(123-06-29) What Might Have Been
What Might Have Been
Summary: A lady and a lord meet in a sept, though not as they might have done.
Date: 21/06/2016
Related: None

Beneath the great star-pocked blue dome of Oldtown's famed Starry Sept, stand statues of the seven gods of the Andals. The Father, stern but kind; the Maiden, exquisite in her spring colours; the Stranger, carved from black dragonglass, hooded and gleaming; the Smith, the Warrior, the Crone; and most beloved of all in this city visited every year by her favourite creatures, the gentle-eyed Mother, posed with Her hands open to All her worshippers.

The altar at her feet is crowded with candles, good beeswax mixed in among the tallow. Before her kneels a lady in a black silken gown, her bowed head draped with a mantilla of black Myrish lace, her folded hands very white in her lap. Others come and go, lighting their own offerings, bowing their heads to the goddess — her candle burns lower and lower, and she remains still.

Two other women wait at a decorous distance, watching over her: one a young septa whose grey robes seem not to disguise her fresh-faced prettiness, but to throw it into high relief, the other patently a handmaiden.

Step one to arriving in a new city, make your bed. Step two, say hello to the family. Step three, give the Gods their due. Gods before Kings, because they were the only thing to make Kings fear, whether you personally believed or not. It is this logic that leads Lorn to the Sept. For all that he is the Lannister Heir, he actually does not wear his wealth on him. Not now, not today. Finely made clothing, surely, skilled hands stitched these seems, and the fabric is befitting his station, but there is little embellishment to the burgundy and cream that he wears. Measured steps take him across the room slowly, as he looks about the room with the reverence of one who has not been before. For now, it seems he does not intend to interrupt anyone else's prayer with hellos, or perhaps the grandeur of the Sept has simply made it so the Lannister does not notice that he is not alone.

Truly, it's a simple matter to feel oneself alone with the almighty, in this house built for Them by the riches of Westeros's greatest city… Even in the middle of the day, when Oldtown is bustling without, the septas and septons and the faithful come to pray come nowhere near constituting a crowd; and every voice which speaks aloud is hushed in respect. One may kneel, or sit, undisturbed at one's devotions, indefinitely… And to judge by that handmaiden's increasing tendency to fidget with the cuff of her simple green dress, the wandering of her eyes this way and that, the lady in black is threatening to do just that. Her candle gutters. She doesn't notice.

The handmaiden catches sight of Ser Lorn Lannister; she smiles at him, as what woman could resist when he appears in view at an otherwise dull moment, and then catches her lower lip between her teeth and bows her pretty head.

She's just in time — for as her head lowers her lady's lifts, and all at once she's rushing forward to offer her hand, to help her to her feet.

The mistress is some few inches taller than the maid and more willowy in her shape, corseted snugly beneath the finely-embroidered black-on-black silken gown which trails over the polished black marble at her feet. Her posture is dignified, her manner cool; amongst the folds of her mantilla can be glimpsed a long white throat, and a face perfectly composed rather than blotched by tears. Upon her bosom glitters a seven-pointed star pendant, all in diamonds; that and a plain golden wedding ring are her only ornaments.

Once she was Lady Margot Hightower, and a fine prospect for the heir to House Lannister; now she is Lady Rowan of Goldengrove, and she is mourning a son.

It is the weight of eyes upon him that draws Lorn from his reverie. It is a slow draw, as cool water from a well, his body turning ever so slightly toward where he can feel he has been looked at. His blue gaze follows after, pulling down from the starlight-scattered ceiling. Just catching the tail end of the glance from the handmaiden, there is a small bow of the Lannister's head for the young woman.

But it is then that the woman he used to know is rising from her place of prayer. At first, Lorn does not recognize her. So many years since the last, and cast in the shock shadow opposite of her normal mode of dress, it takes Lorn a few moment to process. To recognize. The bow of his head offered her is more pronounced, though he is not so bold as to intrude without invitation, upon a woman so obviously, starkly in mourning. Just an acknowledgement, to be accepted or ignored as the Lady sees fit.

The lady, lingering a moment to be sure of her footing, and no doubt feeling by now a pain in her knees, turns to her maid to accept the girl's assistance in the rearrangement of the delicate folds of Myrish lace about her head and her shoulders. She isn't really looking at her maid, but past her, into some unknowable middle distance — the small, correct bow from the blond man a few yards away brings her gaze toward him, blue and cool, bereft of recognition.

… Then, with a flicker of astonishment, she places him. Her own pointed, feline little chin lowers in a nod, and her lips part to form a couple of polite words, too soft to be heard across the intervening distance. Her maid is fussing with her mantilla; her own hand lifts to still those busy fingers. She looks still at the Lannister heir, tranquil even in her curiosity.

That little flicker pulls the ghost of a smile at the corner of Lorn's mouth. If there was something in this world that he still truly enjoyed, it was surprising people. Not that he had intended it this time, mind, but even unplanned pleasures had their place. Though it was a strange feeling, standing here watching this woman that one day, years upons years ago, had been a consideration for his wife. The mixture of emotions play out in a sort of serene curiosity upon his own countenance, and he moves to close the distance between them with a grace that has not been lost over the years.

"My Lady," He greets her with the warmed drawl so familiar to Casterly Rock, "I am afraid your words were lost to distance." For all that he is more bold than she with the cast of his voice, it is nevertheless a respectful hush, despite the scarcity of supplicants in the halls of the Gods this day.

At his approach Lady Rowan further acknowledges their old acquaintance by turning to face him, her hands clasped before her narrow waist, the left about the right that her wedding band might always be plain to see. She looks well, and youthful; she at least has not been worn out by childbearing, the fate already of so many ladies of her generation. She was always this pale.

"The loss was no grave one, my lord of Lannister," she murmurs in that low, purring alto voice in which, in their youth, she uttered many a courteous phrase, though never a flirtatious word. "I only bade you a good afternoon… I hope, in doing so, I did not interrupt your devotions."

Lorn shakes his head with a gentleness. "No, m'lady," He says, "I had not even begun them. You have interrupted nothing." That ghost of a smile comes more into the realm of the living, though yet it remains somber. There is a glance to her dress, brief, not indecent, but obvious. An acknowledgement in the same subtle manner as his initial greeting. A infinitesimal gesture that says that recognizes her mourning, but when no syllable on consolation comes, there is the unspoken assurance that he will offer her no empty platitudes. They were worthless things, as grating as powdered glass and as helpful as a mug made of rotted wood. He knew the bitter taste of pointless sympathies all too well, from the hours upon hours, days heaped on days, that he had spent being meaninglessly thankful for them. He would not let them jump his lips. "I hope the Gods hear what you beseech them with, and that the day is fair upon you." He says, his own sort of greeting, more familiar for the sake of the ghost of what might have been but never really could, nor was wanted to, between them.

Of course Lady Rowan knows his tale as well as he knows hers. When his gaze lifts from her gown to her face her eyes are waiting to meet his, steadily, their oft-forbidding icy blue softened by an acknowledgment of what neither of them speaks aloud. "Then I am glad," she says quietly; "and I hope that you, too, shall find a listening ear in our beautiful sept…" For she and her kin are apt to speak of Oldtown's glories quite personally: the Hightower as the family home, the Starry Sept as the family sept. "The gods are always near us, but I know I have felt nearer to Them, within these walls."

Once more the Lannister's gaze is pulled around the Sept. It is beautiful, there is no denying that, and very different than what he is used to at home. Casterly Rock was a place of decadence, even in its places of worship. This was altogether different, artful and beautiful and balanced in a way gold could never be. Not that he disliked gold, mind. "It is a sight to behold, truly." He says with a nod, "I am sure it does them as much honor as it invokes awe."

A slow nod from Lady Rowan; the point is of course inarguable. And then a moment's silence falls between them which she, trained in every social art and weapon till she wields them as effortlessly as her needle, smooths over with another polite question. "Have you been long in Oldtown?"

Lorn shakes his head. "I arrived but today." He answers simply. It was a long trip from the Rock, and yet he had come here as one of his first points of order. That was a statement of some kind or another, surely. "Thus far, I have found it agreeable." He confirms with another flicker of a smile.

The handmaiden has stepped back again into the septa's company; they wait, unobtrusively, for their lady, near enough perhaps to hear the quiet exchange between their betters, far enough to pretend they can't.

"You must be weary from your journey," remarks Lady Rowan softly, with one of those precisely-graduated inclinations of her head. She always used to wear her hair down, rippling silkily about her shoulders, perhaps woven through with a white ribbon or a strand of luminous pearls. Now it's pinned up beneath her mantilla, in a sleek, simple style. Another oddity to the eye. "Perhaps you shall find yourself restored, by the company of gods rather than that of men…?" she wonders aloud. "Do you intend to make a long visit to the city?"

So many changes, but it had been so very long. What was new and due to her grief or something that had changed over the years that Lorn had not known her? The Lannister could not hazard a guess. Well, maybe… If he bothered to look for other markers, but he wasn't here to inspect her. "Perhaps." He concedes, not sounding entirely convinced, but it was a possibility. The Gods had not listened thus far, but there is a first time for everything. "Yes, I have business that I should like to see to that is difficult from the vantage point of the Rock." He says by way of answer.

The lady gives a judicious nod. "Of course. Though I'm certain Casterly Rock's vantage," which might, almost, have been her own, "must be a glorious one indeed, for most purposes." She ventures with those words a slight, rather charming smile — but it doesn't touch her eyes, and it leaves her once her lips part again to speak. "I'm sure we shall meet again, my lord." The city may be a large one; not so, the circles in which such as they move.

"I am sure we shall, my lady," Lorn responds with a small smile, "Go well." It's a simple parting. Though it does not, it seems, address at all her commentary about Casterly Rock. He loved his home, truly, he did, but he was deeply tired of those same halls, wrought from the heartsblood of gold though they may be.

Again Lady Rowan inclines her head. "Seven blessings be upon you," is her own reserved, wholly suitable farewell, as she rejoins her women.

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