(123-07-12) The News from Dorne
The News from Dorne
Summary: Princess Joyeuse catches up Madrighal on some of the news from Dorne — and thanks him for inspiration given some months past…
Date: 22/07/2016
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Madrighal looks better. He is still very thin, but he looks more substantial and less apt to blow away in a strong wind. His colour is much better and he seems altogether more vivid somehow. His mandolin case is slung over his shoulder as he strolls in. there is still something a little off about his stride, though the ghost of what had been grace is in the movements of his arms and hands.

"I've been looking all over for you—!" declares a jubilant feminine voice, somewhere away beyond the minstrel's left ear and rushing nearer.

The owner of that voice is a lady draped in cherry-red sandsilk and wreathed in smiles, whose hair of a similar hue is woven through with strands of pearls. She descends upon Madrighal with hands outstretched, stepping lightly in embroidered slippers of orange and gold upon red, so pleased with her capture that she's laughing aloud. She is no longer young, but nobody appears to have told her that. Certainly the lithe copper-skinned handmaiden bringing up the rear, who has a look of Dorne about her, wouldn't dare.

Madrighal turns, eyes a little wide with alarm, but all of him relaxes as he glimpses her distinctive hair. He gives her a dazzling smile and reaches towards her. "Lady Joy!"

Her fingers, most of which are burdened with a ring or two apiece, tangle at once with his and squeeze; she opens her mouth to speak, but at first only laughs again. "—Oh, not anymore!" she gasps at length. "Oh, do let's go into that little lounge at the back," she suggests, bright-eyed and conspiratorial, "and if it's not crowded I shall tell you all about it! You do deserve a part of the credit, you know," and with this assurance she tugs him along with her into one of the Acacia and Leopard Hall's more private retreats.

They are in luck, and consequently are soon settled amidst piles of lovely comfy purple and gold cushions whilst the Dornish girl who was following the lady disappears without a word in search of wine, wine, and more wine, these being her mistress's three favourite refreshments.

Madrighal offers her his arm, "You must tell me all the news! I have not been home since I played at the wedding in Starfall. How is your daughter? What is this about not being lady Joy anymore?" He does add an order for nibbles as well, as he has not managed to regain his old capacity for the grape.

The lady formerly known as Joy manages, only just, to contain her own particular news until they're alone and the cushions are just right. She's been virtually living on cushions for months now — it's second nature to sprawl invitingly on her side, sandsilk moulding itself to every curve, but once in a while one comes across a recalcitrant cushion which just isn't the right size and shape and persists in sticking into one until it's disciplined. Nevertheless. She succeeds in arranging herself.

"Well," she declares, in an excited whisper, so pleased with herself she could almost swoon from it, "d'you remember the last time we met, months and months ago? D'you remember we said I ought to marry a Dornishman?" She pauses then, glowing with anticipation, waiting for the shoe to drop.

Madrighal unslings his case and sets it gently near to hand. He is always most comfortable on cushions and settles in easily enough. He blushes prettily, "I remember most of it. I think. there was a great deal of wine and at some point things become a little misty. I do remember I asked an indelicate question, for which I apologise." From his expression, he is enjoying the view, embarrassment or no. he is most definitely a man who enjoys the sight of a curvy woman in silks sprawling invitingly. "I do remember saying if you were to marry it should be to a man who adores you, given the lack of other pressures." His eyes sparkle and he leans towards her as he half whispers, "Are you saying you have found a Dornishman who appreciates you as you deserve?"

The lady glances once after her maid — or perhaps after potential eavesdroppers? — and then her eyes, flicking back to Madrighal's face, catch him looking. Her smirk only deepens. She takes that sort of thing as a compliment — at least when she's in her present dizzyingly high good humour.

She leans nearer to him over the forearm she's resting upon and murmurs, "Perhaps I've found two…?" Her eyebrows rise into meaningful arches. And then she lifts her gaze to the heavens (or to the lounge's tent-like Rhoynish canopy, whichever is nearer in this moment) and just sighs. "I'm so happy," she confesses, "I can't decide from one minute to the next whether to sing or dance or laugh or weep or just fly round the room kissing everybody."

Madrighal is not crass about it. Letting her see his subtle appreciation is intended as compliment. "That is a fine thing to have, given the frailty of men….I do not think I would object to any of these effusions of delight, but I admit to some curiosity about a man who can please you so thoroughly."

The pleasure of holding her secret close inside her, and of feeling it shining out through her eyes and her incessant laughter and the sheer radiant health of her complexion, gives way at last to the pleasure of telling it. She leans an inch or so nearer and at last confesses, in a thrilled little whisper, the beloved name — and title. "Prince Auberyn." Another peal of mirth; it's all too delicious for her to resist. "We were wed three weeks ago at Starfall — I'm a Dornish princess now; can you imagine—?" she exclaims.

Madrighal lowers his eyelids and murmurs, "Your secret is safe with me for as long as you wish." Then he beams at her, "They are a terribly handsome family, don't you think? And now you are Princess Joy! We will most certainly have to celebrate!"

And Princess Joy greets that with a perfect flood of laughter. "Oh, I suppose it isn't a secret," she giggles; "everyone knows at Starfall. It's only that I'm enjoying telling everybody I know in Oldtown one at a time, and seeing the looks on their faces, and what they really think of me!" She widens her eyes theatrically. "You did very well, sweetling — you only looked pleased — I keep seeing the most blankly astonished faces; it's not very flattering for a girl, is it?" she demands, blinking at him.

Her maid returns, accompanied by a boy in the Acacia and Leopard's own employ — with wine, yes, but also the sort of cold but sumptuous repast easily conjured within these walls by the name 'Martell'. Spiced goat meat, flatbread and variously incendiary sauces, little parcels of deliciousness wrapped up in grape-leaves, and three different kind of olives, and that's just the first wave. The low table nearest at hand isn't quite large enough to serve, and another one is swiftly brought over and placed next to it.

"Oh, bless you," sighs the princess, gazing up at the source of this bounty, extending a beringed hand to take the goblet of wine offered to her.

"Will there be anything else, Your Highness?"

"Oh, I don't think so, just now. I think I have everything," and she sighs again, "I could possibly want." She means far more than the obvious. "Anyway," she declares, looking again to Madrighal, "we are celebrating, aren't we? … I did so want to thank you," she explains, growing even more than usually sincere, "for— for encouraging me so."

Madrighal looks genuinely perplexed that anyone would be other than be pleased for her, "I can see a man being distressed that you are no longer available for wooing, but I can not imagine any sensible man declining to sip from a cup you offered. These Westerosi men have no taste when it comes to women if they are blind to your charms!" He looks a little alarmed by the cornucopia of food spread out before him. "I think… if we try to eat all this, it may kil lus, though all of it is tempting." He turns to her and says with genuine warmth, 'It was nothing. You deserve the best, My Princess, and I truly am glad that you have gotten it."

Which isn't quite what Princess Joy meant; she sips her wine and rolls her eyes and sips her wine again and snuggles back against her cushions till she's even more comfortable than she was. "Oh, you are sweet… Let's just say," she suggests, glancing after the servants to be certain they've retreated from earshot, "there were one or two fellows in Oldtown hoping to keep sipping from that cup for as long as it pleased them, without ever—" She shuts her eyes with the effort of extending the metaphor. "Setting jewels into it," she decides, "and giving it a nice inlaid fruitwood cabinet to live in when it isn't out and about at feasts and simply filled with Arbor red." Meaningful sip. "And such a fellow's first instinct isn't to be happy for the cup, is it, when somebody else does?" she inquires rhetorically. "No — such a fellow is slower to recollect the courtesies, even if he does get there in the end." Another roll of her eyes; and then she pops an olive into her mouth and chews it with an air of lofty satisfaction.

Madrighal helps himself to a bit of spiced goat meat rolled in a strip of flatbread for neatness, used to having people press food on him if he doesn't make a show of eating something under his own power. He snorts, "Such a man is selfish and should have been grateful the lady had offered her cup at all for the sipping. I am not a man who could have offered fine jewels and well carved cupboards, but I am a man who can be delighted for his friend… I hope friend is not too presumptuous?"

One olive has led, inexorably, to half a dozen others, drawn from all three dishes — and now Princess Joy is sitting up and putting down her goblet, the better to address herself to all the rest, warding off the doom Madrighal predicted with the sheer healthiness of her appetite. She interjects a 'mm!' and shakes her head, and swallows a generous bite of flatbread and cheese. "Not at all," she exclaims then, with a vehemence which only grew whilst the sentiment was pent up within her by good manners; "you've always taken the gentlest interest in my welfare, and if that isn't friendship, what is?" she demands. "Besides, I like having men as friends — I don't say I don't have any ladies as friends," she adds, keen to be just to Lady Marsei Hightower for one, "I do, one or two — but most ladies of the Reach are apt to be so censorious, and with one thing and another I— I didn't meet very many ladies in Dorne," and she chuckles to herself and pours a drop more wine. "I suppose I can tell you — this is a secret, a little bit — once we'd met again, the prince and I… Well, we went to Lemonwood and simply hid for a month or so, and saw almost nobody but one another."

Madrighal reaches for his wine to sip. He says firmly, "Then the time in Dorne was well spent even if you didn't get a chance to make as many friends as you had hoped." He smiles a little shyly, "My own affair of the heart has prospered in a modest way as well. We are happier than we were."

The princess makes a sympathetic noise round another ambitious mouthful; her eyes linger upon Madrighal's till she can speak, and then she's all delight. "Oh, how marvelous! I wish everybody could be as happy as I am just at present… It hardly seems possible, but I do wish it. He really is…" In lieu of an adjective, she lifts her shoulders and drops them again with a dreamy, shivery sigh. "I always did adore him rather passionately," she confesses, "but when we knew one another before we were both married, and then of course he had to go away to the Stepstones…" Upon no lesser errand than leading the Dornish forces against Prince Daemon Targaryen. "Meeting again as we did, both of us free to make our own choices at last— It strikes me as a miracle, sweetling; and if that could happen, then surely anything can happen in that line, and nobody ought ever to give up hope."

Madrighal lifts his cup, "To Love! May all be as merry as we!"

The tent-like chamber echoes, but only softly, Princess Joy's laughter as she reclaims her own goblet to lift it high and touch it to his: "To love!" she declares, and drinks so deeply that her companion will be in trouble if he tries to keep up. Well, but it's such charming trouble…

"Oh," she sighs then, nudging other plates aside in order to manoeuvre the stuffed grape leaves nearer to Madrighal, "do try one of these. Oh," she says again, remembering, eyes full of sudden apology, "I'm not trying on purpose to feed you, I just think they're heavenly."

Madrighal dutifully takes the offered tidbit and eats it. "I know it is well meant, Princess. I really am doing very well. I have hopes of taking a slightly larger on stage part in Lord Loryn's next whatever it happens to be. He is so busy with the wedding right now, I've no clue when planning will start for the next one. You should have seen me chasing people about and sword fighting with my Snake in the Pirates of Pentos." He looks a little sad for a moment, "Not quite so athletic, but less sitting and playing in a corner.

"I think the wedding is his next performance," the princess murmurs beneath the minstrel's recollections, and between her own voracious bites of different Dornish treats. Then a morsel of flatbread falls from her fingers to her plate, and her eyes grow wide. "Oh! That was you! I remember now," she gasps. And then she lets out a moan, one hand clasped to her bosom. "Oh, how could I have forgotten? … I was looking," she apologises mournfully, "at someone else, all evening, both times I went. I couldn't help myself."

Madrighal laughs, "So true. Lines to learn and a public performance, surely." He pats her hand reassuringly, "It is all right. We were not yet friends then and the part was not that large if you leave out all the music. Also, my hair and… other things were different then." He blushes, "I admit, what looking I did in at the audience was focused elsewhere as well back then. So what does your handsome Prince look like? I have seen both Prince Torren and Prince Alaryn at events where I played."

"Do you forgive me, then?" Princess Joyeuse asks urgently. And then, in answer to Madrighal's expression, rather than the words she doesn't leave him time to utter: "Oh, I am glad. I promise to look at you lots in your next, whenever it may be… If we're still in Oldtown," she adds, and for the first time this evening something like a frown crosses her features. She is quick to smooth it away. That sort of thing can lead to wrinkles. "I don't know quite how long we'll stay, this time. My husband does have business here, representing Princess Amarei — he's her youngest brother, you know. And he looks like… Well, a lot like Prince Torren," she laughs; "everybody says so, even Princess Visenya. But about ten years older, but you'd hardly think it was as many as ten… Should you like to meet him? I rather think he'd adore you," she insinuates, winking at him over her goblet of wine before putting it down to get on with the vital business of absolutely stuffing herself. She is a lady with a hearty appetite, and no mistake.

Madrighal is all dazzle as he smiles at her again, "Instantly, as long as you forgive me!" He watches her, "Oh, but I hate to cloud your sky. Is aught amiss? Of course I should like to meet him. Clearly he is a man of taste and sensibility!" He winks back, expression playful. He eats and drinks more slowly, sampling all the dishes in turn, and is soon rather flushed from the wine. Her appetite too seems something he appreciates, her passion in all areas being part of her appeal to him. "How are things at Ghost hill, do you know?"

"I know quite well!" declares Princess Joyeuse, and for a couple of minutes she intersperses bites of bread and meat and some spicy lentil dish with snippets of news from the seat of House Toland, a month old but still rather fresher than anything else this Toland bastard has had from there of late. Everything is 'marvelous' and 'too beautiful'; the princess herself is 'too lucky' and once or twice 'blissfully astonished'; but one could hardly expect balanced judgment out of her now, newly married and on her third cup of wine.

"… But you needn't take my word — my daughter Lady Vanora came with us to Oldtown," and that this is a vital part of her present contentment with her life, that broad and beaming smile leaves no doubt, "and if you came to visit us I'm sure she'd be delighted to tell you everything. She remembered your music quite well when I spoke of you — she said she'd been wondering where you'd got to. So really, you must come. We're in the White Stone Manse on Starry Street. It's been practically shut up for ages — Prince Torren always preferred the Hightower — but Au— Prince Auberyn," she corrects herself, smiling crookedly at that familiar error, "is simply yearning to see it full of life again. And shall you play at our parties?" she asks, leaning nearer, quite flatteringly anxious to secure the pleasure of his playing.

Madrighal watches her talk over the rim of his goblet, happy to intersperse questions and encouraging comments. He does seem truly hungry for word of home and happy to picture people and events as he listens to her. He straightens in surprise, "Your wonderfully fierce daughter is here? I should love to meet her. I still can not believe you have a grown daughter, though the strength and beauty of any daughter of yours can surprise no one!" He pats her hand at the familiarity, his own smile wine mellowed, though he has only just started his second cup, and eyes discovering her cleavage by accident as she leans closer. They linger there a beat longer than is polite before gazing into her eyes again. "I would play for you whatever you want, My Princess."

The princess's eyes are waiting for his when they manage to rise again to the level of her face; she smiles merrily and only leans nearer. "Do you know, it's crossed my mind once or twice," she begins, her tone thoughtful but her eyes alight with mischief, "that I used to have rather a pretty voice, but these days I'm just as likely to croak or to squawk as to sing… D'you think it might help me to practice more often? Would it be very tedious for you to come and play for me, and give me a little advice? If you could do anything with my voice at all I'm sure my husband would be enchanted…"

Madrighal is watching her lips intently as she speaks, "I'd be happy to play anything you like. We could practice as often as you like. My fingers are entirely at your command, My Princess."

"Are they," breathes Princess Joyeuse, and she wipes her fingers on a napkin and reaches out to take hold of that hand which, once or twice, has presumed to pat hers. "They really are rather nice," she remarks, turning his hand over in her own, tickling his palm with her fingertips. "Musicians always have the loveliest hands; I've often heard Prince Auberyn say so," she confides, "and he's quite right, isn't he? … I should so like to take advantage of your generosity, one of these days."

They are very much musicians’ hands with the thick finger calluses of a man who plays every day. His hands are small, with long slender fingers, the nails short and neatly trimmed. For all their small size, they are strong hands. Long dark lashes flutter lower, "I long to be taken advantage of, my Princess. I serve at your word."

"… Do you know," and to utter this very special confession, Princess Joyeuse leans even closer, round the side of the table till she's whispering past Madrighal's braids and into his ear, "I rather like being a princess."

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