(123-07-09) Vanity Quelled
Vanity Quelled
Summary: Ser Prestyn Peake meets, at last, a woman indifferent to his charms.
Date: 08-09/07/2016
Related: None

It's rather lowering, to return so soon to a place where one caused a stir by one's haste to quit it. But Lady Olenna Roxton, the noted accidental book thief, has little choice but to retrace her steps up the winding stairs of the Hightower to the library where the slender volume belongs which is presently wrapped in a pale pink linen cloth and tucked beneath her maid's arm. She was the one who took it. She is the one who must make her apologies to the librarian.

At least she has come in rather higher style, in a carriage borrowed from House Tyrell — and a fine gown of sky-blue silk paid for by Tyrell gold. Embroidered with Tyrell gold, too, in point of fact, though in a pattern of interlocking golden rings suggestive of her own house's sigil. Its heart-shaped neckline does superb work in enhancing a figure which could only have been suspected, not proven, during her earlier sojourn within these walls — she has found, too, a necklace of burnished golden rings — but her lustrous dark hair remains in the simple arrangement she has favoured all along, thickly braided and looped at the back of her neck.

She breathes more deeply crossing the threshold into this dry and musty place of parchment and vellum and ink. Her hand is tucked into her maid's; she is tenderly led along, her blue-grey eyes looking vacantly ahead, never focusing, never turning to follow small sounds, never revealing her thoughts.

"… Is the librarian here?" she murmurs in a well-bred undertone.

"… I don't see him, milady," is the answer from her maid, peering about.

Swelling like a tide and traveling down the corridor just outside the library is the telltale din of frivolous conversation, chattering and cacophonous. It threatens to seep into this den of quiet contemplation and study, drawing nearer and nearer and culminating just at the room's threshold. Most of the voices are female, but there's a rich male one in the midst of the rest. "Are you sure this is where it's always been? I could swear the last time I visited the Hightower it occupied a lower floor and faced the opposite end of the island. Anyroad, my moonblooms, I can't thank you enough for the caravan and the company." There's the low sound of knuckles being kissed and sighs escaping young female lips, and then the wave breaks and silk swishes, carrying the chattering away and leaving behind only the boot falls of the man who enters the library in their wake.

By which time the women who arrived first of all have taken refuge amongst the stacks, out of the way of what threatens to be an impending crowd — Lady Roxton sits neatly upon a low chair, feet together and hands clasped upon the book-bundle in her lap, whilst her maid prowls further afield, in search of the familiar face to whom the purloined volume might most properly be restored… When only one set of footsteps comes in through the door left as open as they found it, the lady's posture becomes even more unnaturally still, her head slightly tilted till her ear is toward the door, listening, trying to subtract what knowledge she can from the unknown echoes of this place.

The steps travel the library floor with decisive certainty, proving false the claim just spoken aloud: Not only did the stranger remember where the room itself was located, but he is familiar with its general layout. He spends a time idle before a set of shelves just beyond where Olenna has taken her refuge, and he hasn't come 'round her way just yet. Not just yet.

She hears him coming long before he realizes her presence, both by the sound of his boots and by the low, absent whistle he makes while he flips through the pages of the tome he's taken off the shelf. "I say, you make a handsome warden," he quips, remarking on the neat and statuesque — guardianlike, really — manner in which she occupies her chair.

Olenna was so hoping that her silence would be her shield, that the stranger simply wouldn't choose to come this way — sensing herself confronted by him, an instant before he speaks, her hands curl about the spine of the linen-wrapped book in her lap as though it were an anchor. It isn't supposed to happen this way. The men she must meet in Oldtown are meant to come upon her in a place she knows and commands, and to be announced, introduced, expected… "Are you speaking to me, ser?" she inquires softly. Her gaze, such as it is, is fixed upon a lower shelf somewhere at his back.

Prestyn Peake is flashing is most winning smile at Olenna, having used it to punctuate his little foray into conversation with her. A smile that brings out dimples and that makes women sigh and swoon, on occasion. Her response, though, makes him hesitate. He is unused to this sort of lack of enthusiasm. There's the faint creak of leather as he turns on his heel to look behind and around them, making a show of examining their immediate surrounds for anyone else he might have been addressing, pausing dramatically for ultimate effect. "I certainly wasn't addressing him," he comments, with a tip of his head towards the bust of some ancient, long-dead Hightower displayed on one of the abutting shelves.

The lady reacts not in the least to such weaponry as Ser Prestyn is accustomed to deploying with unrivaled success in the lists of love; she only sits there, holding her book, looking past him… looking through him.

What he says aloud, though, she takes for confirmation that she's the intended target of his speech; she answers with a diffident, "I hope I am not in your way, ser. I am only waiting to speak with the librarian."

On which note footsteps and quiet voices approach.

This all beggars belief, but the gallant knight is called Neveryield on the tourney circuit for a reason. "Oh, the librarian. How exceedingly convenient. I've business with him as well. A title I'm after that's not in its usual spot." Without pausing to give Olenna opportunity to inquire, or maybe assuming she wouldn't in any case, he barrels on, "Song of the Bloody Gate, it's called. I should just acquire a copy of it for my own library. It seems I read it every time I visit." And the footsteps come, and Prestyn turns to extend his winning smile to those making their approach.

At last the lady's face registers an expression. It is: surprise. Her finely-drawn lips part as though to speak; she hasn't time before the cessation of those fresh footfalls suggests they are no longer alone.

The librarian is first to appear, a querulous old maester who keeps the catalogue in his head and a ratty quill stuck behind one ear. Next is the maid Sallei, a pace behind him, and her tiny intake of breath as she rounds the corner and sights her lady's present companion may go some way towards restoring that gallant knight's faith in his own power over the fairer sex. She recovers herself, however; eyes lowered, she cuts off her lady's speech by remarking unnecessarily, "He is here, milady." Or is it so unnecessary?

And Lady Roxton, whose high cheekbones are by now coloured a most fetching shade of pink, turns her useless blue-grey eyes toward the sound of her maid's voice and moistens her lower lip and speaks. "I hope you will forgive me, maester, for my carelessness with one of your treasures. I ought to have seen that all the books you so kindly permitted me to borrow were returned to you before my departure from the Hightower — it seems, however, that this one was packed by mistake with my own books, and carried away to the Garden Isle… and now I hear that this gentleman has been deprived of its use. For that, too, I am most sincerely sorry." During this pretty and penitent little speech she has been unwrapping the book in her lap: Ser Prestyn's missing Song of the Bloody Gate. She proffers it, with both hands, to no one in particular.

Inkstained hands reach out to collect it from her, smoothing over her uncertainty in offering it. The librarian vouchsafes his views: that no harm has been done, he can see that; that he hadn't missed it yet; that it is very good and quite unnecessary of Lady Roxton to come in person to return it; that he wishes everyone would be so prompt in their returns.

Prestyn seizes the opportunity to flash the young maid a quick, conspiratorial wink of the eye before she takes up staring at her own feet. One might say he has a sixth sense for such opportunities, and he doesn't squander it. It's maybe a little odd to him that the girl announces the librarian's presence, but there's no time to dwell on that just now. The woman in the chair is suddenly quite chatty, in stark contrast to her indifferent response to his own efforts at inspiring the same. He cocks his distinguished brow while he watches her grovel before the librarian, even if it amuses him. When she reveals the book, though, the surprise of the revelation briefly wipes the smirk off his face. "Ho, now!" He interjects, stepping forward to take the volume except that the librarian beats him to it. "That's just what I was after." To the aged maester, he inquires, "Are you certain there's such room for leniency?" in a tone that's schooled to seriousness for the librarian's benefit, but belied by the undercurrent of mischief that glitters in his eyes.

The librarian is then rather free with his opinion that it's a dreadful risk ever to let any of the books out of the library; that he can't think what Lord Hightower is thinking of to permit it; but that if they must be lent out to mere visitors, it's a comfort to know they're in hands as safe as, say, Lady Roxton's. Not a scratch on anything she's brought back, or a single page-corner turned down — and certainly no crumbs. He's sure this one will be just the same, thank you, milady. Nonetheless, duty requires him to inspect it before it can be lent again, so sorry, milord; this he repairs to see to, with a squint in Ser Prestyn's direction (he looks the crumby sort), and another obsequious courtesy or so for the lady and the trouble she needn't have taken.

Olenna's own thanks follow him. "… And I shall regret very much no longer having the freedom of your fine library," she adds sincerely, in parting.

Then she rises gracefully from her warden's post, and her maid darts forward to relieve her of the pink linen cloth she holds crumpled in one hand. "Ser, I hope you too shall pardon me for keeping the Bloody Gate too long out of your hands," she murmurs then, without turning to look at him. "I know how vexing it can be," she explains, "to wish to reacquaint oneself with a favourite text, and to find that one cannot; even for a moment…"

Ser Prestyn tries at least twice more to get his hands on the book, but the librarian simply will not relinquish the volume, taking it with him when he goes. He watches the maester retreat, and before he knows it Olenna is on her feet, speaking to him without sparing a glance with which to admire his strong jaw and handsome features. An utter shame, really. Prestyn endeavors to flash her another smile, but she won't have it. "I'm Prestyn Peake," he informs her, like his name will serve to prompt her interest, or at the very least, to stall her. And then he recites a few poignant lines from the book they've a mutual interest in, a passage about life and love and the inevitability of death.

In fact the lady has a strong jaw of her own, cast in a more feminine mould; she is not as young as perhaps she first appeared, but she's as slim and as straight-backed as the girl she isn't, with a fine complexion and altogether handsome features and eyes fine enough for all their bewildering uninterest in the Neveryield. The latter grow pensive as her maid folds the cloth into a tiny bundle she can slip into a pocket and her new acquaintance recites from memory; she searches her own recollections for what comes next, and speaks only a handful of words before trailing off into an embarrassing admission.

"… No, I don't think I know it after all," and she shrugs. "I suppose no two people find exactly the same passages memorable, for exactly the same reasons. A great work has a multiplicity of meanings — one for every reader…" A pause. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ser Prestyn. I am— but I think the maester said, didn't he? Olenna Roxton," she clarifies.

And if he still supposes her to be made like every other woman he has known, perhaps her hand offered a few degrees awry, her steady and yet vacant gaze straight past his shoulder, may cause the copper at last to drop.

If one were keeping count of all the things perfect about Prestyn Peake, the straight white teeth that make his broad smile possible might jump to the top of the list. He flashes them at Olenna Roxton, his new acquaintance, when she joins him in recitation, and he smoothly finishes the bit that she begins and then falters over. Her ensuing reflection rings true; "How right, Lady Roxton," he agrees. He's still a little perplexed by her distant air, especially when she at least pays him a bit of lip service and says it was nice enough to meet him. But then, yes, the copper drops, and it all sort of aligns at once in his mind.

Without falter of his own, Prestyn takes the proffered hand, bows his head and delivers it a kiss, the book he'd been carrying tucked firmly beneath his arm. "I accept your apology," he assures her, flirtation laced in his words. Not that she'd really directed it at him. More so at the maester.

No doubt he has a multitude of perfections, but to Lady Roxton he is only a pleasant enough voice and a swordsman's hand briefly clasping her own. Her soft white fingertips barely curve into his, expressing that same reticence; she is wearing only one ring, a golden signet on the middle finger of her left hand, engraved with the ring sigil of House Roxton, echoing the pattern of the embroidery upon her blue silk gown. An unusual arrangement for a lady of her years. Shouldn't she have a husband by now…? "Then… I thank you," she adds, a little awkwardly, as she reclaims from him her right, unadorned hand. Something more seems called for. "You are visiting the Hightowers…?"

Ring finger status is noticed but unremarked upon. Instead he says, "That's right," when she asks about his purpose at the Hightower. "And other friends in Oldtown." Yes, he has the easy charisma of someone with an abundance of friends, but without the airs of a braggart. "One can never have too many," he does take care to observe, the implication being most certainly that they should also become friendly

"… I'm sure you must be right," the lady agrees quietly. "But I mustn't detain you from your reading — Sallei…?" Again she lifts her hand, and this time her maid (who has been shyly peeking at the Peake, now and again, from beneath her eyelashes) steps forward to take hold of it. "Good day to you, Ser Prestyn." And thus Lady Roxton suffers herself to be led from the Neveryield's presence without so much as a smile, let alone a backward glance. Is she the only woman in Oldtown adequately armoured against his charms? Perchance.

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