(123-06-25) Please Don't Drink The Daisies
Please Don't Drink The Daisies
Summary: Jaqero, at least, thinks Lars owes Ida an apology; this is it.
Date: 25-28/06/2016
Related: What Is 'Let Down'?, The Run-Around, All Bureaucrats Together

When next Lord Lars Costayne presents himself at the pretty little house called the Luthier’s Manse, the maid who answers the door is allowed to show him in all by herself without any help from her mistress.

The latter is discovered sitting on the floor again, delicately and meticulously braiding daisies from her garden into a chain. She has a lapful of flowers, bright white against the blue of the gown she was wearing that afternoon at the Golden Maiden. She is facing toward her blue-painted dining table, which is at present covered with papers and a brown leather satchel lying open at one end. Jaqero Orlassi is seated there with writing implements, the quill in his hand moving whenever Ida speaks — at least till she holds up her hand and, smiling brightly, segues from Low Valyrian into the Common Tongue of Westeros.

“Lars! You came,” she declares in delight, gazing up at him with blue-green eyes which hold no hint of the worry of which Jaqero was so anxious she be relieved. “Mayra, another cup, please!”

For there is a fine blue and white porcelain cup on the floor beside her knee, steaming slightly.

It's as though Lars has deliberately chosen to match her dress, in a deep navy jacket of his own, tailored exquisitely, naturally, but otherwise relatively plain. He removes a similarly deceptively simple hat as he enters, shifting it to one hand and offering the other. "Mistress Imaldi, I do hope you're well. I wanted to drop in just to give my sincerest apologies in person for any distress I might have caused in my confusion."

"I am very well," answers Ida, seriously but with a simple kind of happiness in every line of her face. She glances down then at the incomplete chain of daisies still held with great delicacy in both her ink-blotched hands — she lays it down tenderly at arm's length, and spills the loose flowers from her lap as she rises up onto her feet. She moves easily; she's as supple as a girl, for all her years… perhaps forty? A brush of hands over skirts, and then she takes Lars's in her own. "I am glad," she utters with absolute sincerity, her eyes looking into his, "that we understand one another better now."

The maid returns from the kitchen with another cup which matches Ida's, and from a pot on a side table pours out a fragrant lavender tisane. This she offers to Lars, with a bobbed curtsey. But as yet Ida still has his right hand, presenting a minor challenge to his powers of courtesy.

Meanwhile her clerk Jaqero lays down his quill and rises likewise — preparatory either to entering the conversation, or to withdrawing from the sitting-room…? His plan is not immediately apparent. He is as yet too discreet a presence.

Lars, man of the world as he is, has little issue with the tisane problem, seamlessly swapping hat for cup and offering a grateful smile, a bow of his head and a murmured thanks. “Master Orlassi,” and the clerk gets a polite nod of his own there, “was good enough to explain the whole situation, top fellow. And now I find I’ve interrupted you again, and made you spill your flowers. May I assist?” And this time it’s the dropped flowers which get a nod, although one has to wonder exactly which hand he then intend to pick those up with, too.

As though all this juggling were of no consequence Ida looks up into his eyes for another moment; then smiles again; then lets go of his hand. “That would be kind of you,” she agrees with that same sincerity. “The gardener pulled out the daisies today — I would not have allowed it if I had known. I thought I would enjoy them for a little while, anyway.”

And Jaqero, who returned Lars’s nod, busies himself gathering up from the table all the assorted papers and ledgers and letters with their seals broken, and stowing them away in the satchel, lest this unauthorised party gain any glimpse of Iron Bank business.

Another Braavosi man puts his head round the kitchen door, looks questioningly at Jaqero, participates in an eyebrow-raising competition, and retreats again.

Ida meanwhile is kneeling next to her scattered daisies, taking up the chain as tenderly as she laid it down, and wandering dreamily over to sit down with it upon one of the pale blue leather sofas arranged near the open door to the back garden. The maid contributes by ferrying her cup to a table at her elbow — but, Lars having taken responsibility for the daisies, her services upon this occasion go no further. She appears a trifle wearied nonetheless.

“I suppose it was natural,” Ida chatters away, “that you would believe Jaqero when you did not believe me. In Westeros men are always believed over women, is that not so? And trusted over women, and regarded over women in every way? That is what I have read; that is what I have seen, so far. All kinds of people talk to Jaqero, straight over my head,” she laughs.

“I assure you wholeheartedly, my dear, that disbelieving you was the furthest thing from my mind,” Lars insists, stooping to gather every tiny flower, each of which is balanced on the edge of his saucer as he goes for the next. “I simply misunderstood you, and your chap was kind enough to point out my error. I would like to think that as a gentleman, I would afford a woman the same courtesy I would a man.” He flashes a small smile, long lashed eyes flickering with amusement. “There are certain women I would trust far further than any man.”

Ida's careful hands drape the daisy-chain around the back of her neck and over her shoulders, the loose ends of it resting against the slight swell of her bosom.

Then, as Lars comes nearer, she reaches out to pluck a daisy from his saucer and continue her good work. "… But I said," and she closes her eyes, pausing with her daisy not quite in its place, and opens them again and gets on with her daisy only when she has found the words: "'The captain did not seem like a dishonest man, or I would not have hired him. Perhaps if he seems to have no cargo, it is simply because he has no cargo…?' And then," she goes on, quoting slowly but surely, not a word out of place, "you said, 'Oh, it’s entirely possible. But I’d hardly be carrying out the duties of my office if I didn’t poke my nose in every now and then just to make sure our fine sea captains aren’t in any sort of difficulty. I shan’t keep you any longer, my dear, but I do thank you so much for your hospitality. And if your fellow does think of anything, it would be awfully good of you to send him to see us.'"

She beams at Lars, like a child who has successfully performed a party trick. "So you knew all along that I had hired him, because I said so… Or perhaps," her voice immediately lowers, "you didn't hear me properly. That must have been it. People aren't very attentive, usually, are they?" She blinks at him as she reaches for another daisy. "Who are the women you would trust far further than any man?" she asks conversationally. "I think I should like to meet them."

“I think I had misunderstood the nature of your contract with the captain,” Lars admits, allowing her to claim the daisies without complaint, merely lifting his cup for a sip and then very carefully nudging flowers out of the way to replace it in its saucer. “But thankfully, it has all been made quite clear to me now. As for the woman I would trust? Well, perhaps you may meet my wife some day. I’m sure she would be intrigued to meet you.”

"Your wife," echoes Ida, deeply curious, "who would like a Braavosi dress…? Or have you found some other present for her since then? Something better?" She avails herself of the daisies, one by one, the chain wending its way down the front of her own sober blue linen gown, which first inspired that pretext.

“That very same wife, yes,” Lars agrees, offering the next daisy. “And no, I’ve not yet found any alternative, but I shall keep my eyes open. There are often shipments of fine clothes which pass through, and it’s often the case that, knowing my particular interest in them, merchants do offer one or two things which might take my fancy. The Braavosi style is a particular favourite. Well made, without being pretentious. Good tailoring, rather than gaudy displays.” He gives another slight smile. “If I ever do make it to the Free Cities, I shall certainly look up your seamstress.”

The message in Ida's eyes as she looks down at the daisy and then, accepting it, up into his eyes, is: how charming. She links the daisy with its fellows before replying. "Well, it is one of the Braavosi styles — I think my city is more famous for the colours and the scarves of the bravos, is it not?" She laughs. "Respectable people, we wear very plain clothes. The more respectable, the plainer, I think. So I'm sure such dresses would be very suitable to your lady. My courier goes to Braavos tomorrow, if you would like to send her a letter." And, twiddling the stalk of the next daisy between her fingertips she laughs again and clarifies, "My seamstress, not your wife. To send your wife a letter to Braavos… well, it would be a long time reaching her. Much better to pin it to her pillow."

Again Lars cracks a comfortable smile, long lashes lowering for an instant or two. “I don’t think the bright colours and scarves are really us, Mistress Imaldi. I shall endeavour to have a letter brought to your chap before he leaves in the morning, then, and thank you.” He takes another sip of the tisane, tilting the saucer down towards Ida so she can claim the last daisies from it. “Do please let me know if there’s anything I might do for you in kind.”

"I'm sure the entire city will be pleased to have you with us a little longer," Lars allows. "From which I take it that you must be enjoying your little holiday?"

"You are too kind," declares Ida sincerely. "Much too kind. Most of the city," and she laughs at that, "hasn't met me yet… I am enjoying my holiday, though," and she hums a few notes to herself as she threads the last daisy with its fellows and, very tenderly, adjusts the chain. It is now just barely long enough to wrap twice about her neck, and this she does before joining the two loose ends of it. She isn't wearing her pearls today. It seems she has come to prefer daisies, for a touch of white below her face. "I heard that song in a tavern yesterday," she confides, "and it has been in my mind ever since… I do not know what all the words mean," and her smile wilts, "but perhaps I shall learn them later on…? Everything is so — unusual, here," she goes on, "and I want to know more about— what I do not yet know. Though I do feel very sorry for the people, for living as they do, with so little hope ever of accumulating real capital." She sighs.

"It's not really the biggest ambition of most of the people here," Lars explains, slender fingers tapping against the handle of his cup. "For some, perhaps, but I think the allure of political power is far greater than that of capital. The only use for the money, as far as most of them seem to be able to see, is to spend to gain more power, not to accumulate."

"Oh, to accumulate—" And Ida, halfway to picking up her cup of lavender tisane, which has given up steaming in her time of floral inattention, converts the movement into a dismissive wave. "It is of no use for its own sake, but for the freedom it can buy. Some might look for their freedom in power; but power brings more chains than it breaks, don't you think? I much prefer freedom," she decides. "A man who has capital, or a woman, can afford the power of choice. I see that power so little in Westeros. The smallfolk remain small, the largefolk remain large; they live the same lives as their parents, their grandparents, their ancestors since time out of mind… Only a few seem to choose, and they do so by the power of arms, which destroys, rather than the power of finance, which creates. I would like," and she has begun to look pensive, "to change things here, but they are not mine to change. I know that all I can do is… to speak with the people I meet here, and suggest ways they can change their lives themselves."

Lars half smiles, lashes flickering to his cheeks once again. "I suspect that will not make you the most popular person in Oldtown, but I can applaud the sentiment. Personally, I'm very happy where I am, doing what I do. I don't want power, or money. I just want the chance to spend my days doing something productive, and relaxing in the sun and the breeze with a nice glass of wine at the end of the day, with my wife. But I'm a simple man."

Ida's eyes seem to shine with his explanation; she beams at him. "But that is a beautiful life to choose… you have coin enough, I think," she points out gently, "to have made your choice. I like the same things," she admits. "I like to have work to do — work which always keeps my mind occupied and which, I hope, makes my city a better place than it was when I began. I have a little house with a roof which slopes like this—" And she steeples her hands to show him the angle. "And I have flowers growing in all my windowboxes and my hanging baskets. I have my little gondola; and then, in winter the canal freezes to ice and I wear a hood with fur in it and I skate straight from the bank up to my front steps. I have all I could wish," she sighs, "and now and again, I have a little holiday, too. But there are many people, Lars, who cannot make choices as pleasant as ours. They haven't coin enough to risk leaving their jobs, or traveling to new places to begin again, or even asking for what they are due… There will always be many people in that sad state," she concedes matter-of-factly, "but in Westeros, from what I have seen so far, there are more such people, and they have less chance of escaping it."

"My dear, there will always be such people. It is our culture," Lars insists gently. "I would argue that encouraging charity is a far kinder option than trying to change our entire culture. Those with power rather like to have power, and I cannot imagine that they would be pleased to hear that the smallfolk want a part of it. No, instead we should encourage the tradesmen to ply their trade, by spending in their establishments and giving patronage to their work, not by trying to upset a very delicate political system."

"Oh, yes; and every single man in Westeros should stay in exactly the life he has now, whether or not he is miserable every day of it, in order that we not upset the very delicate political system which keeps Lord Lars Costayne in exactly the life he has now," remarks Ida gravely. She lifts her cup to her lips, and sips from it. "I believe in charity, of course. But I believe it would be better for all men if there were fewer who needed charity, and more who…" She hesitates, but only because she is choosing her words. "Who could feel within their grasp, that power of making such small changes in their own lives as would suit them. It is not possible for all; it never will be. But it should be more possible than it is, here, now. Some of the taxes — they are iniquitous. You would notice this more if you were not, I think, by virtue of your birth exempt from them." She narrows her eyes at him.

Lars shakes his head, taking a moment to sip from his cup. "My dear, I think perhaps you mistake me for a politician. I am the product of our culture, and I have benefitted from it in many ways, and much less in others. I do what I can to alleviate the poverty of the poor, and I go home with a clear conscience. I would be pleased, however, to introduce you to the master of coin, if you intend to take action?"

"Oh, there is no need — I met him in King's Landing," explains Ida kindly. "You are laughing at me, Lars — I am laughed at often, but I do not mind it as I did once. I know now that people who begin in laughing at me, often find they do not laugh for long… If I gave up my life in Braavos and made Oldtown my home instead, I believe I could begin to change things here," and in this, as in the drawing of skewed sketches and the crafting of daisy chains, she is absolutely serious. She has considered her abilities and found that they are not wanting. "But I am only a visitor here, and so it is not my place to alter what is not my home. As I said to you, all I can do is… make suggestions." She tilts her head, and gives him a small smile. "Though I will make no more to you, if you prefer to speak of other things."

Lars gives a small smile. "Oh no, I assure you I'm not laughing at you. I'm impressed, if anything, by your belief. I just don't share it. That hardly makes you a target for ridicule. We're civilised people, are we not? Do you think I might have a little more of your delicious tisane?"

"Oh— Mayra?" And Ida beckons the maid forward, pot in hand, to replenish both their cups. Her own she holds up primly in both hands. "I think it is easy," she says gently to Lars, "for people who live comfortably, who have always lived comfortably, who are well-suited with their lives and yet could change them if they pleased, to believe a certain way. It would be easy for me, too — I cannot say I have ever known poverty, or that my life has altered in any real way since the very day on which I was born. But I have made certain observations, and— You really do have," she sighs, shaking her head, "very long eyelashes, Lars. If you were a woman I would think them false."

This of course makes him think about his eyes, and therefore causes him to blink once or twice in quick succession. "I… well, thank you, Mistress Imaldi," he responds, not entirely certain of the correct response in these circumstances, followed by a nod and a smile of thanks towards the maid. "I would like to think," Lars decides, "that if an honest chap came to me wanting to change his lot in life, I might be able to assist in some small way. I would know how I could help in individual cases, whereas you seem to be suggesting a more complete change in the entire culture, do please correct me if I'm wrong?"

"I am suggesting," Ida explains, still very gently, "that there are not enough men who would dream of receiving such an answer to such a question, and not enough men who would give it. But men and women cannot be forced to behave better in that way or any other — they will do so only if they believe it is in their own interests also, if they understand that by such acts, little by little, one life at a time, the wealth of a city can be made to grow like a flower-garden." She smiles; she tilts her head, studying him.

Lars smiles slightly, lifting his cup. "I think perhaps we are in agreement on principle, that it is to the benefit of all society to show a little courtesy, a little charity and a little grace wherever we can. That as a member of a class with a certain amount of privilege, it is our duty to help provide for the small folk, to further civilisation as a whole."

"… And if I wish to do more, perhaps it is because I can do more," concludes Ida, who seems heartened by that list of points with which she is implicitly in agreement. Another sip of her tea. Blue-green eyes peering at him curiously over the rim of the cup. "I didn't ask you," she realises, lowering it, "whether you could write in Low Valyrian. I do not know whether Elthira is fluent in your Common Tongue."

"I do not, I'm afraid," Lars admits, then adds after a moment, "but I'm sure I can find one of my chaps who can. They're awfully clever fellows."

"Ah, your clever fellows, who do your work so that you need not," remembers Ida dryly. "… Well, if they cannot help you with this also, I will do it. I translate very easily. I have a good memory."

"They do their work, I think," Lars corrects mildly. "My work is to speak with people. Their work is to procure the information and process it. But perhaps I shall take you up on your offer. I am certain you can phrase something far more elegantly than my fellows would. They tend to be rather blunt, which I think comes from working in absolutes."

"Then you shall bring me your letter tomorrow, and I shall make it elegant," Ida decides. She lifts her cup once more to her lips and empties it, and sets it aside with a sigh of satisfaction. "Though I must tell you," and she leans nearer with this confession, "I also work with a great many absolutes."

"I shall just have to trust to your judgement," Lars decides, draining his own cup in turn, and bowing his head. "I look forward to seeing you tomorrow, Mistress Imaldi. It has been, as ever, a pleasure."

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