(123-07-04) The Twist
The Twist
Summary: Lady Roxton is spinning, when Ser Laurent Tyrell comes to call. Perhaps that's what gives her the idea.
Date: 04-06/07/2016
Related: Everything with these characters.

The servant Camillo's advice was that Lady Roxton convey through his good offices the names of any visitors she might expect to receive in her own little Hightower fastness. The first being a seamstress of good repute, attended by her assistants, can't have come as any surprise. As for the second being Ser Laurent Tyrell — he who hardly sets foot on Battle Island save to denigrate its inhabitants — well, whatever a good servant may think or suppose, he lets none of it show, and Camillo is a very good servant.

The lady not yet having received her new gowns, she sits by the cold hearth in the same simple blue linen dress she wore several days past to walk in the gardens of the Tyrell manse. It is not unbecoming to her, but to her station…? Tyrell coin has clearly got to her just in time.

In the air in front of her a drop spindle is spinning ceaselessly; and her hands join in the same perpetual motion, drawing fibres of fine undyed wool from a hank of the stuff wrapped loosely about her wrist, pinching and twisting, rapidly transforming it into yarn for knitting. (Such knitting as was just laid down on a sofa by her maid Sallei, when she rose to answer the door.) Her posture is upright, inclined slightly forward. Her blue-grey eyes regard neither her work nor her visitor, though upon hearing his voice she calls out a low, civil, "Good morning, Ser Laurent."

It is in fact the late afternoon.

Ser Laurent Tyrell brushes past Sallei with hardly a look, his foul mood writ upon his face; the Hightower has that effect on the Thorn of Highgarden. He is dressed every inch the Tyrell Lord, from his smart boots of black leather to the collar of the doublet chafing at his thick neck. Greens and golds are the order of the day, though the overlarge feather that adorns the shapeless hat snatched from his head is black as his own mood. "Lady Roxton," he returns, a greeting that sounds more complaint.

A handful of long strides into the room, however, and the footfalls stop. "I'll be damned to seven hells," he rumbles, his brow knitting as he eyes the spindle, "But that's unsettling." Now he casts his eyes over his shoulder, looking to see if Sallei is as disturbed by the sight. "I don't see how you manage that," he finally admits, his eyes drawn inexorably back to the sight of the lady's spinning - quite against his own will, it appears.

In admitting Ser Laurent to her lady's chambers Sallei's chief object was not to get too close to him. (One look up into his eyes warned her of that.) When he strides straight past she breathes out, invisibly and inaudibly to everyone but her own self, and shuts the door, and follows the instructions lodged with her in advance of his coming. Namely, to fetch that small decanter of whisky Lady Roxton requested for her chambers the other day, and a pair of the rather pretty long-stemmed wooden cups carved with stylised Hightowers which formed already part of her borrowed accoutrements. Being turned away, she misses his glance; her back at any rate seems unconcerned by her mistress's activities. She pours the whiskey, more generously for Ser Laurent, then takes up her knitting and retreats to sit in a corner.

Meanwhile the spindle spins, and Olenna's hands never falter. She finds a small smile for her visitor, or for the empty air at his side — near enough. "It is not difficult," she explains softly of this menial chore she prides herself upon, "with practice… My hands are of more use than my eyes," and she shrugs, because of course they'd have to be, really. "I can knit, a little, though if I make too great a mistake I must have Sallei to fix it for me and tell me how to go on again. Won't you sit down, please…?"

Ser Laurent approaches the hearth slowly, only remembering the need to remove his baldric once he has already arrived at the couch, the reason for his distraction being a fascination with the work of Olenna's hands. "They'd have to be," he agrees, of Olenna's hands and their comparative usefulness, "Your eyes are useful as my nipples, and no more." The words come slowly as he fumbles at his belt, at first unable even to look at it. In time, though, he does tear his eyes away from the chore to witness his own work, and then it's quickly done. He places the sword on a nearby chair, then settles himself onto the couch, stretching his legs out before himself to cross them at the ankles.

"Damnably odd," he says under his breath, though still loud enough to hear, before he musters the fortitude to press on. "I trust you received a visit from the seamstress. Is there aught else you require, Lady Roxton? I should think you might wish for…" One hand gestures in the air, waving toward the lady, "Jewelry, perhaps? What else?"

For courtesy's sake Olenna's dark head turns, each time Ser Laurent speaks, to follow him from where he stood to where, swordless, he now sits. She has nothing to say to his own rather more colourful estimation of her eyes' utility, but there's no fire lit to blame for the hint of heat in her cheeks — and to keep her spindle turning, to feed it the wool it requires, seems now to be occupying more of her attention for all her talk of ease.

"Yes," she begins, speaking of the seamstress's visit, but whatever other quiet words she had intended to follow that one are lost when he goes on and she falls respectfully silent. Then she laughs, a pretty and altogether musical sound he hasn't heard before. "Jewellery—?" she half-gasps, her voice still full of a mirth she's trembling in an effort to suppress. Seconds later she's obliged to pinch her strand of yarn just where it is, and reach down to catch hold of her spindle. The intervening few feet of yarn tries to double back on itself and to lose its twist, but she wraps it round the rest as surely as a sighted woman might and tucks in the pinched end.

She settles spindle and loose wool together in her lap. "I… I'm sorry, my lord; I ought not to have laughed at you," she apologises, recovering her calm by means of this small task. "It's only that I don't know what I would do with jewels," she admits. "I know such things give pleasure to other women, but for me… I have a necklace of golden rings, Roxton rings, which used to be my mother's, and my grandmother's. Is that not enough?" It's a serious question.

Laurent's eyes narrow at the sound of Lady Roxton's laughter, the couch sounding a protest as his weight shifts so that he can lean forward to stare, unsure whether he's being mocked. That uncertainty wavers in his baritone as well, his next words held low: "The Stranger's sacred shits, but how would I know that?" His lip curls, something akin to a sneer, though his eyes lack the malice required for a forceful one. "Some ladies seem to require more baubles than others, and I've no way of knowing which and wherefore."

His eyes drop to the spindle again once it is stilled, calling forth a final note on the subject of Olenna's spinning. "It seemed something near witchcraft, watching you at work. It might have distracted me from my purpose in coming here, had you not put it aside. I've a thought on how we might proceed."

The other reason why two cups of whiskey sit waiting on the low table before the hearth, soon becomes plain. When Ser Laurent raises the matter of the bodily functions of the darkest and most mysterious of the Seven Gods, Olenna's hand stretches out unerringly before her and takes up the nearer of the two. She's taking his advice in more matters than the one. The consequences to her sobriety may be fearsome if he lingers long…

It may be that sip of whiskey which gives her voice its cynical tone as she points out, "I can't tell the difference between sapphires and glass, can I? Nor would I know whether such things looked well on me, or— or as the smallfolk say, whether I looked like mutton dressed as lamb. It would be a waste of your coin, Ser Laurent, even if it were… at all proper, for me to accept more from you than I already have done." Another sip. She breathes out. "But… your counsel, ser, that I'll gladly accept," she adds, more gently — one might almost say submissively! — for she has recovered the manners taught to her in childhood; "if indeed you have come to offer it."

"If I paused at proper, Lady Roxton…" Even Ser Laurent, though, is at a loss to imagine just what he might be, if he gave much thought to propriety, and so after a bit of searching for an appropriate metaphor he instead opts for, "I'm not a man who does." He stretches his arm out to pull the cup toward himself, but lets it rest near the edge of the table rather than drinking. "As to counsel, this comes as much from Lord Medgar as it does from me."

The Tyrell knight takes a deep, audible breath, eyes flashing toward the ceiling as he thinks on where to start. It's not long, though, and he has found his tongue. "The Costaynes will serve, he thinks," serves as a launching point. "And so we claim that thieves made off with something as belonged to you - livestock, I should think, might do - and their flight took them near a village in Costayne lands. When you dispatched a man, or men, to see to justice, those men were turned from their purpose by the reeve of that village, who owes his loyalty to House Costayne. It wants for details, I'll allow, but it seems a good enough start. Your thoughts?"

Lady Roxton lowers her cup, and holds it in her lap (just next to her spindle) against further need; and she listens with an expression at first grave and then, by degrees, discreetly admiring. Once again Ser Laurent has put heart into the poor and the blind. Who could have imagined it?

"… I think the idea is a fine one," she agrees. "Too fine to allow my cousin to suppose that it came from me, or that it was to any purpose of mine… He will hear eventually," she sighs; "what is spoken aloud before noble witnesses is no secret, is it? … Perhaps I might say that I had the tale from—" Her lips twitch, wanting to smile. "From my most leal cousin and heir, Ser Petyr Roxton," she intones, with her best effort at dignity, "whose men they were. But to him…" She goes on, but slowly; her neatly-plucked dark eyebrows furrow nearer one another in thought. "I might say that a man of his told me of what happened and asked me to speak as I did, as I was to go to Oldtown in any case. He… he might have been trying to embarrass me, to make me look a fool in front of important people, telling lies and unconvincingly." Which leads, not unnaturally, to a more distressing thought. "Shall I look a fool?" she asks her guest, bleakly. "Perhaps — if I practice it…?"

"I had it in mind that you might say you sent Ser Petyr himself," Laurent says, grudging respect audible in his voice, "But you've a better. My way might have forced a confrontation too soon; your way allows for a second pass before he knows anything for certain. The Crone's toothless maw, but I think you've a knack for this." He does take up his glass now, admiring Lady Roxton over its rim before swallowing a taste and sounding his approval.

"As to practice… I don't honestly know." This the sour Tyrell knight admits with some frustration. "It may be well that you do, at least until you've the details firmly in mind. But not overmuch — you don't want it seeming rehearsed. Any stammering we might blame on nerves, and never having addressed so many people. If you find yourself a touch addled, then let that seem the reason."

"Have I a… knack?" Olenna sounds doubtful. "… I don't want to get into any trouble, that's all, at least not before I must. I… I told lies like that, sometimes, to get my own way, or to keep from being blamed — when I was a child, when people still pitied me so much they felt they had to believe what I said to make up for… the rest. As long as they had something to believe, it was well enough…" Leaving Ser Laurent to ponder how much trouble a highborn little girl could get into absent eyes to see with, she shakes her head just once to clear it, and sips her whiskey again (to do the opposite?), and adds, "I don't know how much is… too much to practice. The other day," this apparently apropos of nothing, "I met a man in the gardens here who had a direwolf. With him. A Stark lord… I wasn't really afraid. Do you know why not?" She laughs shakily, and tells him. "I don't know what a wolf looks like…" Each word is enunciated with care and with a certain fey amusement. "Let alone a direwolf. If nobody tells me how many people are there, or who they are, then perhaps I shan't be too afraid to speak…"

Laurent shakes his head, but not in disagreement. "You seem to," he rejoins, with no great gusto. He props his elbow on the arm of the couch now, his glass hanging from his fingertips. It may be that he is distracted at the thought of a young, blind Olenna, and what mischief she might have caused. Whatever its source, his silence is brief. "A direwolf? Lady Roxton, in the case of wolves I'd trust to the tales, and assume they're dangerous. Direwolves most especially. Was it…" He snorts a laugh as he trails off, giving a short-lived but emphatic shake of his head. "Never mind, of course."

"I don't know how quickly your cousin will receive word of our deception. I suppose it depends on whether he anyone here holds him dear enough to send a raven, or knows where he might presently be found. If not… We might still have weeks beyond this, so long as we don't overplay our hands. Gossip spreads, but small matters more slowly, I should think."

"Tame?" the lady fills in, lifting both eyebrows. "He claimed to have… an arrangement with the creature. It went away from us at his word." Sallei knitting in her corner is watching her betters, now, her face a picture of misgiving. Olenna meanwhile accepts the change of subject. "I don't suppose it will be long. Only as long as it takes for the tale to reach any man who is my cousin's friend or his client, and then for a letter to be dispatched to him in King's Landing. If such talk or such a letter passes via the Ring, where people might suppose him to be found, Maester Andros may well hear of it and inform me — but if there is in Oldtown any man — or woman," the thought occurs to her, "any friend of his, any kin of his wife's, who knows where he is at present, then I think we can expect him to arrive here in however much time it takes for one man to ride to the capital and another to ride back again. The tale will strike him as an unusual one," she points out, worrying at her lower lip with her teeth. "Whether he believes what he hears, whether he supposes the story to have become confused, he will worry about what I might be doing here whilst his back is turned… He will come," she predicts firmly, sober despite the whiskey, her lips pressed into a thin line.

Laurent considers the news, his free hand balled into a fist which drums against his thigh. "Then what do we do, when confronted," he wonders aloud. "Is it our hope that he can be persuaded that nothing is truly amiss, and dismissed to see to his interests elsewhere? Or is our fondest desire that he might press the point, giving offense enough that you might challenge his word, and in so doing provoke him into facing your champion? Myself, of course, taking the role, and then murdering Lord Petyr." With another shrug, he adds: "Or of course his own champion, but I shouldn't fear that either."

A question which was sure to be spoken — a decision which could hardly be deferred indefinitely — and yet Lady Roxton breathes in with the sharpness of surprise, and has no answer at first but silent brooding. The corners of her mouth turn subtly downward, whiskey or no whiskey. She drinks a little more anyway and sets down the cup, and then her clever fingers find the end of that strand of yarn and wrap wool about her wrist and set her spindle into flight.

"… I must think— of what is best," she ventures at last, her words coming haltingly, as they are apt to whenever she is brought to speak of anything too difficult, too personal, too likely to require her to take a stand of her own. "I suppose it must depend first of all upon what position I have attained to when he comes. Whether I have, then, the support and the coin to… to replace him," she explains uncomfortably. "If I have — if somehow I have — I can't think how it might happen, so quickly, but if it were so, then…"

She lowers her eyelids; a moment later she lifts them again upon the same blank, unreadable stare. "Then perhaps it would be well if what must be done, were done quickly," she allows in a very small voice. "For he is not one man alone. There are others loyal to him, and whatever assurances he might make to me, assurances that he believed what I said, that he would take no action to punish me, he and his friends, and those who depend upon him for their livings, would still be… forewarned. And I must think of… his sons." She swallows. "You asked me if he had sons, and I did not answer. I didn't know… how to answer." A deep breath. "He has two sons, though the eldest is but five years of age. If they must lose their father, then… the sooner it happens, the less they know him, the less they will be pained. And the less… they will suppose they are to be my successors. No child of five, surely, has such desires, such certainties, already in his heart… If I see those boys brought up as Roxtons, and not by their mother's kin," and she seems now to be pleading with Ser Laurent, pleading with him at least to understand and to give credence to her half-formed plan, "if they only ever have gifts from my hand, then perhaps I shall not have it to do over again in fifteen years." She swallows. "I should not like to… to have to do it over again. Whoever did it, it would be me, really, and I should not… like to." What she doesn't say, is that she wouldn't.

At the spindle's return, Laurent's eyes are drawn to its action, so that when she begins to speak he feels compelled to shake his head as though clearing cobwebs from it. That done he stands, leaving his drink to rest on the table, and begins to pace. His strides are long, but his steps slow, the objective to keep the spindle from distracting him.

"I don't know how we would find a suitor so quickly," he agrees, "Though if you've thoughts on the matter…" He runs the fingers of his right hand through his brush of short hair, leaving it standing on end and in disarray. A few paces more, and he curses savagely. "How might we buy more time then should he, upon arrival, seek to bring matters to a head? How do we yet bring about…" The words trail off into a silent frown, which in turn gives way to: "Might I beat one of his lieutenants? For some perceived - or likely fabricated - slight to your person. Publicly, slowly, and savagely, the threat obvious. Might that stall him, do you suppose?"

He sucks at his teeth, still pacing, considering the matter of the sons. Considering whether to address it. Finally, having worked up to it, his half-hearted answer: "No doubt you can win them over, Lady Roxton. They're young yet, and might be molded by the proper hand. I'd not see them dealt with otherwise, not without consulting you on the matter."

The turning of the spindle is helping one of them, at least, to think. Olenna's hands are steady — they must be kept steady — and so her mind follows, some part of it devoted always to the tiny movements required of her hands, leaving her that much less to worry with. She doesn't trouble to turn her head to follow the rapid progress of his voice about the chamber. Her gaze which isn't a gaze is trained vacantly upon where he was sitting.

"I'm very afraid," she says very softly, "that if you were to— to do as you say, he would be confirmed in every suspicion, and it would be war between him and me. A war I would not yet be in a position to win. He would indeed be wary of moving against me, openly, here in Oldtown… but what orders might he not send to his men at the Ring? The soldiers called mine," she admits, "know that it is he who fills their purses at present. What… time must be bought, might better be paid for with deceit, than by confrontation. If only I knew," again her lips twist, "how it might otherwise be done, or where… where I might find such a suitor as we've discussed. From the hour at which I speak, and either begin the search or let it be known I am here to be sought, I'll have… so little time…" She veers off into something not so very far from despair. "Perhaps," she ventures, "it would be better to wait a little?"

“You reckon as he'll try to stop your being courted at all,” Laurent ventures, “Or that once he discovers you're being courted, he'll move against your interests more directly?” His heavy brow is furrowed with the effort of conspiracy, his footfalls slow and measured. “If it's the first,” he slowly suggests, wariness in his tone, “Then mayhaps we make a show that I'm among those courting you? He could hardly oppose me.” An uncharacteristic caution colors those words, the Thorn suddenly uncertain.

Whilst he speaks Olenna's smoothly turning spindle abruptly becomes a tangle of unwrapping, untwisting yarn — her hands grope blindly to contain it but it falls nonetheless to the floor at her feet, the strand broken, the spindle itself rolling and bouncing away even over the carpet, carried along by the momentum it has already gained. The maid Sallei (who was just flicking Ser Laurent's back a glance of astonishment and instinctive distrust) hurriedly sets down her knitting and rushes across the chamber to assist.

Thus the tableau which greets him when he turns, of Lady Roxton giving up her hopeless search and straightening in her chair, gazing ahead with a nonplussed air, and Sallei kneeling at her feet desperately trying to keep her lady's work from unraveling any further. They both appear somewhat struck.

A moment later the lady finds her voice. "… Would people believe it?" is her first, most honest, most urgent and yet tremulous question.

"I…" Laurent's pacing quiets, hands finding his hips as he comes to a halt. "There's a mess," he can't help but point out, in a tone moved a degree further toward surliness. He gestures toward the yarn with an open hand, urging Sallei along in her task, his attention fully on the maid as she helps to collect Olenna's work.

"Why do you-" Meant to be a question, The Thorn cuts it off with a swift shake of his head, and answers Lady Roxton's instead. "How should I know?" His first response borders on bellicose, but he reins his tone back toward (if not quite to) the conversational to amend his words: "We might take steps to make it more believable. I could announce my intention to my brother, or to my mother. Mayhaps to others as might have an interest." The rise and fall of his broad shoulders creates a hitch in his words, his shrug audible. "It's not so outlandish a thought, and to have it spread - and the Mother's own loose tongue, but Ser Loryn is a gossip - to have it spread from the right circles might help it find credence."

Well, of course there's a mess. Olenna's face tightens for an instant. "… Take it away, please," she murmurs to Sallei, pulling unspun wool loose from her wrist and dropping it into the maid's waiting hand. "We'll put it in order later." Then, hearing Sallei get to her feet, feeling the slight waft of air as she moves away, she reaches out through the clear path left to her to pick up her cup of whiskey. So little left — how did that happen? She drains it, sets it down again, speaks through the faint buzzing in her ears.

"I think… I think I begin to see," she goes on. "If… if that were believed, then other things might be as well. That whatever happens…" She swallows. "That I will speak of the cattle thieves fleeing into Costayne lands, for that I shall blame a man of my cousin's — I know the very one — he may not be dismissed for it," she muses, eyebrows furrowed in thought, "but whether he is got rid of, or only placed under a cloud, it will serve… But for everything else, whatever it might be… Do you think it might not be… blamed upon you?" And again her voice takes on that softly pleading note.

"More?" Laurent takes a step toward Olenna's newly emptied cup, intent on filling it by his own hand if need be. "Do I… Lady Roxton, I may not fully grasp your meaning," the surly Tyrell knight admits. "Do you suggest they might take us for conspirators in this accusation? Or is it that they may lay the blame at my feet as…" He hesitates, searching for the words, growling as he can't quite find ones that suit his purpose. "…As things progress," is what he finally settles for, and his displeasure at the phrase colors the words. "When you've sway over The Ring again, or your cousin is dead at my hand?" In a poor attempt at encouragement, he also allows, "Or perhaps only maimed."

Olenna at first lowers her chin, abashed perhaps by the thought of her unclear meaning. Then the sound of whiskey pouring, when she knows Sallei to have walked into the next chamber and not yet returned, inspires her to a quick, nervous cant of her head, her ear pointing towards Ser Laurent and her cup. She understands; she relaxes with her next breath, and tries to speak.

"It seems as though there is little we can do without… revealing what is being done," she begins, awkwardly, apologetically. "My cousin will suspect, soon enough, that there is a threat to his plans for his future… He wishes me to be his puppet. He would believe, I think," and her pretty pink lips twist in reluctance, "that I have been made someone else's instead. That when House Tyrell speaks, I — a weak and foolish blind woman, knowing nothing of the world — I have no choice but to heed. There is truth enough in it, to…" She falters. "He must be on his guard against you, and against any other man who would seek to take me away from him. But he might be persuaded that I am a pawn in this, and I would as soon help him as any other. Men… believe what they like to believe. But I…" She lifts her head, and swallows. A great lady, perhaps, asserting her rights — but only by the skin of her teeth. "I will not be such a puppet, Ser Laurent; I will not trade one master for another, or I might as well climb out that window," she lifts her hand and points, "and have done with it all. I will take what credit or what blame is due me when my cousin is no longer a threat to me. When the deception no longer serves. It is only that… for the time being, it might serve, if Ser Petyr believes I am not his enemy and he has no opposition to consider within the Ring itself. Threats without, but none within."

Finished pouring, the tall Tyrell lord prompts Olenna, "Hold out your hand." Then, "The window is to your left a bit, if you've a mind, though I'd rather you didn't; I find I'm beginning to enjoy your company." It doesn't sound as though he takes any joy from it, but it so rarely does, with him. "I should like to see this through, Lady Roxton. I despise effort wasted." The glass filled and returned, Laurent wanders toward the window Olenna indicated, taking in the view with a low whistle. "Wouldn't that be an ugly mess," he mutters.

"So," the word comes abruptly, "I'd make mention of my intention to court you, and you would write to your cousin of the brutish Ser Laurent's advances? I dare say you won't be the first to say those words," the last said through a a quick, coarse laugh. "It might be as he even helps us to undo him, if you're clever. The Maiden's silky smallclothes, but you are a natural at this, aren't you?" He has turned now to lean back against the ledge, the window behind him, arms crossed over his broad chest. There's a grudging admiration growing in his voice, buried beneath his habitual pugnacity. "No, no puppet you, I think. Never again, Lady Roxton, and I dare say you might've made a poor one to this point unless I miss my guess." And he may; reading people isn't a strong suit with him.

Olenna holds up her hand as she's bidden; her fingertips brush his and then retreat nervously around the edge of the cup as she takes charge of it from him. "Thank you," she murmurs, just loud enough to be heard.

Then she sips her whiskey like a good girl (no more coughing, now she's got the knack of it), and manages a wry, "You see? I could not even find the window. I am not good at dying, and so I must try to live… I don't think I have been a good puppet either," she reflects, directing a funny little grimace towards wherever his voice seems to be coming from now; "it is hard to make someone do something when she won't do anything at all… Perhaps, then, my cousin will believe I am a poor puppet for you as well? When I have— written to him, that you insisted I accept our overlords' hospitality and move into House Tyrell's manse, and now you are bothering me, and all I wish is… to be left alone." Though no man hearing those words from her, in this moment and in such a tone, no man however lumpen-headed, could believe it was her desire.

Even Ser Laurent Tyrell, lumpen-headed as a man might be, could not mistake her for a woman who craves solitude or stern direction. Her words shine a light into his dark eyes, and his grin ripens into something ugly and lupine. "It's a clever tale, and not one that torments the truth, is it? Me a wealthy son of a great house, and one as will never succeed to a title. The blackest reputation in all The Reach might be mine, and so your revulsion is only to be expected." His hands fall to the ledge on either side of him now, fingers drumming on the stone. "And with you safely ensconced in the Garden Isle Manse, we might go about seeking out likely suitors, and receiving them there in relative privacy."

"In fact, with the wedding preparations afoot, there are bound to be young lords as have occasion to call on Ser Loryn, aren't there?" That realization pleases him, and for a moment his baritone is clear and, while still not stretching toward jubilation, at least content. "It could be, too, as Lady Miranda might help us. Or my…" He stops short of a word, clearly, and chooses another: "Confessor, a Septa, she may be swayed to our cause."

The novelty of hearing her ideas rewarded with such respect — and by the son of a great house, no less! — emboldens Lady Roxton, and as she lowers her cup her chin lifts to an altitude befitting the lady of an ancient house. And then she and the whiskey together elucidate their thinking, in the voice of a woman who has finally found solid rock upon which to build her castles, in place of empty and fickle air.

"I know little of the world," she repeats, "that is true; but I do know… tales. I have heard so many of them. Every book we had at the Ring, over and over; every book Maester Andros could borrow for me; and now, every hour I've been awake, I have had Sallei or someone else reading to me new books from the Hightower library… I think tales have a power all their own, don't they? They aren't like real life because they make sense. They help us to find the sense in things, when sense there ever is, to make some neat and ordered narrative out of the chances and the mistakes of our lives… This is a tale for Ser Petyr, and so he shall be the hero of it. You, Ser Laurent… what you say is true, isn't it?" she asks, with a note of apology. "You do have… a certain reputation, or so I have lately been told. You shall be the villain, and I shall be the damosel in distress. I have come to Oldtown, and it is the fault of my indifferent health; I shall be seen speaking in my people's interests, and it shall be the fault of my cousin's man; I shall… be courted, and by the grace of the gods wed, and it shall be the fault of House Tyrell. We shall all play our parts very well, I think, and the story will follow naturally… Something else I have noticed, Ser Laurent," and her grey-blue eyes regard him with blank innocence, "is that in the final chapters there is often… a twist."

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