(123-07-13) The Birth of a Social Lion
The Birth of a Social Lion
Summary: The Lannister heir comes to Oldtown in search of a social life; he meets Joyeuse. Problem solved.
Date: 13-14/07/2016
Related: None

"… I do think it would be best, to have both; and then eight barrels of the fifth one. It was the fifth one I liked so much, wasn't it?"

Which snippet of talk, in the accents of a lady of the Reach torn between delight at the prospect and anxiety at the state of her memory, precedes a pair of women out of a shadowy stone tunnel and into the public chamber of this underground hive dedicated to the fruits of the grape and the grain.

The vintner who is mistress here is a figure well known to any of her noble patrons; tripping along at her side, on tip-toes in flimsy silk slippers, is a lady of high birth and high colour whose layered robes of cherry-red Dornish sandsilk cling to the voluptuous shape of her in a manner informal verging upon indecent. The veil of golden Myrish lace which earlier shaded her face from the sunshine is draped now with negligent elegance about her shoulders — it hints perpetually at slipping away, even as her mane of tight dark red curls threatens with every step a final break from the pearl-tipped pins which hold it, half up and half down, in a variation upon the latest style. More of those large, lustrous, unmistakably genuine white-golden pearls hang suspended from her ears; twine again and again about her throat; adorn her fingers mixed in with red and orange and yellowish stones — she has a ring or two upon nearly every finger… Her ensemble ought to be on the point of falling apart; it's held together, apparently, by the very force of the personality which has all but the heaviest drinkers looking up from their cups and their companions.

Her own heavy-lidded grey-green gaze flickers about the chamber in haste and in curiosity both, seeking familiar faces or interesting new ones (she essays a little wave to an old friend, and smiles at a stranger) even as she hangs upon the vintner's next words — a respectful reassurance that what the lady wishes shall be set aside for her at once, and that yes, indeed, it was the fifth one. "Oh, how marvellous of you to remember," sighs the lady in red, all admiration, as she is escorted to the vintner's desk; "now, where's my—? Oh!" And the lithe, copper-skinned Dornish handmaiden following at her heels presents her with a finely-embroidered purse, and silver and gold cross the desk into the vintner's possession, to the delight of all, whilst a pair of guardsmen with a look of the sands about them oversee the proceedings.

Look, where there was wine, there was Lorn. It was just… How things were done. Could shadow exist without light? Surely not, and what was wine without the Lannister heir to appreciate it? Sad, sad, wine, that was what it was, and we simply could not have that. Or something. Silk is the solution to hot climes, and Lorn has taken to it. And it seems that the Lady flitting through talking about fine in that… Incredibly eye catching… Attire is not the only one fond of red this evening. Maybe it's because of his House, or maybe it is just pure practicality in just how much fine he is planning on drinking. (Let's not count bottles, really, he hadn't been.) But the glass in his hand is suddenly a lot less appealing… Because he's seeing ghosts. Sort of. Seeing a very flamboyant ghost? It's a weird feeling this mix of nostalgia and appeal. Thus, it leads him to staring a little longer than is, perhaps, polite or comfortable.

Not a ghost — oh, no. Ghosts are pallid, insubstantial, mournful creatures, and this woman is bright and solid, alive and lively, possessed of a low-pitched, melodic laugh that rings out again and again whilst she finishes her business with the vintner. Out of the corner of an eye she catches sight of Lorn. When he's still looking a minute later she gives him the veriest hint of a wink, her eyelid lowering just far enough to be noticed, whilst she rattles off praise of the vintner's wares and genuine appreciation of her willingness to part with such quantities of wine in such a hurry. She doesn't seem to care who hears her, or doesn't; who looks (or stares!) at her, or doesn't.

Then, abruptly, she turns about and walks straight across to the Lannister heir's table, trailed by her Dornish attendants. Walks? Perhaps we mean 'sashays' — for there's a spring in her step, and sandsilk has that delightful tendency to ripple… "Forgive me, ser," she begins, issuing a smiling demand; "but are we acquainted? I couldn't simply go without asking — for if we are, then I owe you an apology and I'd as soon give it at once."

The wink makes him realize that he is staring. Clearing his throat, Lorn returns to his wine glass. Ghosts had this nasty habit of possessing the living from time to time, perhaps that is what he had seen. Damnable things. But the wine kept them at bay, usually. Usually. What the wine doesn't keep at bay, however, was the approach of ladies dressed in richly red sandsilk. Perhaps he ought to be, but Lorn has had enough wine to not be ashamed of the fact that his gaze watches that rippling for a good moment before it moves to her eyes. At her words, Lorn sets down his glass of wine, and offers a disarming, lopsided smile. "No," He says, rising from his seat to greet her more properly, "Sadly, I do not believe that we are, Your Highness. Might I be so bold as to request we correct that?" Tone edged in charming laughter that is little more than a lilt upon his words. "Ser Lorn Lannister."

The lady, disarmed indeed, reflects his smile with another of her own; she doesn't hesitate to offer him a soft and well-kept hand, laden with gems which wouldn't disgrace a princess, or even a Lannister. "Oh, do let's — we might drink to having nothing to apologise for," she jokes, lifting her eyebrows at him. As near as they are now it's apparent she is no longer young. "You're the heir, aren't you? My, my," she adds frankly. "Joyeuse Hast— no, that's not right, is it?" A chuckle. "I'm Joyeuse Martell now."

"That I am." Lorn says with a more full laugh that time, before he takes her hand and greets her more properly. "It is a pleasure, Your Highness. And - " There is a small pause of hesitation, an upturn in this last coming syllable that makes it a subtle question, "Congratulations." Because people only stumbled over their names right after marriage, surely? It seems a safe assumption.

His meaning is caught, and Princess Joy's laughter rings out again, her fingertips giving his a quick, appreciative press before she reclaims her hand. "Why, thank you! I'm sure I'll be used to it soon enough, but I had the other name for so long… Hastwyck," she explains, naming one of the lesser houses of this part of the Reach, people hardly likely to be within a Lannister's ken. "And there, you see? We're practically friends already," she declares, "and I shall invite you to my party, if you like—?" She blinks inquiringly at him.

"Such is the way of names. One does tend to commit to them, as it were." Lorn responds with an easy laugh. He knows the name, but can't say he has much experience with it. So he does not speak to it specifically. The Reach has not been his normal stomping grounds. "I would very much like, Your Highness, and would accept." He says, bright and friendly. The wine made him much more bearable.

"I am glad," Princess Joy informs him plainly; and the curve of her smile and the gleam in her eyes promise him that she's speaking the truth. "Now, I can't invite you yet, because we haven't chosen the day yet," she confides, lowering her voice. "One or two of our particular friends are still in Dorne and we don't know when they shall be in our midst again — but I do hope that when we decide you'll find it's convenient for you — I suppose you must have a great many other engagements, mustn't you? At least if people know you're in Oldtown… But I didn't know," and she brightens, "so perhaps not everyone has discovered you. Have they, mmm?" she teases.

"I am sure I will be able to find the time." Lorn says, sounding amused. He shrugs. "There was not some grand announcement of my coming to Oldtown. I do not think much of the city knows. You may have the surprise to share to others, if you like."

Princess Joy beams. "I shall be glad of that as well, then," she confesses, "for I have been gone from the city rather a while myself — I am so far behind on Oldtown's news it will be a treat to be ahead of some part of it." She winks again: this time a real wink, friendly and unashamed. "And perhaps if we are to become acquainted, my lord, if I am to have the honour of being your hostess, I may find out too what was that curious look in your eye — when you were watching me and you didn't know I was watching you…?"

"Then I suppose that surprise will have to be what I can manage as a wedding gift, as I knew you not before, and have not the time to arrange something more proper." Lorn says with a smile. That wink is noted, and stored in some reserve of his mind. And then - That question. Lorn sighs. Shaking his head, he lifts his shoulders in a gesture of apology. "I am sorry, Your Highness, I had not meant to stare." He says, more somber than before, "You simply reminded me of someone."

This strong hint that a present may be forthcoming — the Lannisters, surely, have a very fine line in presents — sets the lady aglow with an easy, anticipatory delight; but, gazing at Ser Lorn as intently now as he, a few minutes past, at her, she sees the shadow pass over his features and her smile melts away into a similarly pensive expression. "And now you shall have your apology, ser," she says softly. "I'm sorry that of all the questions I might have asked you, I chose so poorly. I hope you'll see that— that I'm a little bit drunk," she confides, "and that I meant no harm by it.”

A shake of his head sets Lorn's curls to a haphazard nature that is both undignified and charming. "No, no, Your Highness," He says gently, "Please, do not fret over it. You need offer me no apology. You've done no wrong in simply… Being. And the question was a fair one, I was terribly rude in the staring." Punctuated in another disarming smile, Lorn can't stay that somber for terribly long. "Besides, I am also a little bit drunk, and a right sight harder to offer offense."

The lady smiles again when he smiles; and her head tilts, considering. "Well, it's true enough," she opines, "that I can only be as the gods made me — for good or for bad. Anything else is too exhausting — and futile, too, don't you think? One must simply make the best of what one is, rather than envying what one is not… You weren't so very rude, you know; you only made me curious. And if I truly minded being looked at I could wear other clothes," she points out, once more in a lowered voice, inclining her head conspiratorially nearer. "But I prefer to wear what I like, even in the Reach, and to care nothing for the consequences… So we're both a little drunk and we're both a little forgiven, and all's well—?" She hopes so.

Lorn can't help himself, he laughs opening at that admission about her clothes and being stared at. Perhaps Joyeuse was not the youngest lady in all of Oldtown, perhaps he knew for a fact that she was very much married and yet, here Lorn was. Because, much like where there was wine, Lorn Lannister could also be found where there were beautiful women. And age be damned, as far as Lorn was concerned, Joyeuse Martell was very much that. Which is obvious, with the smile that is more a smirk that he offers her and that lowered tone and that lean his direction. "Quite, Your Highness, quite well." He says, giving a hint atop the smirk in his tone, just a little lower, a little deeper, his cadence a little slower. Hopeless. He. Was. Hopeless.

Whereupon the lady Joyeuse, so recently wed to a Dornish prince that she hasn't yet got the trick of giving herself his name in conversation, lets her eyes drift down over this fine young Lannister heir who holds his wine so well… Then her gaze snaps back up to meet his; and whatever the sum of her calculations, she seems pleased with it. "Quite well indeed," she echoes, giving vent to another low chuckle. "… But can it be true, my lord, that so few people in Oldtown know you're here? Did you come very lately? If I were a whit less discreet I should inquire very cheekily into your business here, and how long we might expect the honour of your presence in our city."

Oh, he caught that too. "It can be, and it is." Lorn says with a low, dark laugh. "I have not had much opportunity to get out since arriving, and it seems many of the city's social life have been away." There's a pause then, a moment where he lingers on a thought, and it turns up the corner of his mouth in something wicked, but in a foppish, playful way that cuts its legs of intimidation out from under it. "If you would join me for a glass, Your Highness, I would indulge such questions."

Princess Joy's assent is made immediately plain by the broadening of her smile. "Oh! Well, in that case… how could I resist?" And, in a waft of the spicy Dornish fragrance concocted for her by her loving husband and applied religiously to her pulse points each day, she steps toward a chair and her hovering handmaiden hurries to pull it out for her with a murmured ‘Your Highness’. Not the chair across from Ser Lorn. Oh, no. The one at the side of the table at a right-angle to his own, close and companionable, and soon screened from the inquiring eyes of the winery's other patrons by the angle of the wall on one side and her pair of tall and forbidding poker-faced guardsmen on the other.

"As it happens I'm not at all in a hurry," she confesses to her host, "and they've such marvelous vintages here… But you don't need me to tell you that, my lord." A feint of her gaze, not at all censorious, toward the almost-empty bottle standing near his glass. "Perhaps, though, you might take a little piece of advice from me upon what to try next… If we were to finish that one," she hypothesises, with wide and not-quite-innocent eyes, "they've a heavenly red from the year a hundred and six…"

And so it is, that Lorn is asking after another glass, and allowing her take her seat before Lorn reclaims his own. The wine upon the table is… It's good, surely. A place like this doesn't really trade in bad wine, but it is not the finest thing from their selection. Drinkable, that is without a doubt, but perhaps lacking a little character. The sort of wine you drink with food, so it does not distract from a meal. Or, in Lorn's case, the sort of wine you drink when you are going to be drinking for awhile and it doesn't much matter anyway. "Do they?" Lorn says with an amused half of a laugh, taking up his glass once more once hers has been poured, "Very well, then should we finish this one, and have want to keep drinking," Though Lorn has gotten the feeling that isn't often an 'if' with either of them, "That is what we shall switch to." Punctuating with a drink. "But you have asked me questions, and I believe I owe you answers." How convenient, that wall, the positioning of those guards. He notices, he smirks, a flash in his eye of something mischievious and entirely inappropriate, though it fades quickly as he turns to answering her. "As for my business here. I am afraid it as innocent as it appears. My father thinks I have need of a social life." Not untrue, perhaps not the whole story, "As for how long? Until I can convince him I have one."

In all honesty, the princess herself has been drinking for a while — a drop here, half a glass there, as she was conducted through the cellars, refreshing her memory before ordering the wine for her party — and Ser Lorn's choice of tipple strikes her, too, as adequate to be going on with, and one which only makes her look forward all the more to a reunion with her beloved '06… She lifts her glass to his in a toast and wets her throat with abandon, and sits up straighter in her chair when he hints at the answers he's about to reveal.

… Then her eyes widen, as though he really has said something original. "You've come for… a social life? It must have been fated that we meet; there's nothing I like more!" Though honesty compels her to add, "Well, practically nothing… But do you mean to have a real one, or only… to convince your father it's real?" she asks slowly. "I'd help you with either, you know," she confesses, positively exuding goodwill towards this rich and handsome and powerful Lannister lord who's buying her drinks.

Truth be told, Lorn does very much enjoy surprising people, and thus when Joy's eyes widen he can't help the very genuine smile that it earns. It's warm, friendly, without any of the bravado he wears like armor. Just… Oddly feline, perhaps. "Well that, entirely depends," He says, pulling out the middle vowel of the stressed word for foppish performance, "On what sort of social life there is to find." He says, laughing quietly and sipping at his wine. Drinking, really. Lorn has lost the art of sipping, though he does make this look dignified through years of practice.

"Oh! Yes, it would do, wouldn't it," the lady agrees. "What a shame," she makes a face, fleetingly, "that you came when half the city is still in Dorne!" Half the city? Well, half the important part of the city. Half the people one sees. "I was at Starfall too and it seemed as though every face I saw belonged to somebody I knew in Oldtown… Poor lion; I can't imagine what you've been doing to amuse yourself here! … Well, perhaps now that my husband and I have come, we might devise some little amusements for you," she decides, bringing that absent gentleman back into their flirtation as though it were natural that he be mentioned. "And a friend of mine is marrying in a few weeks' time — Ser Loryn Tyrell — I'll have them send you an invitation if you like…? Strangers' weddings are dull enough, it's true, but the Tyrells do have a magnificent garden here and quite a reputation for entertainments. You'd meet virtually everyone noble in Oldtown at the feast afterwards…"

Laughing easily now, Lorn finds that this has become comfortable with much less fuss than he had expected. Okay, father, maybe you had a point. Maybe. Perhaps it's a fluke. "No, I think it is precisely the best time for my arrival. They'll all be off gallivanting, and when they return, it will be as though I have always been here. And it will make them wonder if perhaps I have and I shall find it delightfully amusing." Finished with a playful nod. "And, to be honest with you, mostly I've been drinking." He says, amused, lifting his glass as emphasis. Again, he laughs, shaking his head. "On the contrary, I find that strangers' weddings are, in fact, the most fun." Nevermind that he hated weddings. But when he didn't know the bride and groom it made it easier to ignore. And he felt less bad for the carousing that occurred at the reception.

That he's mostly been drinking, amuses the princess — she lifts her glass in a reflection of his, and laughs again, and casually drinks it down to the dregs… "Ought I not to say to my friends, then, that you have just come and I am the first of us to discover you? Shall I leave some doubt?" she teases. "I will if you like; I don't mind secrets, as long as I'm in on them." And then, "I'll write at once to Ser Loryn, then— remind me," this over a lowered shoulder to her handmaiden, who has been making a pretense of inattention to the talk of her betters, "to write at once…" She turns again to Ser Lorn, unconsciously displaying yet another of her best angles— though perhaps 'curves' is the operative word, rather than 'angles'. "You like to set people off balance, don't you, Ser Lorn? … I hope you won't try it too often with me; it would hardly be chivalrous," she chides gently, "when I've been drinking…"

Lorn shakes his head. "No, those of your friends you wish to tell, they may be in on the amusement. But those who have tarried in Dorne rather than be around to attend your party? They shall have the mystery." Lorn says. Really, he's mostly jesting. Mostly. And he isn't long behind her in finishing his glass. And between his refresh and her glass? That is the end of this bottle fairly easily finished. "I have faith, Your Highness," He says, "That you are quite as well equipped for such games as I am. And I have also been drinking." More dark laughter, though he takes up the empty bottle to inspect. "Well, you have fulfilled your obligation of a glass. And we have been victorious over this poor, sad bottle. Shall we move on to grander fare?"

Princess Joy's eyes gleam at the suggestion that she's… equipped for games; she gives a little shrug, but her gaze remains steadily upon him, bereft of the maidenly airs that would be so unsuited in any case to her years. "Do let's," she agrees; "shall I send my girl…?" And, at once, reading acquiescence in his eyes, she turns again to address her handmaiden. "Go and say," she directs, "that Ser Lorn Lannister would like to try a bottle of the '06, if there's any left…" She pats the girl's arm to send her off and wriggles round again in her chair and explains, "They must almost have run out by now, and they'll give it more easily to a Lannister than— oh, but I'm a Martell now, aren't I? That would've done quite nicely, if only I'd thought," she giggles. "But, you know, it's hardly been three weeks… I forget one minute and recollect it the next." And when she does recollect it, the thought sets her aglow.

"And if there isn't any left, tell them they're a liar and stare at them until they sell." Lorn says, though not quite calling after the girl, and then laughing thoroughly. He is entirely joking. Probably. Perhaps there's something beyond the wine that has him so well at ease. "Someday, it will stick around," Lorn says, sounding relaxed, "Until then, all I can say is I hope you'll indulge my amusement at the slips." And his… Well, you could call it amusement, with other things. Things that have nothing to do with what she is saying and much more about the cut of that sandsilk. Which he is getting less subtle about his looks to.

It is a known fact that Princess Joyeuse's conversation becomes more intelligent, her jokes funnier, and her arguments more persuasive, when she's wearing sandsilk. (It is known, at any rate, to Princess Joyeuse.) And, as she herself points out, if she didn't like to be looked at… But she does like it; and subtly, hardly consciously, she preens herself beneath the admiring gaze of a great Lannister lord. A fortuitous alignment of head and throat and shoulder — a thoughtless brushing of red curls away from her face — a smirk covered with her glass, but only when she knows he's had time to notice it — oh, yes, she's putting her best foot forward. How deliberate is it? Who knows? It's still going to work, and that's what matters. "… Oh, laugh if you like," she says generously; "laugh as much as it pleases you. That's why we drink with friends, after all, isn't it? So that we may laugh together at all those little things which seem funnier with wine than they would be without…"

And many more such little things are discovered (empty bottles amongst them), before the new princess lets her Dornish retainers whisk her away again, leaving Ser Lorn's ears ringing with invitation upon invitation.

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