two graceful steps closer to where her mother sits in the bay. If there are a thousand questions already forming within the young woman’s head, such things are not vocalised, but the fact of them is held within her eyes as she waits to hear what has brought Vhaerys at such short and unexpected notice to Dragonstone.

That beautiful curtsey is answered with a lift of Vhaerys’s chin to an even loftier angle, and a smile just a shade warmer than Ardaerys usually expects to see upon her lips — which indicates by its appearance that she is pleased by some particular manifestation of her daughter’s extensive training in the arts of the court, the salle, or the Citadel.

“Your father and I have discussed the matter at length,” she explains, reassuringly, “and we have decided that you are of an age to accompany us to King’s Landing and then to Oldtown. It is time you left the shelter of these ancestral walls and showed yourself at court.”

“Leave Dragonstone?”

If Vhaerys’ pronouncement causes confusion for Ardaerys, it shows in her response, the smoothness of her brow marred by the frown that fleetingly rests there. There’s a seriousness to the girl at the news that’s given, and a flattening of her mouth into a hard line where one might expect to see a smile. Turning from her mother, she twists her head to look through on of the large, arched windows which fill the room with light. In profile, she is much like her parents in looks, the polished fall of her hair entirely borrowed from her mother’s palette; silvery-blonde though warmed with gold. She draws a breath. “But I like it here,” she says carefully, not looking back to Vhaerys. “I like the way the air smells. I like my maesters. What is suddenly so important that I am to leave and show my face at Court?” She looks back to Vhaerys. There’s a deep intelligence that shows in her eyes with that question, a stubborn set to her jaw that questions just why, after fifteen years of being secluded from such, the decision has been only now taken to rectify what most would have expected long before this, and despite her apparent reluctance, those closest to her would be able to detect the frisson of excitement that lurks beneath the impassive veneer.

Sadly, she and her mother are not close.

The elder princess looks past the younger, her gaze locking with the empty air in that unsettling way of hers; her smile deepens faintly. “Your father is quite correct,” she observes, looking to Ardaerys again with a coolly courteous mien. “Safe and secure as you have been here within the closest circles of our kin, your education has reached a stage at which we feel it will best be continued in the world outside, where you may begin to put into practice, under our supervision,” it need hardly be said, and yet she says it, “all that you have been taught.

“Your desire to remain under the care of your maesters does you credit, my dear, and I assure you you shall not lack for intellectual diversions; the greatest library in the world is to be found in Oldtown, and we,” again she glances away to that unoccupied chair, her violet eyes glowing with a love which dims as she turns to her daughter, leaving only the same possessive pride, “are among the few unsworn to the Citadel who enjoy unfettered access to its volumes… We may arrange different tutors, in the fullness of time, but your present household will remain almost as it is. It is however my intention, now that you are a woman grown, to make you a gift of one of my handmaidens.” This she utters as though proposing to present the girl with the most precious of jewels, and not another spy to tell tales of her. “In our position,” and an inclination of her head includes Ardaerys, for once, in the plural, “we have a certain standard to maintain; she will oversee your other servants, and accompany you as a chaperone.”

Ardaerys dips her head at the mention of a handmaiden for herself, and a quiet ‘thank you’ is given Vhaerys in response. It is no doubt a credit to her mother’s skill at picking the many maesters under which she has studied, that her words are delivered with such unfaltering politeness, and her own thoughts on the matter of another set of eyes and ears upon her will forever remain her own — for there is no evidence of such thoughts within the clarity of her eyes.

Accepting a goblet from her mother’s handmaiden, she perches herself lightly on the edge of one of the gilded chairs, a moment taken to settle skirts of silver-threaded pewter so they fall in neat folds to her feet. Not sipping of her drink, but holding the goblet within the circumference of her fingers, she continues her regard of Vhaerys, her attention slipping but once to the unoccupied chair whilst her mother continues to speak. “When is it that I am to travel?” she eventually asks, when the extent of such plans are revealed. She simply asks when, hers not the place to worry about the mundanities of such arrangements, that is for those lesser than herself, though she does go on to add, “And will I be travelling with you, and father?”

“We shall remain on Dragonstone for six nights,” reveals Vhaerys, in answer to this question she considers reasonable enough, though as a rule she discourages any questioning of her edicts, or prying into her affairs, “and travel together thenceforth. I have given the necessary orders to your servants.” Something amuses her; she gives her husband’s empty chair a grateful, wry smile, her manner taking on the hint of refined sensuality she often shows him.

She sips her lemon water; at the end of a long moment’s silence she adds to her daughter, “And now that you are, as we say, of an age, we have given great consideration also to the matter of your marriage.” And there it is. The sting in the tail. Though Ardaerys is an intelligent young lady, acquainted with the manner in which these questions are settled within House Targaryen; surely she has been expecting such a discussion at any moment in the last several years.

Ardaerys is the jewel in her family’s crown, though to be fair, she is the only one in her particular lineage of it, and the news that a marriage has been discussed is indeed not that great of a surprise to her. Mirroring her mother, she takes a sip of her lemon water, wetting her lips briefly before lowering her goblet and drawing a breath. When her next words come, they are spoken with the tone of one whom knows that every nuance and inflection of her voice will be noted, dissected and later recalled should anything remiss or even lacking be found within it.

“I look forward to meeting him.” There’s a certain detachment to her words, a disconnection of them from the girl herself when she utters them, and whereas some young women might blush and giddily demand a name, a face, or even a hint at what their future might hold for them, from Ardaerys there is just the simple acceptance that her mother will have chosen wisely for her only child. And is she not her mother’s daughter? Teeth pick at her lower lip, her eyes lidding as she regards Vhaerys for another second or three from beneath them, before she finally goes on to add, (for how could she not,) “Unless, that is, we have already met.” Because there is, of course, potential for that too.

Again that slightly warmer smile, that deepening of the red curve of Vhaerys’s lips, suggesting satisfaction with her only daughter’s courtesy and her equanimity both. She has raised — she has caused to be raised — an exemplary young princess, who proves anew with every moment that she is a credit to her house, to her particular lineage, to the cool golden creature facing her now across an expanse of pale marble and Myrish carpet.

“I believe you have not yet had occasion to meet Prince Viseron,” she explains; “we have arranged that you and he shall become acquainted later in the year, in Oldtown.” A pause. “He is of course younger than you are; the marriage will not take place for some years yet,” she adds, “but in this matter which more than any other will determine the course of your life, we believe it is as well not to be too hasty. The best is worth waiting for.”

And how can she speak of the best kind of husband, without her violet Valyrian gaze straying once more to the beloved twin brother only she can see and admire—?

“The best would have been a sibling,” Ardaerys notes, perhaps somewhat callously given the tragedy of her father’s death and children lost before herself. Whether it’s an intentional dig at Vhaerys in a moment of rebellion and independence might not be known, for whatever thoughts she holds within herself with such a statement, are lost in the averting of her eyes towards the seat in which her absent parent sits. Taking another small sip from the goblet in her hands, she appears to give consideration to something her mother has said, and her chin walnutting, she turns her attention back her way.

“Prince Viseron. Which is he? I don’t quite recall which of my cousins I am familiar with, and which I am not.” Setting her goblet aside, she rises to her feet, and though she has not yet seen her sixteenth birthday, she is nevertheless a tall, graceful and quite striking young woman. “When we meet, I shall of course need to gift him with something to mark our betrothal. Should I be looking for something suitable for a babe in arms, perhaps?”

The first dig perhaps disguises the second; Vhaerys, again meeting her illusory twin-husband’s eyes in appreciation of some kind remark he seems to have offered her, is slow to return her regard to their only living child. Her attention remains perhaps a trifle divided, between her own thoughts and her daughter’s delicate questions. “A brother is always best of all,” she concurs silkily, “but such was not your fate, my dear. Nonetheless we have chosen well for you. Prince Viseron is eleven years old,” a difference in years which would be unexceptionable, were it reversed, “and he is the only son of our dear friend and cousin Prince Rhaegor.”

Rhaegor Targaryen. The prince known as the Scourge of Qarth, for setting that city’s streets awash with the blood of the warlocks who slaughtered his young dragon. A rider; a warrior; a skilled diplomat; King Viserys’s own favourite nephew; the greatest prince of his generation, perhaps, and a man whose arrivals and departures set Dragonstone aflurry with awe.

“… Viseron,” adds Vhaerys, after letting that sink in for a moment, “possesses an egg. He will be a dragonrider.” And that, as every Targaryen knows, is the absolute last word.

Silence follows Vhaerys’ disclosure, and her words fall with an almost tangible weight into the space that divides her from her daughter. There’s a stillness to Ardaerys in the seconds that follow, but it’s a stillness that allows for an imperceptible squaring of her shoulders, a lifting of her chin and an almost triumphant smile to ghost itself about the edges of her mouth.

“He does?”

She pivots on the heel of one foot and crosses the pale marble floor to the largest of the arched windows, the fingers of her right hand splaying against the glass as she stares intently at the seascape beyond. How many breathtaking tales in her fifteen years of seclusion upon Dragonstone must she have been told of her glorious parents upon Vhaelyx’s back? How much envy might have built within her? “He will grow soon enough,” she muses, her breath fogging the glass around her fingers. Naturally, she refers to Viseron, the egg far from her thoughts.

Vhaerys’s head doesn’t turn; her eyes only follow her daughter, narrowing, glinting.

Then they flick away from her daughter’s gleaming golden tresses to that chair in which she alone sees… what she sees. “The best,” she repeats in a low, satisfied purr, “is worth waiting for.”

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