(123-07-09) It Shouldn't Always Be A Surprise
It Shouldn't Always Be A Surprise
Summary: Ser Laurent calls upon Lady Roxton, newly installed in the Garden Isle Manse — and spurs her on, as usual, to talk franker than she'd share with anyone else…
Date: 09-16/07/2016
Related: Things with these characters.

The halls of the Garden Isle Manse still feel like home to Ser Laurent Tyrell, even after years absent Oldtown altogether, and a longer time since he dwelt here. The summer evening has turned the opulent Tyrell abode sultry, uncomfortably so, and the young lord has unbuttoned the high collar of his tunic in an attempt at respite. He stalks the halls slowly, his gaze roaming as he does, searching out regularities as much as disparities from the time he spent in residence.

The sound of music - born from the strings of a lute - lures The Thorn toward a suite of rooms that he occupied himself at one time. His steps slow further as he tries to place the tune, to catch the rhythm with his footfalls, and a cross look replaces his nostalgia when he recognizes his failure to do either. His hand finds the doorframe as he comes around it, placed at the height of his shoulder as he casts his gaze about the room. Though it offers little enough to recall his own arrangement of the suite, there is something peculiarly familiar in the layout, and it gives the knight pause. His stillness short-lived, though; the music drifts from the next room, and so his long strides aim in that direction, his own voice announcing his presence. "Where's Lady Roxton," will have to suffice for greeting, as it's all that he offers.

The music stops.

It is succeeded by a whisper, no more, of silken skirts; and a pale hand appearing round the edge of the frame which holds the inner door, at the height of a much lower kind of shoulder. "I am here," Olenna says simply, as the rest of her follows her hand into view. And the picture thus framed isn't at all what her brash visitor could have been expecting to see.

The gowns paid in his coin have arrived, and how. The Lady of the Ring is attired now in Oldtown's very latest style, in a sky blue silk at once deeper and clearer than her own old blues, over which teams of embroiderers have stitched twining strands of interlocking rings in gleaming new thread-of-gold. The skirts are full; the sleeves are of the flimsiest silk gauze, falling away from the lady's arms, in token of the summer heat; and the heart-shaped neckline flatters, extraordinarily, her snow-white bosom, lifted higher by some clever undergarment and revealed as far as propriety will permit.

In her other hand she holds the neck of a lute. Though its sound is rich and golden, the instrument itself saw its better days a long while ago.

Silence is Laurent's first response, then a click of teeth that suggests he caught himself mouth agape. "You're certain?" His voice draws nearer as he steps into the room, and lower as well, no longer a searching tone meant to cut through noise and intervening space. "The Garden Isle suits you," is his claim at the sight of her so transformed. "You could hardly be the same woman I called on in the Hightower." He takes his time in looking her over, leering brazenly, perhaps confident the impropriety will go unpunished? Perhaps only rude by nature.

"I trust you are well seen to, here? You want for nothing?" Tearing his eyes away from Olenna with some effort, he makes a second inspection of the room, this one less casual. A mental inventory, counting off what she has, noting what she might need, or want. "Have no fear for imposing on my brother's hospitality; the feckless shit deserves that and more."

There is indeed a witness to the latter stages of Ser Laurent's ogling of this unexpectedly appetising feminine dish; Sallei appears just behind her mistress, and lowers her eyes to hide her own expression, whatever it may be.

Is she certain? Olenna nods, though doubtfully — she doesn't understand why, in his eyes, there might be call to question it… "Everyone has been very kind," she murmurs, standing just behind him as he inspects the provisions made for her comfort. "Though they do seem very busy; the wedding…" She hesitates. "This dress. Do you mean… does it look well? Sallei says so, but…" Over her shoulder, a look of unfocused apology for her handmaiden, who must and does understand that a Tyrell lord's opinion in such matters is more to be relied upon than that of a country serving-girl.

"It's a fine dress," Laurent says, his intonation as lecherous as the look he returns to, slowly spinning to face Olenna, quite heedless of Sallei's circumspect judgment. "I'd pay good silver to see what's beneath it." In case tone alone weren't enough to give offense, he can yet be more crude. A broadening of his lips may be a grin, creasing his face as he gives vent to a low sound of appreciation, accompanied by a slow shake of his head.

It's with a sudden shift of timbre, though, that he changes topics. "The wedding be damned, Lady Roxton. You are a guest here; you'll not be overlooked. There are servants enough here, I might see one appointed for your needs alone. I recall a maid as once served my cousin Keyte, and was eager enough to please." He means no insult to Sallei, nor does he spare her any attention as he suggests the addition to Olenna's staff. "I don't recall her name, but I recall Keyte were fond of her. It might be she's still about."

Again that moment of dull astonishment; again that heat rising into Olenna's pale cheeks, turning her a pink which it must be said goes nicely with Roxton blue. She turns away upon his words, and pretends it's only to give her lute into Sallei's waiting hands: "Have you got it?" she asks unnecessarily, and is answered by a faint murmur from her maid.

She is slow to turn back and to cross the threshold into her sitting-room. She drifts without speaking to the back of a chair, runs a light hand over it to be sure of its position, and seats herself with another rustle of silk. Now there's no doubt but that she's the woman he has met before: sitting carefully so as not to take up too much room, her feet together, her hands tidily clasped. Sallei meanwhile has put down the lute somewhere or another in her mistress's bedchamber, and is moving about to fetch goblets and pour whiskey.

At last Olenna manages, in a distant and restrained little voice, "Somehow I cannot find it in me, Ser Laurent, to laugh at what others, if they heard you speak so, would simply believe to be the truth…"

Rather than join Olenna in taking a seat, Laurent begins to roam the sitting room, handling the occasional ornament, running his hand over the tabletops and chair backs. "It is the truth, as far as it goes," Laurent ripostes, "So laugh if it suits you." That it speaks favorably of her appearance on some level does nothing to lessen the vulgarity of the remark, a challenge if his delivery is to be believed. A drawer opens; closes. He glances in at the contents, then back at the suite's tenant.

"I heard you," he says, his thoughts wandering as his feet do, "At the lute. You're not without skill, Lady Roxton. I never had the gift for music, and as a child I was fiercely vexed by that. At least," he interrupts his own train of thought, "Until I discovered I had other gifts as I ought to be grateful for."

Sallei provides her mistress’s visitor with a generous quantity of his own house’s whiskey, but doesn’t look at him. Oh, no. Nobody is looking at Ser Laurent who has eyes to see.

Staring past him, pensive, Olenna murmurs a word of thanks for the goblet placed in her hand. She seems as far from laughter as a woman can be who isn’t actually weeping. “I ought not to have taken these garments from you, ser,” she reminds him in a soft, stilted voice. “I hope you have an accounting, and you will let me pay for them when… whenever I should happen to have so much coin to my name. I am… in debt to you, for much, and more that will come; that part at least I might hope to settle…” She recollects what she’s holding and lifts it to her lips, breathing in the scent of that strong, smoky liquor, holding it first in her lungs and then in her mouth. It helps. He said it would help and it does. “It will be too late for my good name; but if I am put to it…” She lets out a troubled breath, and then confesses, “I would rather have a bad name, than no name. I would rather be talked of than forgotten and left to rot.”

She stands up suddenly, goblet in hand, and begins her own slower and more tentative prowl through the chamber. Her slender and newly-elegant figure moves between furnishings which, for all their charm and grandeur in others’ eyes, are to her only so many obstacles — she seems to be sensing, feeling her way, step by step, into the most open place, where she can walk about as she wills. “Did it surprise you?” she asks. “It did, didn’t it? … I have no eyes; but I have hands, ears, a mind… it shouldn’t always be a surprise.” Though she, herself, is surprised by her sudden vehemence; she falls silent, one hand on the back of a sofa, her head bowed.

Laurent takes the glass from Sallei, casting a suspicious glare on the whiskey, then putting it aside atop a table. His eyes narrow, his mouth dropping open as though to answer, but that cue is lost on Lady Roxton. She continues, and he holds his return volley, her sudden fervor bringing the beginnings of an ill-formed — and perchance ill-timed — grin to his broad mouth. "It shouldn't be a surprise, no," he agrees, tone bellicose, matching her anger with a stirring of his own. "The Father's lousy shorthairs, but you're going to surprise them, aren't you? I daresay you may surprise me at another turn, but I'll do my best as not to underestimate you again."

Turning, this time with purpose, his hand reaches out to snatch the whiskey from the tabletop, the precursor to a noisy sip after which he wipes at his lip with the cuff of a sleeve. "If you're for a bad name as will be spoken often, then I might boast that I am a fine ally indeed, mayhaps the very best." This grand declaration he follows with a proud laugh, ringing in the small space. "But my name, the black reputation attached to it, those will endure after the Stranger has his due, won't they? They're the only thing of note that any of us make, so it's best we make them grand." A pace, a sip, and the glass comes to rest again in its place. "I'll not have your gratitude, nor your repayment, unless that repayment be the loyal service to House Tyrell that is House Roxton's obligation in any sense. After all, is any service I do you not the just due that you might expect from House Tyrell? A great and loyal lady, seeking only to fortify what is her legal birthright?"

Slowly Olenna's head lifts, and her fingers loosen their clawlike grasp upon the sofa before her. She doesn't turn to look at Ser Laurent (of course not!) but she does adopt once more a posture in keeping with her birth and her rank, showing him a strong and straight and handsome profile. "… You are good to me, ser. However plain your truths may be," and one or two today have been downright homely, "I prefer them to… the awkward and pitying courtesies I meet at every turn since I came to this city." She swallows; she adds softly, "At least I need not fear to speak to you." Her voice strengthens again as she turns from the sofa and takes an impulsive step nearer to him. "And I promise you, House Tyrell shall find me a loyal vassal… in that coin, which I have in abundance," she essays a smile, which is quick to fall away again, "I shall strive always to offer a full measure of gratitude for your support of me."

"You need fear no one." Laurent's claim is low and bold, his tenor contentious as the words it delivers, his right hand balling into a fist as though it held the weight of his sword. His knuckles now find hardwood, and he comes to lean his weight next to his whiskey, the table creaking at the Thorn's bulk. "In time we shall see those pitying courtesies come 'round to courtesies of a plain sort, and I begin to believe they may come 'round from there toward deference, in the fullness of time." His lip curls, one nostril flaring, and he clarifies, "Though it may be as we come there by a bloody road."

No one…? Doubt flickers over Olenna's features as she stands there, unmoored, confident that she's facing him and yet without a hope of seeing him, her hands with nothing to hold but each other. "In the history of Westeros — the history even of the Reach itself," she says slowly, "the only roads are… bloody roads. If I wish to be somewhere other than where I am, it follows that I must travel by one. I am not fit to travel alone," she shrugs, conceding it, "but perhaps… with one who knows such roads… Still," she lets out a frustrated breath, "I can't begin to picture some of the things you say. I don't know— well, how anyone like me might inspire… deference. I understand how valuable it would be to me, if I am to rule my house as I must; but I'm not… that is," she gives a shaky laugh, "I'm no Lady Miranda."

Laurent straightens from his brief idleness to stalk nearer Olenna, his voice lower the nearer he draws. "And what is Lady Miranda," he demands, "That you are not? That you could not be?" His tone scoffs, the shake of his head likely audible as a wavering of his volume as he goes on to add, "Why might you aspire to be Lady Miranda, why might anyone? A timid widow, a failed novice, come 'round to marry a fool?" If that seems uncharitable, Laurent is quick to defend it. "Never doubt that I love my brother, but he is that: a fool." Close now, within a pace, the Tyrell knight looms over Olenna. "What is it about her that you prize?"

If the Tyrell knight came toward her any more swiftly Olenna might have stepped back to the sofa, or even retreated round it — but his slow prowl gives her the leisure to decide that she'll stand her ground, if only she can. Her breathing grows shallower, quieter. Her every sense is straining to hear, to smell, to know where he is and where he is not, to avoid any troubling surprises. "I think… you misunderstood me, Ser Laurent," she says slowly to his chest, being spared the labour of craning her neck to look up into his eyes. "Or perhaps I misunderstood the lady, if that is the value you, who must know her better, have placed upon her. I met her only for a few moments," she is careful to state, "but I found her… very confident. Much more so than I should have dared to be in her place. She is one, certainly, who expects deference… she is not yet wed," she points out, scrupulously, "to a younger son of a younger son of House Tyrell; and yet she did the honours of Lord Tyrell's manse as though she were Lady Tyrell. She spoke of this place and what is in it as though it all was hers to grant. Sallei told me later that she — that Lady Miranda — put out her arm and signaled to her simply to place my hand there — she didn't ask me, she ordered my servant. As though," her lips twist bitterly, "I were another piece of the manse's chattel… They say she is very kind to the poor, and I suppose she wanted to be very kind to the blind, too. But with her it would be the kindness she wished to give, and not the kindness I might wish to receive. There are many like her. They believe they know what is best for everyone else, and they aren't shy to say it."

"I know Lady Miranda little," Laurent says bluntly, "And love her less. Indulged her entire life, I'll warrant, no less so than my fair brother; as much cuckoo as Tyrell, that one, isn't she?" Contempt heats his words, so that they retain their intensity even pitched so low. "The Smith's sweating crevice, but some folk are free with what were never theirs, aren't they? No, spit on that kindness," he scoffs, and it seems as though he might indeed expectorate for emphasis, but a pressing thought passes his lips instead. "But in due time; for now, it's my lust-addled brother as might spread the word that I mean to court you, so if we're to offend his wife we'll want the offense to be measured and intentional, won't we?"

And Olenna takes that little step back, at Ser Laurent's intent to spit upon such kindnesses; she has met the man several times now, after all. Her hand, reaching behind her, finds the back of the sofa. Moored again.

"… I did not argue with her," she says, sounding a trifle ashamed of herself. "I am a guest here… and I didn't know how, then. I keep thinking since of what I might have liked to say to her, especially about… that servant she keeps." A fleeting grimace. She isn't so guarded, with him. "I might have asked her how long she supposed the rule of law would survive in Tyrell lands, if every lord and lady here presumed to make it subject to his or her own conscience… a matter of picking and choosing, and personal favours, rather than justice being done and being seen to be done. I know you yourself have no love for the Hightowers, Ser Laurent," she goes on earnestly, "but they are still counted amongst your lord uncle's vassals. Surely it is an insult to House Hightower, that a thief who stole from them should be welcomed into the service of House Tyrell. I— I would not care to be used thus," she confesses in a quick brave outburst, chin lifting, "by an overlord to whom I had sworn fealty."

Laurent begins to speak: "You might-" but something more important breaks through whatever diatribe was about to sally forth, and he pauses, his thick brow furrowing in confusion. "A thi-" Again, he falls silent. He's working through it, the progress of his thoughts writ upon his unlovely face. "Of course they-" Still, though, the Thorn can't find the words to press on. "What are you saying to me, Lady Roxton," he finally presses her, the words steely and dangerous. "If something unseemly were done in your presence, or if you feel misused by my brother…" His lips draw into a tight line, a grimace on a face made for foul expressions, and when he begins again he finally rallies to finish a thought. "When I insult the Hightowers, Lady, I do so with purpose. I hang my banner from the offense, and leave no gods-damned doubt."

The only lady of Ser Laurent's acquaintance who has never seen a single ugly expression cross his face, falters still beneath his tone. "I… I don't doubt that you would," she manages after a moment's hesitation. "No insult was offered me, ser, nor did I mean to suggest there had been such — only another misguided kindness, like those of which we just spoke… I," she swallows, "I am sure they mean nothing but the best, your brother and his lady; and I ought not to have spoken of them so before you. I suppose I became… carried away, by your penchant for honesty; and I forgot the courtesies due my hosts."

"Might it loosen your tongue," Laurent growls, shuffling a half-step to further reduce the space between them, "To imagine me your host, and Lady Miranda and her imbecilic sweetheart to be only the agents of my hospitality? Might you then name the offense — an offense it were, Lady Roxton, let us not shy from the truth between us — might you give it a name, that I could address it?" His anger stokes itself further with each word, anger becoming fury in such a short time. The steadying breath he takes is deep and ragged, released with a shudder, and precedes an offer: "If you think silence the prudent course as regards Ser Loryn, I might assure you that he would never learn that we spoke of this."

The victim of a proximity she can gauge but not escape, Lady Roxton stands with the sofa hard against the backs of her legs, propping her up even as it guards against her retreat. Her nose is full of the scents of leather and horse and steel, and a strong, mossy cologne; she can hear the height of him in his voice, hear the size of him by the creak of the boards beneath his feet; she hopes he can't hear the thumping of her heart beneath her new silk gown. If it weren't so necessary to have this man's respect, she'd flee round the sofa. If it weren't so necessary to have this man's friendship, and if this, this perilous honesty weren't the way to gain it…

"If it is your wish that I speak so… then I shall, Ser Laurent. Your… your lord brother suggested," she begins uneasily, "that this woman, the one called Aralynne, who in my hearing named herself a criminal with her own tongue, who is the Lady Miranda's attendant and guard, might… keep an eye on me whilst I am in this manse." Her voice trembles; but again, her chin lifts. "I more than any other lady must depend upon and must trust those who attend me… I am utterly in their hands. And I, I would never so insult the women who do take care of me so well by placing a criminal in their midst and naming her their equal… and yet that is just the hospitality Ser Loryn supposed I should find suitable. I know well that in my time House Roxton has sunk low indeed — but I should be ashamed to offer such a companion to a guest of mine." And by now her voice is trembling.

"Aralynne." Laurent spits the name like a curse; or, as other men might curse. The Thorn curses casually, but this he says with authentic venom. "The lady Miranda… A thief to guard a-" He blows out a heavy breath, turning suddenly to stalk back toward his whiskey glass. His fingertips find its rim, standing upright next to the table, not yet lifting it from where it rests. Remaining so posed, he thinks, his next words coming reluctantly, with palpable effort. "Be frank with me, Lady Roxton, always. If you find my brother a coddled shit, or his intended an impudent wastrel, speak. If you are offended in their presence, or in the presence of any who might represent me, speak." A tap as he lifts the glass a finger's width, then replaces it. "You've my gratitude, of course, bringing this to me."

"Ser Loryn is… Well," Laurent's wry laugh interrupts his own sentence, "It's well known that I am the difficult brother, but he is nigh impossible as well, at times. Has a bit of Lord Garvin's fanciful streak, so that the stubbornness that makes me formidable makes him wilfully guileless, overzealous in his pursuit of the useless." His back still to Olenna, he shakes his head, slowly. "I ought to make him march this Aralynne to the Hightower himself." More softly and yet more earnestly, he curses his brother under his breath.

As Ser Laurent moves away from her Olenna exhales sheer relief; her knees wobble in reaction to the lifting of such pressure, and she is fleetingly grateful for the sofa at her back as she gathers herself again, to stand straight, to listen as best she can over her own thundering heartbeat, and to promise, "I will try be frank with you, Ser Laurent, knowing you wish it. I think you know it frightens me," she smiles lopsidedly, in case he's looking, "but I… It has given me more satisfaction, somehow," she admits, so reluctantly she can scarce bring herself to make the words audible, "to speak frankly to you, in such few minutes as we have spent together, than to… pass hours talking of nothing, in the fear of mistakenly saying something."

Having got that out of herself she follows the back of the sofa till she finds the arm of it and then the cushions: she sits, perched upon the very edge of this luxurious piece of furniture, and she stretches out a cautious hand in search of her own cup of whiskey. "I have no brothers or sisters, of course; I know little of such bonds, or such…" She hesitates. "I should not like to think I have sown the seed of discord between you and your brother; but if, as you say, you already…" Where the cup was left, where she was sitting before, she somehow can't think and can't remember; she can't find it, and she sinks back against the sofa thirsty and in every way defeated. "The sentiments they expressed, your brother and his lady, were noble ones," she claims. "They spoke of what they call 'second chances', and the primacy of Heavenly law… I do think they mean well; but to mean well… It isn't enough, is it?"

"Feeling your fear and defying it, Lady Roxton, that is courage. Or so I was taught; I don't know as the poets agree." He snorts a laugh, now looking over his shoulder to Olenna. A soft dragging sound tells of his glass sliding toward the table's edge, and then it is in his hand, and he crossing again toward his flagging companion. "I've hardly touched mine," he mutters sourly, offering it by way of stooping to hold it near her hand.

"No, M'lady, those seeds have long since flowered and borne fruit. My brother and I love one another well enough, but we'll neither of us ever enjoy the other's company, I think." Straightening, he holds his ground, again near the Lady of The Ring, this time perhaps just outside her reach. "Noble enough, though I doubt the Father would allow as the Mother's mercy ought to be put before his justice, do you reckon? By his own short-and-curlies, I say no. Either way, though, you've the right of it: intentions don't matter for anything. Doing well is the thing, and meaning well be damned."

Sallei arrives too late with the other, abandoned goblet; Olenna's fingers are already curling with tentative gratitude about Ser Laurent's offering, and shrinking as they did the last time from brushing his fingers by mistake. "… Thank you, ser," she murmurs, and she isn't shy about taking advantage of it. She takes several quick sips, as fast as she has determined it's sensible to do so, and then nurses the rest of it in her lap as she broods upon the question offered with it. "I think… well, Lady Miranda said that it is not for us to judge one another, that that is reserved for the Father. But what a world it would be, if there were no justice here below and every matter was… simply deferred, until the criminal comes before the Father above," she muses slowly, "or decided upon how sorry she is afterwards, by her feelings rather than her actions. Surely every criminal is very sorry after she is caught, and wishes she had not done what she did. But only the gods can see into men's hearts and judge true penitents from false — I cannot, you cannot, and nor for all her good intentions can Lady Miranda… Yet we must judge somehow, here and now, if our world is not to descend into chaos whilst we are still living in it; and so it follows that our judgment must be upon deeds, must it not? Not words, and not intentions, and not— feelings… but deeds. And fine words cannot erase deeds. I do not speak against… forgiveness, or charity, I only wish to say that…" She lets out a frustrated breath, and has again recourse to her whiskey. "The law of the land is the Father's law," she begins again; "it is from the Father that we have it. It seems an impiety of a kind, to me, to take upon oneself the right to interpret it, to place others outside it, and to do so in the Father's name."

Laurent's smirk is invisible to Olenna, but the wry amusement that it represents is conveyed effectively by his tone as well. "I've a unique perspective on justice, I'm sure, Milady," he claims, "And no doubt you know its cause, or suspect it. To live as I do, to serve in the way I do, a man must needs put deeds before words, and well before. Even when the words are true, they might be gainsaid by a man as knows which deed will serve, is that not so? I've found it to be." Mirth illuminates his dark eyes at the admission, a rare sight, and wasted.

Another admission, and more direct, follows. "I'm a man of faith, myself," and here his eyes narrow as in a prediction of mockery, though he continues, "Though hardly a scholar, but I find your thoughts on the matter more consistent with those of my confessor, and a damned sight more practical besides. Seven save us from such good intentions, or a sharp knife in the right moment save us from being ruled by them."

"I have been the object of far too many good intentions, ever to trust them," Olenna agrees flatly. She lifts her cup to her lips and then admits the reason why she has so many views upon the criminal element in their midst, and has been so keen to utter them aloud. "… I have been thinking, these last months, of the kind of ruling lady I would wish to be. Late for it, I suppose; I'm afraid it never seemed real to me, till…" Her father's death.

She tastes her whiskey again and goes on. "I am one of those who do have a right to judge, under the law," she explains softly. "The right of pit and gallows in my own lands. I have not yet… Those decisions have never been placed in my hands." She says that with a tremour, perhaps regretting what she has been denied — perhaps, sensibly, in no hurry to claim that duty. "But I must consider how I would act, if— when," she corrects herself. "How far I would temper law and custom with my own judgment… I don't believe I am so much wiser than those who have come before me, or that I could see," she breathes out a little huff through her nose, "into men's hearts, and know for sure which is redeemable and which is not. I… I like to think I would judge a man by his acts, and by the consequences his acts have brought upon other people, as clearly as I could understand them — and not by how prettily he spoke to me thereafter. Would you… consider that right, Ser Laurent?" A most shy and hesitant question. "I… I don't yet quite understand your— perspective on justice," she puts it in his own words, "but I think I would like to. I think it would not be like— that of most others."

"Custom dictates," Laurent answers straightaway, "That in your land the law is to be tempered by your judgment, Lady Roxton, though if you were to ask me? I expect I tend toward harsher judgment, don't I?" His tone is casual enough, as though that were a small matter, but hesitation follows. Not a reluctance to speak, but an uncertainty regarding his starting point. "My perspective," he muses aloud.

"Some years past, as you no doubt heard, Wickham's Nest were razed, and the heir to House Cockshaw killed alongside a score of his friends, and more retainers. Dornish work, and an ugly thing." That tale is a familiar one throughout the Reach, though the details vary in the telling. For his part, the Tyrell knight is morose in the telling. "There was a group of us as rode on the Red Rookery, in defiance of orders from the Crown and from Lord Tyrell, and killed Ser Ryon Blackmont and…" He breathes out, shaking his head slowly, uncertain of a number. "Others," he finally says, "As served him." His right hand opens and closes, his dark eyes drawn to the motion of his fingers, the sudden tightness in his forearm. "Lord Blackmont accused us, or accused Ser Viggo Cockshaw, and I stood with him in a Trial of the Seven - you're familiar? At any rate, we beat the bastards bloody - killed Ser Osric Dayne, even - it were hardly a match. And so now I stand before you, innocent of a crime I most certainly did commit." He sees a dark humor in that, and the laughter that follows is unrepentant. "It only makes sense to me, Lady Roxton, when I recall it never felt like a crime. So… Is that a blow for the weight of intention? Or one for deeds outweighing words, even when those words are fact?"

"… I know a little of this," Lady Roxton confirms, in a low murmur which doesn't interrupt the retelling of it. Her face is absolutely still, her ear tilted toward him in a sign that all her attention is upon his speech no matter where her eyes might in theory be resting. The cues she offers are unlike anyone else's, but they are there, to one who has seen enough of her.

"If it did not feel to you like a crime — and if, before the gods, you were found innocent — I wonder why you still speak of it as a crime… I suppose because it had the shape and the nature of a crime — and there must be some, in Dorne, even now, who would call it such… Perhaps," she moistens her lower lip with the tip of her tongue, and then ventures delicately, "before the Trial of the Seven it was a crime. Then, beneath that heavenly judgment, it was transformed into something else. Your intention was the same all along, and the gods, who could read your intention, showed that They blessed it… No mortal lord could have deemed it other than a crime, and bound all men to believe; but the gods… Our justice does have that failsafe, that route by which we may, in such exceptional circumstances, appeal for Their judgment here below. In your heart you did not commit a criminal act; it is the judgment of the gods that your heart was true; no man, now, has the right to say otherwise. Do you think… that is how it is, ser?"

It is Laurent's turn to listen in silence to Olenna, and he does, though his eyes are intent upon the speaker. A return to leering. "My heart were ever an errant thing. Traitorous." The word is positively acerbic, spat from his lips, so that the next he speaks seems mild by comparison. "That must be the way of it, Lady Roxton," an agreement that has the ring of authenticity. "There are those on either side of the border, though, who would call it as you say. Some highly placed, I think, even among the royal family. Ser Daevon," he can't resist a jab at the Maiden Knight, "Though he did not stand in the trial, vouched publicly for the Dornish cause, and I should think still feels sympathy toward it." Edging toward wickedness, he adds, "Though he hasn't mentioned it in my presence in some time, more's the pity."

'Traitorous' inspires a tiny flinch, and seems also to remind Lady Roxton that she's leaning back casually against cushions instead of sitting bolt upright in a small, neat arrangement, after her usual manner. She straightens herself, and drinks another drop of whiskey and puts down the goblet on the table as though that were her purpose all along, and not a regaining of dignity.

"I understand why some might find it difficult to… accept the gods' judgment," she says carefully. "But those who believe in the Seven are obliged to try to find a way to believe in your innocence also, Ser Laurent. In this instance the gods themselves have attested to it. They… ask us to believe in all manner of extraordinary things, without providing material proof for us to examine. That is the nature of Faith," she insists. "The only way to see, is to believe without seeing… And if I can be expected to believe," she licks her lips again, "what the septons tell me, that even my blindness serves a purpose, and is part of the gods' plan… I do think that to believe in the innocence of those who are vindicated by the gods, is hardly the greatest test of faith to which a man or a woman might be put."

"You're right to say so, I reckon," Laurent grants, grudgingly. "But you see my point? Justice, like a great many things, might seem like a thing as could be writ in sword-strokes, to a man of my unique experience. I've no doubt there are some, in fact, some folk as think themselves pious, but believe we did just that." Again he has come to stand over Olenna, not at all unsettled by their relative positions or proximity. "Arrogant. The same sort of arrogance as your Lady Miranda showed, or its close cousin, isn't it?"

His thoughts catch on that, his posture shifting subtly, arms now folding across his broad chest. "Though, if you're wondering what sort of Lady might be best for running your house's affairs, I daresay you might want a bit of arrogance. Just a touch," he cautions, "Enough to stand in the place of confidence, where that fails, don't you reckon? The Crone's nimble tongue, but I've been called arrogant enough times, haven't I?"

By small signs, the angle of her ear, the pointing of her pressed-together knees in his direction, Olenna shows herself well aware of his presence so near to her — though, being spared the sight of his bulk looming over her, not to mention that sensation of being trapped between him and a large piece of furniture, it doesn't seem to be unsettling her… right now. And then, too, she has the whiskey close at hand; and he isn't actually shouting. Their equilibrium has been restored, at least for the time being… Though it may be tilted in quite another direction by the smile which creeps over her face, softening its angles and melting its tensions. She looks a little younger than her years, smiling like that. "My nurse says the very same," she confesses. "Sallei's mother… she brought us up together. She is forever telling me how a lady ought to behave — it was to please her that I used to try, before I had any care for such things myself. I don't know," and her smile dims with a slight shaking of her head, "how much of all that is in my nature. Very little, I fear… She says if I can act it well enough it won't matter, because it will be taken to be my nature, and then by and by it will become so… but I think I have spent too much time acting the wrong things, to please the wrong people. Or — not wrong, perhaps, but not useful. What my parents wanted me to be, what I became for them, that was not useful," she understates. "I wish you might give me some of your arrogance, Ser Laurent. I truly don't know," she laughs, "where else I might obtain such a quality.”

“Useful,” Laurent repeats, savoring the word. “I find that so long as I am useful, Lady Roxton, it matters little whether I am perfect, or even palatable. Those as matter to me will keep me close to hand, so long as I'm of use and can be relied upon to serve.” One hand lifts to push through his brush of short, dark hair, leaving a bristling mess in its wake of which the Thorn is quite unaware. “So be who you are, or who you would be, but be useful as well. If I've anything of worth to say, it's that.” He chuckles, suddenly surprised at his own insight, and adds gamely, “That, and never be afraid to cut a throat as needs cutting.”

“And for arrogance,” he continues, edging back toward his usual dour self, “I expect you'll have me at your side to draw from for some time, yet. You'll need arrogance, in the Hightower. You might practice it on Lord Medgar, or Lady Miranda? Take a haughty tone, demand small services of them?”

“Useful,” Olenna echoes, with some reluctance. “The only useful act I am capable of is spinning… I must alter that.” She appears to be speaking more to herself, and to the whiskey once again in her hand. “I must be and I must do this, that, and the other — all at once — not one at a time, for one is useless without the rest… I fear,” and she sounds weary, “ it shall be too much for me, all together.” She takes a slow sip. “If I had begun sooner, if I’d been— brought up to it… “ She lifts her cup again for a somewhat deeper (and unconsciously revealing) draught.

“… I don’t like to ask services of others,” she admits then, turning her head again toward the looming Ser Laurent; “not if I can make do without. To be waited upon by servants, of course that is natural — Sallei does everything for me — but when it comes to — persons of rank…” Her voice grows halting; then, in clear and careful and measured words, coloured by a fierce old bitterness which in that moment shows in every line of her tightly-drawn face, she explains: “They think I ask not because it is my right, but because I am incapable.”

Laurent's gaze, which a moment ago might have been accurately described as 'ogling', takes a turn toward 'thoughtful' at the acidity in Olenna's words. "I can see as that would be a problem," he grants, reluctantly. "The remedy seems to me - and Lady Roxton, I'm not certain - but it seems to me as you might command trivial things, while performing acts yourself as make it clear that you're only ordering them about because it's your right. Or make it clear that your demands are only your preference, and not necessity." He takes a step, as though to pace, and then another before he stops, scowling and uncertain. "The Father's lousy shorthairs, but this is complicated. Do I make myself plain, Lady Roxton? You might, for example, allow Lord Medgar to come upon Sallei reading to you, and dismiss her, forcing him to read for you in her stead."

Some of the tension in Olenna's expression ebbs away as she listens; "I understand what you mean… It seems very complicated, to request one thing whilst making clear another; perhaps if I were to think of several such tasks in advance, I might look for opportunities to… to try it?" She sounds certain enough of the wisdom of Ser Laurent's recommendation — it's only the contemplation of her own capacity which brings that doubtful note into her tone. "I might… At any rate I might— practice upon the maester." Her attitude lightens; in this matter at least she has managed to succeed. "Maester Andros wrote to the Citadel, to an old friend of his," she explains, "and they have arranged it between them… He is to come tomorrow." And so their talk turns to maesters, and cattle thieves, and all the other hapless persons real and imagined whose fate it is to be drawn into their whiskey-fueled schemes…

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