(123-06-22) And So To Essos
And So To Essos
Summary: Princess Visenya has hired a courier to seek out her wayward brother; for funding, he applies to her Mistress of Keys, which is in itself an act of considerable valour…
Date: 22/06/2016
Related: None

Lady Ynys attends to the business of Princess Visenya's household after her morning ride, when Starfall is growing warmer by the minute and the sun is halfway to its zenith over the Torentine beyond her tall, narrow windows.

Its light spills upon a leatherbound ledger, open, aslant; a pair of gleaming lacquered boxes with their lids propped against them, one black and one red, one mostly full of correspondence dealt with and the other containing two or three letters with unbroken seals; and a lap-desk of fragrant inlaid fruitwoods, such as a lady might use whilst traveling or indeed whilst staying quite still. The lid is off its silver inkwell. The quill-rest is occupied.

The lady herself has changed for the day into a simple, flowing gown of burnt orange sandsilk, cut straight across her collarbones and lower behind, sleeveless to leave bare her long, muscular arms. Her left wrist is tenanted as usual by a panoply of bracelets in different styles and shapes, in copper and blue and ochre and gold; for convenience, whilst writing, she has stripped her right wrist of its own similar cargo, leaving a dozen or more such bracelets, some cheap enough and others priceless, sprawled along the other end of the table where the sun's rays have just reached them.

It is not uncommon for the princess's ladies-in-waiting, her servants, young people attached to her household or Prince Torren's, to be called to the Mistress of Keys in these hours; and, word having come to her of the engagement of a young courier the day before, he too must take his turn.

A servant of Lady Ynys's shows him in and she looks up from her papers, greeting him not with a smile but with a long, measuring look out of enormous brown eyes. "You are Sceadu Sand?" she asks him quietly.

No matter how many times Sceadu tells himself not to stare at the beautiful, dark-skinned woman, he still does. The half-Dornish bastard is suddenly very conscious of the heat in the room as the Mistress of Keys appraises him with eyes that have no doubt glimpsed far more worthy men than himself. "I am, m'lady," Sceadu says placidly, his hands clasped behind his back as he stands where the servant has left him.

The Bastard of House Toland is dressed in a dark gray tunic and doublet with matching leggings and boots. These clothes have evidently been washed recently, as they bear none of the trademark sights or smells of a courier in the middle of a work day. Word of his employer's acceptance of his requested leave reached him faster than he'd imagined that it would, leaving the young man with plenty of time to see to his effects, get his hair trimmed and take a proper bath in one of the bath houses available to him, price-wise.

The Mistress of Keys is a woman in her middle years, her bold features lined and her luxuriant black curls silvered by time; a matter of days ago, she spoke the Crone's prayer over her princess's newborn daughter. But a quarter of a century ago there were many who named her the most beautiful woman in Dorne, and as she sits back in her chair of pale beechwood and drapes her bare wrist over its arm, as though the sheer weight of her golden signet ring were drawing her hand downward, it is not perhaps so difficult to imagine. The shadows are kind to her. So is the light, in its way.

The door is drawn discreetly shut behind Sceadu. She studies him for another moment. The outside: his garments, his bearing, when did he last shave—? The inside: that look in his eyes when they rest upon her in turn, that nagging social inadequacy mingled with sudden desire which washes over so many young men in her presence and, indeed, washes some of them away.

Here we go again.

"I understand that you are to travel to Essos in search of Her Highness's elder brother," she remarks at last, gently and evenly. "A long journey, and a dangerous one. Have you no obligations here — no ties?"

"None, my lady," Sceadu says, inhaling slowly and attempting to regain his composure. "My employer and father, Ser Rell Toland, has given me leave of my duties as courier. All of my remaining business affairs here are tied up, loose ends are handled," he says, remaining still and trying to look at this woman without really /looking/ at her. It helps slightly if he unfocuses his eyes a bit, making her go blurry, but then he feels like a child hiding from his mother after doing something forbidden. He remoistens his lips with the tip of his tongue and remains standing, waiting to be questioned further.

Lady Ynys listens; she awards him a slight nod, possibly for effort. Whole sentences, it's better than some of them manage; and a sign that perhaps he has the wit and the fortitude for this enterprise despite his youth… "Then you are prepared to leave immediately," she concludes. "Tell me, now that you've had a night to sleep on it, how do you intend to go about this task? The coastline of Essos is hardly short, and His Grace Prince Aevanar might have put in at any one of a number of ports. I understand," she points out, still gently, "Her Highness is eager to see him again as soon as may be."

Though beads of sweat stand out on the young man's forehead, he appears cool and comfortable. "I do not plan on searching Essos on my own, Mistress," he says carefully. "As a courier, I do have contacts in Tyrosh and Volantis. I know of messengers that can be trusted, given enough coin, and plan to send couriers and messengers to each of the free cities while I remain on the island of Tyrosh communicating with each of them by way of raven." He takes a breath and speaks easily, though the spot under his tongue has suddenly gone sandy. "One key skill that any courier worth their pay will have is the ability to find a face in the crowd. I have faith that my contacts in Tyrosh possess such skill, my lady."

While eloquent and paced well, the minor speech smacks of having been recited mentally dozens of times. And, of course, Sceadu had recited the speech to himself that morning dozens of times. After meeting with the Princess, Sceadu went to send money home to his employer. With whatever was left in his purse, he rented a room for the night, sent off to have his clothes cleaned, visited a bathhouse, dined and went to sleep.

He awoke, pondered the happenings of the day before and pulled his pillow tight over his face. After a long, muffled scream, he began to pull himself together slowly and began working out a plan of action. He'd been completely calm for hours by the time his appointment with the Mistress of Keys rolled around and now… now, he was staring at this woman who — though matronly in her own way — was… was simply, obscenely gorgeous.

Back in the here and now, he swallows. "I do not think I will need much for my own living arrangements in Tyrosh. As you can probably tell, I'm a man of s-simple tastes."

Hish, a stutter. How fucking brilliant of you, Sceadu.

The lady hasn't asked him to sit down. She leaves him standing there, called literally onto the carpet; she leaves him also time and space enough to explain himself, not interrupting with a single word of her own until he has fallen quite silent. She only regards him, with those warm and liquid brown eyes, and an expression of courteous interest in what he has to say.

His simple tastes earn a small, kind smile. "I see… I think to wait in Tyrosh is sensible," she agrees, seeming to place a high value upon that quality; "word will not have too far to travel to you from the other coastal cities. You need not concern yourself with Braavos — Her Highness's other brother, Prince Daevon, is journeying to that city on other business and if Prince Aevanar is to be found there, he will find him," she explains calmly.

And then she sits up straighter in her chair and with long, slender brown fingers turns over the pages of her great leatherbound ledger, extracting papers from in between. The signet ring on her right hand reveals itself to be engraved with the likeness of a hanged man. "I understand a convoy is to sail north from Sunspear eight days from now — I have here a letter to the captain of the Southern Oracle, requesting passage for you in Her Highness's name…" She glances up again, her eyes meeting his. "Have you passed through the Stepstones before, Master Sand?" she asks quietly.

That smile of hers, though small and chaste, runs an icy finger up his spine. For a few seconds, he's aware that she's speaking, but is only able to make out the sound of his own breathing. His mind finally tunes back into the concept of spoken language around the time that she mentions the name of the ship he's to take. "I've travelled across the Narrow Sea three times, my lady. Twice, I've landed in Tyrosh and once, I've landed in Volantis. My previous trips through the Stepstones were mostly uneventful, though I did glimpse a black flag once or twice," he says.

The news that the Princess' brother is also travelling to Essos worries Sceadu faintly. Would he only locate one Targaryen by competing with another?

And that makes sense, for a courier who boasts of contacts in Tyrosh as well as Volantis; but still, he might have traveled overland… Still listening Lady Ynys orients that sheet of parchment covered in her own bold, elegant handwriting toward Sceadu and pushes it nearer over the smooth pale surface of her table, into one of the stripes of light cast through her tall windows. "You may read it if you wish," she offers, "before I seal it."

The next paper is in another, more masculine hand, though hers has made amendments. "This is a bill of exchange drawn upon the Iron Bank in Tyrosh," she explains; "I think you will find it adequate to your needs." And a third. "This one is for the branch in Volantis — when I made the arrangements I was not certain who would be going, or where. They will, I imagine, honour it in Tyrosh if need be, though perhaps at a different rate of exchange. Please be sure to bring all the relevant documents with you when you return, and an accounting of your expenditures. Serve Her Highness faithfully and you will not find her ungenerous, but records do need to be kept, mm?" She quirks her eyebrows, seeking his agreement with this self-evident point.

"And, for your immediate expenses in Dorne…" A small leather purse, drawn out of a pocket of her vibrant silken gown. Placed upon the two bills of exchange it makes a reassuringly heavy clink.

Slowly, Sceadu steps forward and lifts the surprisingly heavy purse off of the two bills. The one that she's outlined for him to read is lifted up into the light for a moment or two. His eyes scan it quickly, lips moving slightly as he mutters some of the phrases he sees written down. Placing the bill back on the Mistress' desk, he nods politely to her. "Everything looks to be in order," he says, mainly because he doesn't know what else to say. "And I will make a point of getting documents showing what I purchase." That would come in especially handy if any couriers decide to skip off with their advance pay rather than do the job asked of them.

Almost as though reading his mind the lady adds, obliquely, whilst folding the captain's letter into a neat square, "You are responsible for the monies involved; Her Highness has decided to place her trust in you."

Then she rises from her chair in a rustle of silk and a waft of her own spicy, honeyed scent. She is a tall woman, queenly, moving with that particular confident grace given to Dornishwomen for whom fighting is as natural as dancing; she carries with her in one hand the letter and in the other half a stick of red sealing-wax. Two candles are burning in a candelabra further along her dining-table — not too near, lest she feel its heat on this already warm morning — and soon she has the wax dripping on the back of the letter. Her arm unfurls itself, long and brown and bare and marked high on her bicep with an old knife scar, and she takes up a seal and presses it into the wax. This is official correspondence. Her own hanged man will not suffice.

"We will expect to hear from you every week or so, whether you fail or succeed — Her Highness will appreciate being appraised of your efforts on her behalf," she explains smoothly. "You'll address your letters to me, though."

"I understand, m'lady," Sceadu says, noticing the knife scar as well as the scent that floats around Lady Ynys. It is heady and intoxicating. "I will arrange for a message to be sent to you before each week's end. That's how I've sent progress reports back to House Toland for the last few years, so it's a habit I've already become well accustomed to," he says. "Thank you for your time, as well." He gathers what he assumes he'll be taking with him and waits patiently for dismissal.

The wax hardens; Lady Ynys sits, and turns over the sealed letter and sets it down in front of her. "Good," she agrees. "We'll look forward to hearing of your progress… I'm sure Her Highness acquainted you with a description of her brother and his ship, and those habits of his which might put you on the right track," she adds, whilst dipping quill in ink and inscribing the name of the captain and his ship upon the front of the letter, "but if you think of any questions before you leave, please feel free to call on me again."

She restores her quill to its rest, presses an ink-blotched sheet of parchment to her words to dry the ink all the more swiftly, and pushes the letter across the table to him. "Good luck to you, Master Sand; and may the Seven watch over you in your travels," she says quietly, looking up at him.

"Thank you, Lady Ynys," he says, touching his hand to his heart and bowing deeply. "I feel I shall need all the luck that can be spared." With that said, he gives her one last smile, turns on his heel and leaves through the door he'd entered from.

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