(123-07-01) Comparative Gardening
Comparative Gardening
Summary: Ser Laurent Tyrell holds that the flowers at the Garden Isle Manse are superior in fragrance to anything the Hightower has to offer; AND HE WILL NOT BE GAINSAID. His brother Ser Loryn is drafted into helping prove as much to Lady Olenna Roxton.
Date: 01/07/2016
Related: None

A warm summer evening on the Garden Isle, the air humid and the wind still, sets the scene for a stroll in the garden. Three figures move slowly among the flowers, two voices carrying in occasional conversation. Far and away the largest of the three is the figure of Ser Laurent Tyrell, once a resident of this very manse, clothed to befit his station in silk and brocade of black and green, a sword belted at his waist. The other pair, hand in hand, are women clearly escorted by The Thorn. "…too humid to take it in properly, damn the luck," Laurent complains sourly, "But I'll wager it's still a sight better than what's on offer at the Hightower." For confirmation he looks over his shoulder to one of the women accompanying him. Since they arrived, the scowl might as well have been painted on his face, so permanent a fixture is it.

The younger Tyrell, used by now to the status of being the master of the house, has spied the curious trio from an upper window and put his scribblings for a new play aside. The need to investigate drives Loryn downstairs and out into the gardens. Luckily Laurent is easy to spot among the blossoming flowers and heads over there. "Laurent, hey!", he calls out cheerfully, "Didn't know you were here. Who are your friends?" The younger Tyrell, it has to be said, doesn't bother much with appearance at home and is dressed in plain green pants and a white shirt.

The woman in the middle, whose hesitant pace dictates that of her companions, is an unfamiliar face almost anywhere in Oldtown. She is simply dressed in a gown of sky blue linen and pearl earrings, with her brown-black hair brushed till it gleams and braided into a thick dark loop at the back of her neck. Her grey-blue eyes are pretty enough but they gaze only vacantly over this lush landscape of flowers and greenery… "It is difficult to compare, yet," is the opinion she vouchsafes cautiously to Ser Laurent, her head tilted towards him, her hand holding tightly to that of the maid who is watching where she puts her feet; "but the lilies… they are extraordinary." She breathes in, as though to underscore her point; she seems about to speak again when Ser Loryn interrupts. Her lips close again, and she waits uncertainly to be introduced.

"I'll have your honest opinion, Lady Roxton. I'll not suffer bull-" Laurent's dark eyes leave Olenna at the sound of Loryn's voice, darting that way. "Or mayhaps I will," comes in a lower register, his tone now that of every older brother. "Lady Roxton, I present my brother, Ser Loryn." Stepping forward to reach a hand out toward the younger lord, he manages a twist of his lips that looks as much grimace as grin. "Lady Roxton of the Ring, on whose behalf I wrote to you," he introduces the lady at his side. "She was taken with the gardens at the Hightower, and for the sake of decency I could not let her great appreciation stand unchallenged."

"Good evening, Lady Roxton, a pleasure to meet you.", Loryn says politely, bowing to her. He hasn't really twigged yet that something is amiss with the lady. "Of course, you are very welcome here at Garden Isle and the suite is being readied for you. I wasn't sure when you'd arrive. I hope you enjoy the gardens, they are most lovely in the evenings. Shall I send for refreshments?", he asks, looking between her and Laurent, "We could sit in the pavilion…."

They've stopped now; and so, with her left hand low at her side, in the grasp still of the maid who stands half a step behind her, Lady Roxton offers her right hand tentatively in the direction of this new, unknown voice, which Ser Laurent calls by the name of his brother. She almost gets it right. "Ser Loryn," she murmurs; "it is an honour to make the acquaintance of a brother of Ser Laurent's." Words to puzzle over. "I… I could not be said yet to have arrived," she adds, apologetically, "for though I should wish to take your brother's advice, I am still a guest of the Hightower… I have put them already to trouble on my behalf and I am hesitant to do so again, so soon. I hadn't dreamt I should be offered so much hospitality, here," she explains with a rueful smile. She doesn't once meet his eye. Or his brother's. Or anyone's.

Laurent's broad shoulders rise and fall, and he gestures toward the pavilion, speaking as he begins to walk. "WINE," he shouts toward the manse, then in a more conversational volume, "I told her I'd laugh to see those simpering prats inconvenienced, but Lady Roxton insists on courtesy." This delivered as though the concept were beyond his ken. "It's not as if they'd rise from their seats to complain, though, is it?" The Thorn's opinion of the Hightower was driven low in years past, and apparently is not yet recovered. "It's good fortune that we came across Ser Loryn, Lady Roxton," he finishes glumly. "He makes for far more pleasant company than I."

A bulb almost literally flashes above Loryn's head when the hand is vaguely extended towards him but missing him by a few inches. Nonetheless he reaches out to take it and plant a quick kiss on its back. Laurent's shouting notwithstanding, Loryn turns away from the small group to quietly confer with a servant nearby. Orders are given in a whisper. Quite elaborate orders for merely some wine and snacks. Yet he looks all innocent when he turns back to the group and follows to the pavilion. Laurent's words have him grin. "It wouldn't kill you to smile once a while.", he tells his older brother cheerfully, before turning to Olenna. "The Reach is famous for its hospitality, Mylady. May I ask what brought you here to Oldtown? Seeking a cure from the maesters at the Citadel?"

The routine courtesy of a kiss to a lady's hand, turns Lady Roxton uncertain of herself; her smile flickers before she can hold it carefully in place, and her hand is quick to fall away to its previous place by her side. She keeps one ear tilted more or less toward each of the brothers, listening, catching a word or two of Ser Loryn's orders to the servants (and all of Ser Laurent's, obviously), waiting till she's addressed more directly — and on a subject upon which she can speak without giving offense. Not the quality of one brother's company or the other's, but her own affliction.

"There is no cure, Ser Loryn," she explains very quietly, "for eyes such as mine; I do not seek the impossible, when to hope for the merely feasible is already to reach so far beyond my present grasp. Nonetheless, my maester at the Ring did consider that a change of air might benefit my health in general; and if the air is to be all as fragrant as this, perhaps… he was right."

Laurent curses, soft but enthusiastic, shaking his head. "I thought myself the direct one," he laments, his heavy brow lifting. "Lady Roxton is a lady of the Reach," follows, his tone at least mildly chastising, "And as such is likely familiar with its hospitality. She's not been a guest of our family before, though, and I mean to see her treated well. I can trust to your help in this?" He walks slowly, his long stride keeping him apace with the group nonetheless, left hand resting casually on the hilt of his sword. "I myself can't stay. I've business with Ser Kevyn."

Loryn arches a brow at Laurent's lament in confusion. But he lets it go and just nods. "Of course.", he says firmly, turning to Olenna since he expects she can hear when she is directly spoken to. "You are very welcome here at Garden Isle, Mylady. We are in the midst of wedding preparations, so it may be a bit busy, but you might enjoy the buzz." He looks part disappointed, part relieved when Laurent announces his departure. "Ah, too soon, brother, our refreshments are only just arriving.", he sighs. "Come visit again soon."

At Ser Laurent's announcement Lady Roxton's head turns; she addresses him directly, with a sudden anxiety for his presence which can rarely have been exhibited by any lady, not even his own mother. "… Must you go, Ser Laurent?" she inquires pensively. "We have not seen— as it were," her lips twist in dry amusement at her own choice of phrase, "all that I had thought you would show me… Though I am grateful, of course," she turns her head till her blue-grey eyes are almost-but-not-quite oriented upon Ser Loryn, and comes forth with further dutiful politenesses, "for the opportunity to meet your brother, and to offer him the congratulations I ought to have spoken sooner. The Hightower too is talking of your wedding, Ser Loryn, and of your bride-to-be. I do hope you and Lady Miranda will be very happy together."

"It were my own absent-mindedness," Laurent manages, looking at Loryn rather than the lady, "Not yours. I said I'd convey your congratulations in my letter to him, and forgot." With that lukewarm apology, he turns to the lady, speaking as he bows so that she might know he does so. "I must," sounds a geuinely sullen response, "Though I will call on you again soon. And in the interim," he reminds her, "You'll have a visit from the seamstress as Lord Medgar recommended." Straightening, he takes a step backward. "I trust you not to woo my brother away from his betrothed, in my absence; he was a keen chaser of skirts, not so long ago, and yours is fine enough for the chasing." His dark eyes flash then to Loryn, amusement dancing in them, and he nods a farewell before taking his leave.

Loryn smirks weakly at Laurent's jokes about him chasing skirts. "Come, let us sit down.", he suggests to Olenna, expecting her maid to guide her to the cushioned bench inside the pavilion where one of the servants has been setting out wine, cakes and fruit. "I hope I can perhaps make up for the absence of my brother by showing you around the garden if you wish…"

Ser Laurent's teasing is as usual a step beyond what Olenna expects; a sudden heat in her cheeks inspires her to turn quite away from Ser Loryn as she murmurs to his brother her farewell, her thanks for his many kindnesses, her assurance that what he did or didn't put in the letter was of no matter, and her (almost tremulous) hope that, yes, he shall call upon her soon.

To lead Lady Roxton is indeed her handmaiden's duty; though she gives no sign that she is listening to the conversation of her betters, at Ser Loryn's suggestion she steps forward to lead the way, murmuring her rough count of how many paces forward along the path and then numbering the steps and reassuring her lady that she has come to the end of them. Walking through darkness into darkness, among unfamiliar sounds and scents, trusting absolutely in the hand tucked into her own (a little too warmly, on such a summer's day as this), is so accustomed a terror to the blind Lady of the Ring that she carries her chin high and moves steadily though slowly enough to the chair her maid chooses for her. Her hand is placed upon the back of it and she finds her own way to sit down, smoothing her skirts as any woman would, but then turning a hand palm-up in her lap and reaching cautiously to find the edge of the table.

"It would be very kind of you," she says, neutrally, of the gardens. She is still puzzling over the fact that that fragrance of lilies appears to have come with her into the pavilion's shade. "It has been my greatest pleasure so far, in Oldtown, to walk in such fine gardens as these… The city itself," she concedes, "has so many other odours; but when one steps within your walls, it is like… like stepping into the country again, when all is in full bloom."

"Oh, it's merely a pale recreation of our grounds in Highgarden.", Loryn tries to downplay it, but he does so with a smile, "It was meant to be a home away from home for the Tyrells who first established this seat and for me it has indeed become home." He pours wine for them, including a third cup for the maid so that she doesn't go dry while her betters chat and gestures to the snacks. Quite futile, he realizes, so he adds: "There are lemon and orange cakes, Mylady, made of fruit from the gardens, fresh fruit and pasties if your taste goes to the savory. Please help yourself…" He bites his lip as he realizes the usual pleasantries are rather useless here and so he babbles on: "Did Laurent explain the layout of the gardens to you? There is a pool in the middle, two fountains, this pavilion and different arrangements of greenery to resemble the Reach and other areas. We've been able to grow a few things from the Summer Islands in a particularly warm and humid corner… splendid Orchids among them with a most delightful smell."

In pouring the wine, Ser Loryn has pre-empted Lady Roxton's maid, who having seen her mistress seated and placed a cloth napkin in her hand, was about to do those honours as well — but as he goes on, offering them the freedom of the table, she adjusts the position of her mistress's cup, then picks up a plate and begins discreetly to arrange upon it things she knows Olenna will like. The fruit, and the lemon and orange cakes. What isn't already bite-sized she renders so with a knife, the better to avoid… accidents.

Olenna shakes out the napkin and arranges it over her blue linen lap. "Thank you, Ser Loryn… I am fond of the sunshine; but it is pleasant, is it not, sometimes to sit in the shade…? Ser Laurent began to explain," she offers, as her own hand begins its cautious creep over the surface of the table in search of… yes, there it is; "but we became distracted by speaking of each flower we stopped to smell, and of the humidity of the day. And then we met you," she concludes. She lifts the cup smoothly enough to her lips and doesn't bump her teeth with it: she sips, without any evident pleasure or displeasure in the taste. "… We did not go so far as the plants from the Summer Islands," she mentions. "Surely they would be at their best, on a day such as this…? Perhaps we might…?" she suggests diffidently.

"I'm surprised Laurent even knows the names of anything that grows here.", Loryn admits dryly, "He is… um, not exactly known for his green thumb." He indulges in a deep draught of wine before gobbling up one of the lemon cakes, stopped short half-way through by her request. "Oh, of course, Mylady… right now?", he wonders, rather comfortable where he is right now. "We also have a few flowers from Essos here, brought by merchants across the Narrow Sea. Among them one that lends a wonderful spice to light dishes. Perhaps you'd like to see that too?"

The maid sets the plate before her mistress, making a little more noise about it (and her steps as well) than a good servant usually does; and then, having put down her wine, Olenna strokes both hands slowly and carefully over the table again till her left finds the side of the plate and her right lands upon a fork. She will be liable to a small surprise with each bite, but none of them disagreeable. "… Oh, yes. But not at once, of course," she reassures Ser Loryn hastily, fork halfway to her lips with a piece of green apple speared upon it. It vanishes into her prettily curved pink mouth without any noticeable effort. She chews, she swallows; she murmurs, "You surprise me, Ser Loryn. Your brother… he speaks of your gardens here with such passion and such knowledge, I had thought he must be a great gardener himself."

"My brother is a man of passions.", Loryn says oh so diplomatically, "And perhaps I underestimate his appreciation for the … finer things in life. Anyway -", he tries to distract from the topic of his brother, "What plans do you have for your stay here in Oldtown? I mean… if you do have any?"

Olenna defers with a respectful nod to a younger brother's superior knowledge of the passions of Ser Laurent Tyrell; she looks vaguely thoughtful, no more, at the suggestion that he might be underestimated by his kin.

Then her eyebrows lift and she shakes her head. "Plans? Oh, no…" A wry smile, and another, swifter shake, as though to settle it. "Only to be here for a time and to enjoy the hospitality offered me. I know so few people in Oldtown… only those I have met since I arrived a few days ago; but everyone has been so very kind." An inclination of her head attempts to include Ser Loryn himself in that 'everyone', perhaps not successfully, given she's not quite facing him at the time. Anyway, it's not a bad attempt.

"Perhaps you would enjoy a night at the theatre?", Loryn wonders, "I understand that… uh, certain elements will be missing, but there is music on many evenings, jokes and laughter… perhaps not aimed for the daintiest of ears, but many ladies in Oldtown do not seem to mind. If it meets your interest, I'd be happy to supply you with tickets.", he offers eagerly.

Chewing a white grape Olenna contemplates this offer. "My ears," she says at last, "have withstood your brother's company… They know, I hope, when to listen with care and when… not to hear. Thank you, Ser Loryn, I should like that very much," she decides, nodding now that the idea has begun to grow upon her. "I have heard theatre spoken of, but never… Do you go often?" she inquires innocently, betraying herself as a foreigner indeed in this city.

Loryn quirks a brow at the last question. "I… uh, run the biggest theatre in Oldtown, the Theatre of Whimsical Dreams.", he explains, trying not to sound too boastful, "I also write plays and take the occasional part in them myself. I pride myself in being a fairly decent actor and popular with the crowds."

The fork clinks onto the plate. Olenna pales. "… I beg your pardon, Ser Loryn," she apologises a breath later. "I didn't realise… I have been only a few days in Oldtown," she reminds him, phrasing it as an excuse, "and it's simply that no one mentioned… I should be doubly pleased, then, if I were to see one of your own plays. That is… to listen to it." She offers a small smile.

"It's quite alright.", Loryn assures her with a warm smile, hoping the warmth will be audible in his voice, "It's… not exactly what you expect from a scion of house Tyrell, I suppose. Although it was my cousin Garvin who started it, so I am only continuing the family tradition. I will be happy to acquaint you with my work." And he's only too happy to bore her with detailed plot descriptions of the last half-dozen plays at the Whimsy, which would safely see them through to the end of their repast.

His lady visitor partakes sparingly of the wine, but disposes neatly of quite a few little morsels of fruit and cake; she hangs upon his words, nodding now and again, hardly interrupting but to suspect aloud the occasional literary or historical inspiration for the tales she's being told. She always sounds uncertain, but she's always right. A blind woman who will be amongst the Whimsy's better-read and most-perceptive patrons, perhaps.

When apropos of a Summer Isles fable which has some bearing upon Ser Loryn's play-before-last they both recollect the nearness of plants from thereabouts, Lady Roxton folds her napkin in half and slips it onto the edge of the table, in a signal that she would be quite ready to venture out of the pavilion again, if her host should be in turn — and so they do. And blue skirts pool about the lady's feet as she crouches, fascinated, letting her maid's hand guide her own to the petals of an orchid blooming here, so far from its native soil… Her touch is indescribably delicate. "How… remarkable," she murmurs.

Loryn is quite happy to show her around the gardens, letting her inspect the exotic plants from the Summer Isles at leisure as well as any other plants she might want to smell from nearby. She certainly knows a lot more about them than he does, but he's a patient and polite chap and lets her have her fun.

Though not so much fun, perhaps, as if she were less careful of this new acquaintance's time. Worrying from minute to minute, keenly attentive to any sign in his voice of impatience, of welcome overstayed, Olenna lingers not as long as she might like; and then, as they part, her gratitude is as sincere as her praise. Surely even Ser Laurent will find nothing to argue with in her sensitive nose's final verdict upon the aptly-named Garden Isle… surely.

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