(123-06-15) The Merry Widow at Starfall
The Merry Widow at Starfall
Summary: Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck arrives unexpectedly at Starfall and her first act is to call upon Princess Visenya Martell, to discuss men and marriages and the occasional necessity of a good slap in the face.
Date: 15-21/06/2016
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)

It isn't as though Princess Visenya doesn't know that Lady Joyeuse Hastwyck is rattling round Dorne. Almost four months ago the merry widow, sobered by recent experiences, spent a night at Starfall on her journey from Oldtown to Sunspear and then Ghost Hill, in pursuit of old friends and her daughter Lady Vanora Toland. The talk between them on that occasion was courteous, not much more; the future entered into it only as a hope, or a platitude. When the name Hastwyck is brought to the princess again, apropos of a request to visit the new mother and a bouquet of the same Dornish wildflowers she had as a gift once before from Lady Joy, it shouldn't seem a thing wholly out of the blue, but perhaps it does anyway.

Since last they met the Reachlady seems to have found herself a pretty, brown-skinned Dornish handmaiden to replace the sour-faced crone she was wont to go about with. The girl follows, carrying a box wrapped in red silk, as her mistress flutters ahead trailing diaphanous sea-green sandsilk sleeves. Her garb is wholly Dornish today, and not one of her efforts at melting two cultures together in the crucible of her wardrobe. Her dark red curls are loose beneath a silvery sandsilk veil; her smile is a mile wide.

"Your Grace; congratulations!" she exclaims at once, curtseying.

"Thank you." Visenya says in a more gentle, but still sincere response to Joyeuse's greeting. Like all new mothers the Princesses features still carry a slight softness from nine months of carrying a child, but even now her slender frame seems to be snapping itself into shape. She wears a dusky blue gown in the dornish style with the hem dyed in lighter blues and purples to mimic the sky at twilight. Long dagged sleeves are also dyed in the same manner. Her silver jewelry and adornments are kept simple so the outfit doesn't become too busy. She is sitting on a padded bench, and she motions for Joy to join her on it. "Dorne agrees with you, my lady. How well you look."

The observation seems to strike Lady Joy. Her eyes lift toward the ceiling, or possibly the heavens; she lets out a guilty giggle, hides it at first with a wave of the hand-painted ivory fan she holds (some frivolous Essosi trinket), then gives up and just laughs her way to join the princess. There's really nothing else to be done. "I suppose it does…" she confides; and as she sits she catches sight of the handmaiden at her heels, and her expression suggests that for a moment she'd quite forgotten the girl. "Oh — just put it down over there," she suggests, waving her fan vaguely towards a nearby table. "I'm afraid it's not a very good present, Your Grace," she apologises at once to Princess Visenya. "I don't know what you like, and there isn't much shopping in Dorne. But having a baby, well, it's such a business, isn't it? There ought to be prizes at the end," she says firmly, "don't you think?"

Visenya watches Joy as she laughs on her way to the couch to join Visenya, and her own lips quirk upwards even as her dark violet eyes search the older woman as if she could discern by sight what exactly is so funny. She glances to the present when the handmaiden puts it down, but she doesn't reach for it just yet. And perhaps it is because she thinks it will be impolite to open it in front of Lady Joy. Or maybe the viper bite that still scars the delicate underside of her forearm makes her cautious with gifts. "Thank you. I'm sure it will be absolutely lovely." She lets out a small laugh, "Oh goodness. I feel like I deserve a medal after it. Or a knighthood. It was, quite frankly, horrible."

Yes, beware of Florents bearing gifts—!

Perched on the edge of that padded bench, at an angle and inclining forward in her enthusiasm for the subject at hand, Lady Joy nods vigorously. "They don't tell you, do they, what it's really going to be like—?" She speaks with the hushed tone, the horrified emphasis, of a woman sharing scandal. "It's all romantic metaphors, and twaddle about motherhood being a great and beautiful destiny — they don't tell you how often you'll want to go to the privy, or how long you'll be bleeding afterwards, or how much it hurts. Not till it's too late and you're already in the way of it…" And she bites her lower lip and shrugs and sighs. Not laughing now. "I wish I had brought you a medal; that would have been clever. But your little girl, she's the very best prize, isn't she? Dornish babies are so beautiful," she muses, "with that marvelous brown or coppery skin, as though they've already been kissed by the sunshine. I hope she's bringing you joy, Your Grace. You certainly look," she adds, and her smile returns, "as though Dorne is agreeing with you too."

"She got stuck." Visenya confides in Lady Joy after the older woman outlines the horrors of giving birth. "And it turned out she was turned the wrong way. Backwards. Her little backside came out first. I honestly thought it would split me in two." She says this in a low whisper, as if it were important no other woman hear this and decide never to have a child, "The maester had to be sent for to pull her out by putting his hands-" She trails off before concluding with, "It was absolutely horrible." She smiles a smidgeon, "She's very pretty. Doesn't do much yet. I thought she'd do more, but I guess they just sleep at this age?" She shrugs a little as she reveals her cluelessness regarding babies. "I like it here. But, my marriage to Prince Torren is a happy one." A pause, "I did not know Prince Auberyn was well acquainted with the Tolands?"

At the word 'backwards' Lady Hastwyck's grey-green eyes widen in alarm; she leans forward, and if nothing happens to keep her from it she'll take the princess's hand in another of those impulsive gestures of hers.

"But you're both well now?" she asks urgently, looking the new mother up and down as though seeking confirmation of that fact. Concern is writ in every line of her face. "Oh, I'm sure you must be, or you wouldn't be seeing casual visitors," she adds, recollecting herself, "but… Seven above, Your Grace, what a thing to have happened—! And how lovely you do look, after such an ordeal — you must have remarkable powers of recovery. What a blessing for House Martell that you both came through so well," she declares.

That subject exhausted, the princess's deductions regarding Lady Joy's late traveling companions are met with another laugh "… Well, I suppose having lived all his life in Dorne, Prince Auberyn must know most of its nobles at least a little, don't you think?" she guesses, innocently enough. Though her eyes did flicker away for an instant before daring to meet the princess's directly. "And he and the Prince Consort have been goodbrothers a long while…" She drops her voice. "I was so sorry to hear of his illness. The news hadn't reached Ghost Hill when we set out — it's only the will of the gods that has brought so many of his kin here to him now…"

"We're both fine." Visenya says to Joy reassuringly, and she manages a broad smile as the other woman states how happy she is that they are both well. "The little Princess is a little, ah, cone-headed." She laughs a little, "I'm hoping it fades a bit before her naming ceremony." But that is all she has to say regarding the birth.

"Oh, of course. That makes perfect sense. Your daughter is a Toland. The Prince Consort is a Toland…" She gives Joy a mischievous little upturning of her lips. "I think Prince Torren will look something like Prince Auberyn when he is older. He is a very handsomely distinguished man." Her smile widens a hint more as she looks over Joy, but it fades at the mention of the Prince Consort's condition. "He is abed resting, but thank the Seven we are told he will recover."

The ivory fan Lady Joy has been lazily plying in her right hand, moves more swiftly through the talk of handsome Dornish princes — then snaps shut and rests in her lap in speaking of the Prince Consort's condition. The tiny smile she couldn't hide vanishes of course when she opens her lips to speak, but whenever she's silent, it comes back. "Thank the Seven," she echoes, nodding, as sincere in this as in her good wishes for the newest Martell heir and her mother — one might almost suppose, to see her hanging so upon Princess Visenya's words, that these are people whose fates are twined with her own.

"If it had to happen," she goes on, "if the gods were quite determined that it should, at least it happened with so much of his family already gathered in one place or on their way here — and a new grandchild, now, that's something to go on living for, isn't it?" Another nod, in agreement with her own point. "We were quite a party, traveling here — we were all coming the same way at the same time so it did seem to make sense — my daughter came too," she adds, struck by this happy thought, this extra justification, "to see the tournament, and then perhaps to visit Oldtown… She hasn't decided what she'll do. I've so wanted you to meet her, Your Grace, and perhaps one day soon…?" An inquiring tilt of her head. "… I do hope," she adds gently, "that all has been well for you here."

"We've been praying for him every day." Visenya says of the Prince Consort. She shifts on the couch a little to listen to Joy relate her travel to Starfall. "Oh, did she? I would be very eager to meet her. We shall all have to have tea with Lady Marsei. She's here, too. She came to be with me during the birth." She smiles at the last question. "Things have gotten easier. People have grown to accept me, and my skin has gotten a little thicker."

She moves on from that question to something else, "But, for Dornish peace to work I think there needs to be more kinship on both sides, don't you think? Perhaps some brides from the north coming south?" She then adds in a discreet tone, "I cannot imagine many Dornish women would be happy making the move north."

And Lady Joy gasps; and lights up with unfeigned delight. "Marsei's here—? Oh, of all the…" She falls silent, fidgeting with her fan as she listens. She nods to Princess Visenya's thickening skin. She nibbles her lower lip at the proposal that the north and the south should keep on making love rather than war — and a rosy pink blush begins to suffuse her delicate cheeks. In the end all she can do is shake her curly head and laugh out loud and exclaim, "You know something, don't you? Oh, how can you know? We weren't going to say a word, not yet; but I suppose if you already know…?" Her eyes beseech the princess to say it's so.

"She is. Prince Dhraegon as well." Visenya says, and she lets out a little laugh when Joy begins to blush. "I am the future Princess Consort." She says easily, "Everyone thinks I love hearing gossip and so they tell me thinking it will make me their friend." Her lips twitch upwards before she says, "And they are right about me loving gossip. I'll admit it. But, there has been some rumors regarding a certain Prince with his new paramour at Lemonwood." She gives Joy a bit of a tilted grin, "I really didn't know anything at all, but I think you want to tell me something, my lady."

The flush deepens — Lady Joy has recourse to the chilled white wine left for her by one of the maids before they all, Princess Visenya's and her own, withdrew discreetly from earshot. She sips twice, daintily, then gives in to her thirsty appreciation of this particular offering made by House Dayne to the visiting royals. "Oh, what a trick!" she exclaims. "Just saying things to see what I'd say," she sighs, shaking her head; but she doesn't sound the least bit cross. "Well. All right." She breathes out, putting down her empty cup. "I suppose I do want to tell you; I suppose I want to tell everyone. Though we've tried to be careful; you won't tell, will you, Your Grace? Not yet…" And, at a sign of reassurance, she circles nearer to the point. "I was terribly unhappy when I came to Dorne a few months ago. It's why I came," she explains earnestly. "I'd had it up to here," she waves her fan over her head, indicating a depth at which a woman could drown, "with— with northern men." These last two words uttered vehemently. "I wanted very much to get away, to be among quite different people. And then… well, I met Auberyn again," and her shoulders lower as she lets out a melting sigh.

Visenya doesn't look exactly apologetic as she says, "Forgive me. I can't very well leave my own curiosity unsated, can I?" She shakes her head, "I won't say a word. But it will get out eventually. These sort of things always do." She nods her head in understanding, "Oh, I've had more than my fill of northern men as well. I think once you've had something beyond that then, well, it's just not as appealing as it once was."

"… You understand," sighs Lady Joy, beaming openly now. "It isn't meant to be a secret for long, only till—" She hesitates and moistens her lips and confesses what she's yearning to confess. "Till Princess Amarei has given her blessing," she says in a rush. "I've already been married into one family that didn't want me and I wouldn't like to do that again," she laughs. It's the brave, determined laughter of a woman trying not to show how alarmed she is by the alternatives. "And so I said we had to come and ask her, before we began to… to make any kind of display of it. I wouldn't dare ask you to speak for me, Your Grace, not when we hardly know one another, and when you've so little reason to love any Florent, but perhaps… if you're asked, if you and your husband discuss it, you might not speak against me. If you do feel Dorne might be the better for such marriages. After all…" Her shoulders shift in another shrug. "I am so Dornish already I'd better marry a Dornishman; no northern lord would have me," she says lightly.

"I don't even think of you as a Florent." Visenya admits, and she sounds sincere when she says this. "And of course I will not speak against you. I would not dream of meddling in a love match such as this." She purses her lips, "I do not know Princess Amarei well, but the Prince Consort took a shine to me in Sunspear, and I visit him daily. Perhaps if I mentioned to him and Prince Torren how happy you and Prince Aubreryn seem together they may mention such to Princess Amarei?" She gives Joy a subtle little smile at that.

The smile she receives in return is warm and hopeful and conspiratorial; it positively glows with anticipation. "Thank you," sighs Lady Joy, leaning forward again to give the princess's hand another quick squeeze. She appears to have taken the Florent remark as it was intended: after all, she hardly thinks of herself as a Florent either, does she? "… I'm sure I'm not what anybody could have had in mind for him," she says candidly, "but House Martell chose his first two wives and neither of those matches worked out very well, did they?" she sighs. "I knew the second one a little — the Lyseni girl — when we first knew each other he was married to her, and I was married to my first husband — she was only fourteen when her family sent her to marry him," she explains, again in her special hushed scandal-voiced. "They were so keen to see their beastly trade deal fixed… I never could tell whether she didn't understand what we were saying, or whether we all just bored the life out of her. She didn't drink, either. Not so much as a cup of wine with her dinner. I know one shouldn't speak ill of the dead and truly I don't mean it," a brief flash of penitence, "but I ask you, does that sound like a companion for Prince Auberyn—? And he was no companion for her either, and I suppose… I suppose that was why…" Why one morning the lady threw herself from a high castle battlement onto the rocks below.

"No one thinks of the actual happiness of those who are matched." Visenya says with a little shrug before she says, "That is our lot in lives as nobility or royalty. We get to live in luxury, and in exchange we don't always get to make the choices that make us the happiest." She confesses as she reaches for her own wine, "I was lucky. Most are not so lucky. But in most cases a wife is not intended to be fun or a good fit, even." There is a pause before she asks with a furrowed brow, "How did she die?"

What can a twice-wed, twice-widowed lady do but nod to that? "I think one grows up knowing one is just going to have to do the best one can with a mismatch," muses Lady Joy; "happiness is a state one has to stitch together for oneself out of whatever pieces come to hand, not a whole cloth one can expect just to be given in the natural course of such lives as ours… I call it needlework,” she makes a face, “because it’s always the lady who's held the more responsible for it, rather than her lord." Her gaze has wandered down into her lap, to where her hand is curled about that closed ivory fan, its red silk tassels bright against her sea-green robes. She looks up again, and can't help blossoming into another smile. "I've been so happy these last weeks," she confesses, "but even so I keep listening in quiet moments for the sound of— of the other shoe falling. It hardly seems possible that I could have found a man so very much to my taste — and that there could be no impediment to our marriage. It's all a little too astonishing. I wonder whether it might not be a dream from which, between the altars, I'll wake… Though I suppose what's a dream for one woman might be pure nightmare for another. The lady Amanira…" The corners of her mouth turn down; she gives a pensive sigh. "She took her own life, years ago, while he was away in the Stepstones. He doesn’t like to speak of it.” Her voice drops. “… And don’t ask the Daynes about her, whatever you do. I’ve just— remembered.”

Visenya's expression is neutral, and she seems more keen on listening until Joyeuse says that his last wife killed herself. "That poor woman." She shakes her head softly. "I cannot imagine how her life must have been if she felt that was her only option. Perhaps she was not dull at all, but perpetually sad?" She gives Joy a little look when the Dayne's are mentioned. "Oh dear. What happened with the Dayne's?" She finishes off her glass, and holds it up for a refill. Clearly this conversation will involve multiple glasses of wine.

Never one to turn down another drop of— well, anything, really, Lady Joy echoes the gesture at once, lifting her own glass and smiling at the maid who comes across the chamber to see their talk properly lubricated. She waits till the girl is a few paces away once more before lowering her voice and leaning nearer to confide: "You understand, Your Grace, I wasn't in Dorne at the time — it was some years after I returned to the Reach and married Lord Hastwyck… I only know what my daughter told me, and she didn't witness it herself, though she heard it from a friend who did." She hesitates. "It was after his wife's accident. It came suddenly, whilst he was still in… the Stepstones," she says carefully, without mentioning the name of the Targaryen prince he and his Dornishmen were in those days ranged against. "Everyone was surprised, it seems, and some were inclined to… blame him for his inattention, shall I say? … It was a young man of House Dayne who said it straight to Prince Auberyn's face, that he was the one truly at fault in her death."

Visenya has a swallow from her wine glass once it is refilled. She watches Lady Joy as she speaks, and her expression remains mostly unreadable. Finally she asks, "So surely it didn't just end at the accusation, then? It couldn't have if the Daynes are still angry over it." She presses her lips together briefly before she says, "And why would so many say this about a Prince of Dorne? Prince Torren's popularity didn't wan even after he married me. The Dornish love their Princes." She puts her glass down, "So what happened after that?"

"I don't think many can have said it," that prince's hopeful future wife temporises, pausing again for another sip of the excellent wine which flows through Princess Visenya's quarters, "but some did. Perhaps because the lady's unhappiness was so well-known," she sighs, "and his lovers so many… or perhaps because, at first, it seemed he was quite unaffected by what had happened to her." She hesitates. "But there was a duel, then and there — I'm trying to remember what it was Vanora said to me, how many… pieces that Dayne's body was in at the end," she whispers doubtfully, giving a little shiver at the thought of it; "but it seems nobody who saw it all, that day, questioned again that he was grieving for her. I can't imagine anybody's really brought it up with him again since then, Amanira and her death. But that's why I wouldn't want to bring it up with the Daynes, either," she explains, "in case… Well, it was a dreadful thing to say to him, to say to any man who's just lost his wife, but you see how they might feel."

Visenya's eyes narrow slightly after Joy's last words, and this may be the only indication of what the Princess really thinks of the whole situation. Soon enough she has that neutral expression on her face, and she says, "I see." There is a pause as she studies Joyeuse before finally she says, "You are a grown woman who has a child around my age, Lady Joyeuse. I would not presume to think myself more wise than you, and will not stand in the way. In fact, if you wish me to speak on your behalf I will. That being said…" She draws in a little breath before she releases it, "I think you should really think about marriage to the Prince. I understand he was grieving, but he literally cut a man to pieces. Really ask yourself if you want to be married to a man capable of something like that."

All the wine in Dorne couldn't keep Lady Joy from growing just slightly more sober as the princess speaks. She draws herself up a little, too, her back straightening unconsciously as her happiness meets with such doubt.

"… And I understand," she says softly, "that you mayn't yet know much of Prince Auberyn but for what I have said — and so perhaps I should not have told you that tale, at least not till I had told you twenty others." One corner of her mouth lifts ruefully. "A man is the sum of all his acts; I don't think it is right to pick and choose, to judge him upon one without weighing the rest. Would you yourself, Your Grace, like to be judged by your worst moments, by someone who took no account of your best? Someone who would always remember, and yet never forgive? … I know I wouldn't look well in such an examination," and she gives a mock shudder. "And do you not think, whether we are in Dorne or in the north, that we live surrounded by men who are capable of such acts — men who, in war against one another, have done dreadful, unconscionable things, which they keep from us for our delicacy's sake…? I have glimpsed enough," she says sadly, "to believe that we do… For every man, there is a circumstance capable of pushing him too far."

She wets her throat again and goes on, hesitantly at first, her voice slowly strengthening. "And so when I look at Prince Auberyn I think not of the few acts of violence in his past but of all the times he has refrained from giving in to such base instincts as I think many men must possess. He has a very sweet temper, usually," she insists; "I have never so much as seen him look cross, or heard him raise his voice. Perhaps two or three times in nearly fifty years, he has lost hold of his anger at an unbearable slight to himself, or to his house. Is that such a terrible man, truly? If I ought not to love him — then whom, Your Grace, ought I to love? Could you find me any man without fault?" Her shoulders shift in a helpless shrug. "Perhaps you yourself have wed the only one; I would not remain alone in the hope of another. I've no hesitation, Your Grace," she concludes softly, "and though I must thank you for your concern, I don't think there is any need for it."

"I have never cut a man to pieces before or raped someone. You act as if he got into a brawl. My Lady he cut a man to pieces." Visenya states, and there is some energy in her voice as well as a flash in her violet colored eyes. And while Prince Auberyn has never been accused of rape Joy has defended another man to Visenya before who has been accused of just that. She shakes her head then. "You need not defend Prince Auberyn to me. I already said I would speak on your behalf if you insisted." She lets out a sigh, "And I know what it is like to be infatuated with a man worse than Prince Auberyn. I know the need to defend him. But sometimes, no matter how infatuated or in love with someone you think you are, you need to think critically about how good of a match they are for you. Especially if being matched is your choice."

She sighs, "I can think of countless men who have not…" She shakes her head then before she holds her hand up, "It is your life, Lady Joyeuse. Do what you please with it. I will not stand in your way."

Lady Joy's eyes, which lowered in speaking of Prince Torren, lift slowly again to Princess Visenya's face; she almost speaks, she almost interrupts to ask a question, but then as the answer dawns upon her, her lips close once more and she listens with a pensive, patient, respectful mien. Of course. This is about the first time they spoke with one another, as well as this afternoon's reunion. This is about Ser Manfryd Qorgyle, as well as Prince Auberyn Martell — a man accused of rape, to be sure, though nothing could be proved against him, to justify the unflagging faith of his aunt-by-marriage.

"… I thank you," she repeats quietly, "for your concern, Your Grace. But I am—" A half-hearted smile. "Old enough, I think," she admits, "to know my match when I meet him again. I have been wed twice before; I have loved others; I have known many men, as friends and sometimes as admirers, and I can't deny I have made mistakes, even knowing that that's just what they were. Mistakes." Her grey-green gaze turns mournful with that thought; she looks once again the uncharacteristically subdued, rather too pale woman who passed through Starfall four months past. "I hope in time we shall prove to you, and to any others who might doubt, that this is… not another mistake, not for me, and not for His Highness either. But I understand — and I think your advice would be well-given, to many another woman. What makes a husband, well, that's different from what makes… any other kind of connexion."

"As I said if you are certain I will not stand in your way." Visenya says, and she picks up her glass to have another swallow of the wine. "We've all made mistakes, My Lady. And of course you are old enough. If I did not think you competent to make your own decisions I would have said so." She shakes her head. "You've nothing to prove to me." She lapses into a silence then before she says, "And I do understand mistakes. If you are certain than I support you."

She'd have said so? Perhaps Lady Joy's eyes widen a tad at this frankness, given how careful she's being herself, to defend her choice without descending into impolitesse. "Thank you, Your Grace… I think any woman who has been out of the nursery and in the wide world more than a month or two, begins to understand mistakes," she agrees softly, nudging the conversation further into these less contentious waters. "The mistakes our families choose for us, and the others we manage to make all by ourselves… I am very sorry, Your Grace, that young as you are you have come by such knowledge," she sighs, "and doubly glad for you, then, that you've found a safe harbour for your heart."

"Thank you, Lady Joyeuse." Visenya says, and that neutral expression crosses her face again. She finishes off her third glass of wine before she sets the cup aside lest she drink too much. "It was kind of you to come visit with me." She gives the other woman a bland and easy smile.

At which signal Lady Joy drinks a little more of her own wine, and sets the glass aside; "It was a pleasure to see you again," she says simply, though not an unalloyed one, in the last few minutes. "I wanted to tell you, too, that I'm sorry for being such a bore the last time we met. I was… very unhappy, when I came to Dorne," she explains. "I suppose that was why I came. But a few months here, well, they've made all the difference…" She trails off, searching amongst the windowseat's cushions and her own flowing robes for the fan she could have sworn she brought in with her… ah, here it is!

"Surely you weren't that unhappy over that business we spoke about last?" Visenya asks, and she doesn't sound enthused about discussing it all over again. "No. Of course you weren't." She determines. After all, one cannot be so sad over a boy they've not seen for years. "Whatever made you so unhappy?"

Having sidled forward onto the edge of the padded seat and adopted a posture which suggests a certain preparedness to depart, in obedience to the princess's hint, Lady Joy hesitates. "No — not over that," she says carefully. "At least, that was one matter on my mind, but there were others. I'd… well, I'd made one of those mistakes we were just mentioning," she confesses suddenly, and bites her lower lip. "The kind of mistake that I knew for a mistake, very quickly; but I was so lonely I made it anyway." She gives a wistful smile and shrugs her shoulders, philosophical about it now. "I am not made for a widow, I don't think."

"Seven knows there are more than enough cads in Oldtown to make a mistake with." Visenya says dryly before her eyes narrow ever so slightly as if remembering something. "There was a lord's son in Oldtown. Very important. Son of a paramount. He was betrothed to my sister…" She trails off, and shakes her head. "No. That can't have been what happened? But if it was? Well, I'm grateful my sister didn't marry him."

There's no use Lady Joy denying it. Not when the colour drains from her cheeks at the mention of a great lord betrothed to this princess's sister. "… Do you speak," she asks quietly, "of— of my cousin Ser Thadeus Tully, the Heir to Riverrun? … I believe it was indeed he who was betrothed to the Princess Cerys, for a time," she agrees. And, clutching her ivory fan in an even tighter grip, till her knuckles are in danger of whitening as well, she asks, very carefully, "Might I ask, Your Grace, what you have heard said?"

"I do." Visenya admits before she shrugs lightly. "Just that there was a cousin he had a fling with. I didn't know it was you." She lets out a low little sigh before she says, "I confess he is not my favorite." She frowns ever so slightly before she says, "After he broke Cerys' heart I thought to make him think that I wanted him, and then turn him down. I was very good at it." She picks up her wine glass, and holds it out for another refill. Then she drinks down a few gulps, "I used to be very good with men, you see. So I was successful in this, but Ser Thaddeus…well, he kissed me." She makes a face before she adds, "It wasn't a bad kiss. In fact, it was quite a good kiss. But, it wasn't a kiss I asked for, and I was a Princess of Westeros. Men cannot just kiss a Princess. So there was a duel. My brother challenged him, but my sweetheart Prince Rhaegor demanded he fight him. ….It was just a very embarrassing disaster." She has more wine before she says, "So, don't be embarrassed. That man got the best of me, too."

A fling with a cousin. Lady Joy's chin lowers; then, deliberately, she lifts her head and looks straight at the princess. There's no reason for shame, is there? Not in Dorne, not between the wives of Dornish princes. And the longer Princess Visenya speaks, the more she finds herself nodding.

"… He thinks he's the most splendid fellow who ever lived, doesn't he? The gods' gift to all women," she sighs, pressing her lips together. "And he boasts of that kiss; and he oughtn't to do that, either. I chose him in part because I thought a man who was kin to me, could be relied upon not to— speak of me, in ways that he shouldn't, when it was over… The moment I heard him speak of you, Your Grace, I began to worry that I ought not to have trusted him even so far as I did. But I had become fond of him," she sighs again, "fonder than I intended to be… Not so fond I don't quite see he could do with being cut down to size," she concludes. "I can only admire you for trying, Your Grace, though I don't think it worked! … I know one thing that will, though," and suddenly she's wreathed in smiles.

"No. It didn't work. All it did was embarrass Rhaegor." Visenya sounds pained when she mentions the embarrassment her cousin went through. Married and with a child to one man, and she still sounds sad over the embarrassment of another. "He only said you had a bad reputation. Like you were garbage-" Her voice rises ever so slightly. "You are not garbage, Lady Joyeuse. You are not just a woman with a bad reputation." She gives Joy an intrigued little look, "What will work?"

The fun of it comes abruptly to an end; Lady Joy's eyes widen and she sways slightly where she sits, as though the blow were a physical one. She swallows. "He… he said that, of me?" she asks slowly. "When he… after all I said to him, after all I… when he has bedded more women than any three pillow-house boys in the Shadow City, and when he treated your sister with so little respect—?" Her voice rises to a progressively higher pitch. Her eyes remain positively enormous with the shock of it; perspiration beads her forehead.

Visenya gives Joyeuse a surprised look before she nods her head once slowly. "He did. I'm sorry. I didn't realize you didn't know…" She looks to the servant before she says, "Refill Lady Joyeuse's goblet, please." She looks back to Joyeuse before she says, "I am so incredibly sorry. You must understand that it's not a reflection on you at all. The man is a cad, and he thought he could weasel himself into my bed by diminishing you. I'm sure he says rude, vulgar things about all the women he has…ah, friendships with. He is a literal snake."

All thought of departure — all thought of using her legs at all in any way — having left her, Lady Joy wordlessly holds out her goblet and snuggles back against the pillows in her corner of the windowseat, breathing deeply, trying to put a smile back on her face. "Thank you," she murmurs to the maid, flicking a grateful glance upwards; the same expression is still in her eyes when they travel again to Princess Visenya. "He is far from the worst," she admits, drinking deeply, "but so much less than I hoped, than I— trusted… I do beg your pardon, Your Grace, for…" She closes her eyes, and takes another breath. "It is very kind of you to speak as you do."

Then she opens them again. "I thought him — the best I could find, north of the border, and I was very lonely in those days," she says again, by way of explanation. "A lonely woman is a foolish woman, more often than not; and I am— a very great fool, sometimes." Again she has recourse to her wine; her colour is beginning to return. "He… he talks so much of how he must wed a suitable young lady, of the highest birth, and get heirs for his father's house; and when I said that I might marry again, he looked at me as though — as if I were a cat proposing to walk on my hind legs!" she murmurs, trying to make light of it and yet betrayed by a note of old pain in her voice. "The last I heard from Oldtown he still hadn't arranged a betrothal — he hasn't, has he?" she asks. "If I am married before he is, and to a Prince of Dorne…"

"Then it would be quite the slap in the face, wouldn't it?" Visenya finishes for Joyeuse, and the corner of her lips quirk upwards into an amused little expression. "After he failed to marry a Princess. That he thinks he is worthy of a Princess." She has another swallow of her wine, and the flush of her cheeks indicates she has reached the point where her tongue may be a little looser. "I will speak to my husband for you, Lady Joyeuse. His mother holds his counsel in high regard. And I will also speak to the Prince Consort for you. He is friends with the Prince, and will unbeatably want to see him happy." Her smile widens into something sly and she says, "And let me help you with your wedding. I'm very good at planning events." And then she holds out her glass to toast.

A handkerchief is discovered somewhere amongst Lady Joyeuse's robes; giving the princess an apologetic look she touches it to her forehead, where she can feel perspiration cooling upon her skin, and then to each of her cheeks in turn. "Thank you… thank you, Your Grace," she says simply; "and I promise that when I bring the glad news to my cousin, I shall write down exactly what look he has on his face and put it in a letter to you straight away."

She tucks the handkerchief away and lifts her glass, to meet Princess Visenya's in a solemn toast to the wedding to come.

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