(123-08-08) Women
Women
Summary: Lady Marsei, Septa Leire, and a jarring problem.
Date: 08/08/2016
Related: Cloistered with the Crone
Players:
Marsei..Leire..

It has been a busy time for Marsei since returning from the excursion to Dorne: there have been things to catch up on, events to attend — most of them flush with Tyrells since the wedding of Ser Loryn — and people to visit for more important reasons than chit-chat, armed with news from the darker happenings at Starfall. It's the dusk of one such busy day, past meal-time, when the lady seems headed for her chambers. Perhaps for a well-deserved rest. Not so, however: she seems to have vigor enough in her steps, the low hem of her sapphire-coloured gown practically a'twirl around her feet as she conquers the Hightower's stairs. She veers away on a lower level well before reaching her own rooms upon a glimpse of a familiar figure; one of many in the tower, but none so particular as this one in dove grey, with a seven-pointed star. Her momentum is such that she may have been looking for the septa all along — yet she cautiously slows her enthusiasm, though not the warmth in her expression, once she nears, gauging her. Her bubbly query is only slight touched by the caution. "Would you like— to go for a walk with me?"

Leire is so deep in thought that she doesn't become conscious of Marsei's presence until the noblewoman speaks, and even though her expression is immediately apologetic, there's still a bit of distance in her airs when she accepts the offer. "Of course," is her quiet, reassuring murmur, accompanied by the brief flash of a distracted smile. It's a little maddening, and a little hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about her that's changed since the pilgrimage that saw her absent from Oldtown for a few moons' turns. In Dorne, she was attentive to her lady's needs, but prone to faraway eyes and the aloof airs of someone with a great deal on their mind.

She falls into step alongside Marsei, lacking the momentum the noblewoman earlier demonstrated. "I've not seen you since morning prayer. Was your day a pleasant one?" Her concern is genuine, even in spite of the rest.

"It was pleasant enough," Marsei answers — pleasantly, as it happens, and sincere enough as well. With Leire at her side, her steps become more subdued on the way back to the stairs, to head downward rather than out to the gardens, as they might usually. "Although I …" she begins on a quieter note, looking over at Leire and smiling as her head tips down, "I would have rathered different company." The inflection in her voice is a personal one, with a tinge of hope, wonder, perhaps concern. She's not talking about her husband, who's been wholly out of sight for the past several days.

Leire allows the radiant redhead to lead her; Marsei's whim is effortlessly, immediately her own. On their descent of the stairs, she turns her head to meet the noblewoman's eye. Another smile. "I was just about to come up when you found me," she admits, in oblique reference to their usual nighttime hair brushing and prayer routine. One that was interrupted, somewhat, by their sojourn to Dorne. They pass someone on the stairs, and Leire lowers her eyes and touches her seven-pointed star pendant as if to offer her blessing in passing.

The answer seems to boulster Marsei. She brightens in such a way that it becomes clearer that more than her pace had been somewhat subdued. Her returning smile is small, but full of appreciation. Fondness. A contrast to even the friendly smile she gives the passing figure on the stairs. "I thought we could have a cart take us to the beach for a walk, before it gets too dark," she says — perhaps with blind optimism, given that the sky will surely darken by the time they get there. It's not exactly her common walking grounds.

It's not the usual, and Leire makes a gentle observation of that fact. "Maybe the maiden's gardens tonight, and the beach on the morrow?" They reach the landing, and she pauses to regard Marsei, searching for a hint of the impulse that motivated the original suggestion in the woman's expression.

Marsei gives something of a reluctant glance to the landing's window to note the colour of the sky. The hazy deep blue preceding blackness. She loops her fingers together and wages a silent little war against reason, indecisively tensing the near-dimpled corners of her mouth. It's a short battle. "You're right," she agrees warmly, easily won over. "That's a better plan. I just— " Self-consciousness takes over her neat posture for a moment, but that, too, is dismissed once she looks more fully upon Leire and remembers the trusted companion she's talking to. "I suppose just had the idea of adventure all of a sudden. You know? Just the two of us." She starts to continue across the landing to the stairs with their new destination in mind. "I'm so glad to be home, but…" Hesitation again; her voice gentles. "But when part of… you does still seem… far away, I…"

Leire smiles, initially, at the idea of an adventure, but it fades when Marsei mentions her seeming preoccupation. "Forgive me," she murmurs, returning the openness and honesty shown her without hesitation. Trusted companion. "My brother's wedding has made my mind prone to wandering." Her usual easy air seems to tense palpably just with that indirect reference to the personal predicament that saw her disappear on her pilgrimage.

Two paths of question branch out in front of Marsei straight away, leaving her looking at Leire with an expression of open inquiry, conflicted. Her brother's marriage — and marriage, itself. It's the latter that she walks down. The latter which she can feel in the air. She nods as though in understanding, although it seems more a reflex than her typically engaged reaction. A Hightower through and through despite not quite seeming as built from the same sturdy stone as her siblings — as her father — she seems to glide down the familiar stairs without looking ahead. "Have— " she starts; stops. Her steps follow suit. The din of the grand hall is ahead of them, guests and lords of the house yet lingering after supper, servants whisking to and fro with evening chores. Marsei and Leire fleetingly remain outside of that world, tucked away in the flicker of torchlight. "Have you seen him yet," she poses ever-so-quietly, not quite looking the other woman in the eye though she regards her face. "Not your… your brother," said with some question, forgotten as she braces as though for a sting, "Desmond."

The question makes Leire halt a step behind Marsei. Rather than conflict, it's confusion that flickers in the septa's luminous features, lit by the lamplight. "Why is it you ask that question?" Careful to keep her expression in check, lest she unduly offend her mistress with the swell of interest that afflicts her.

Marsei is looking for it in Leire's face, even if she can't see it. But then, the shadow and light do play tricks. "I was going to tell you outside," she says slowly. "It's so lovely out, with the cool air, and I thought… maybe it would be less…" She trails off; not only of her own volition. A man, a familiar sight about the tower, bursts onto the grand staircase, red-faced from drink. Marsei steps back from Leire to give him room to pass. He's so accustomed to seeing Marsei he barely looks at her, and doesn't seem to notice the septa at all. He ambles on up the stairs, oblivious to the delicate conversation he paraded through.

It takes Marsei a moment to regain the wherewithal to pick up where she left off. She steps toward Leire once more to make up the distance, hands slightly extended as though to take hers but withholding. "He just— " her smooth forehead, still touched by an increase in gingery freckles since Dorne, "he showed up, at the tourney. I didn't know. Not until after. Well after."

Marsei is looking for it in Leire's face, even if she can't see it. But then, the shadow and light do play tricks. "I was going to tell you outside," she says slowly. "It's so lovely out, with the cool air, and I thought… maybe it would be less…" She trails off; not only of her own volition. A man, a familiar sight about the tower, bursts onto the grand staircase, red-faced from drink. Marsei steps back from Leire to give him room to pass. He's so accustomed to seeing Marsei he barely looks at her, and doesn't seem to notice the septa at all. He ambles on up the stairs, oblivious to the delicate conversation he paraded through.

It takes Marsei a moment to regain the wherewithal to pick up where she left off. She steps toward Leire once more to make up the distance, hands slightly extended as though to take hers but withholding. "He just— " her smooth forehead, still touched by an increase in gingery freckles since Dorne, "he showed up, at the tourney. I didn't know. Not until after. Well after."

Leire doesn't hide the surprise that materializes in her expression, her pale eyes sparking with it while she holds Marsei's stare. She pays the drunkard as little attention as he does her, even though his ascent up the stairs is a little rowdy when contrasted against their hushed, intense conversation. "I didn't know," she admits, needlessly. It's obvious she didn't know. And her reaction gives something else away: She hasn't received word from the man himself.

"I haven't seen him," Marsei says a bit more quickly than intended, to clarify. Her mouth hovers open, hesitating to form the next words: "But I know he will seek you out." A good guess, but she speaks it — however reluctantly — with a certaintly beyond assumption. She inches closer; glides, until the hems of their skirts skim one another; closer, so that she may search Leire's gaze with her own encompassing stare, so vivid and heartfelt. "Does it matter so much?"

Marsei coming closer doesn't make it easier for the septa to tell the truth, but she does it just the same, without reservation. "In some ways, it doesn't matter at all," she admits, but those words don't really explain or justify her reaction. The next ones do. "In others, it matters more than anything." She's a woman not prone to lovesick melancholy, and so her saying that is kind of like if Camillo dressed up in one of Marsei's gowns. Jarring. Maybe disturbing.

"More than anything?" Marsei presses; her voice is soft, her intent desperate. Confusion laces the noblewoman's expression, tugging delicately here and there as she tries to reconcile what she hears. Her searching gaze becomes ever more so, unable, now, to stay still. A wary sort of melancholy lingers in waiting behind all that searching: the prelude to disappointment, hoping she won't be let down. "You said that you had your answer. When you came back. What should it matter that he has?"

The trip to the Maidenday garden is long forgotten. The conversation that was planned for it now unfolds out in the Hightower open, and Leire lays her hand on Marsei's forearm even in spite of their surroundings. The gesture seems to beseech her companion for something. Understanding, perhaps. Forgiveness? She begins to speak, but then quiets.

At first it might seem that the softening of Marsei's look is only the shimmer of water in her eyes, but she steadies her gaze and makes every attempt to meet Leire with the understanding and forgiveness she seeks. With her concern for Leire, she comes within a hair's breadth of it. "I— if you need to speak with him, I— " she tips her chin up a little bit, "I will tell the guards to let him in if he comes looking. I only want to know … why; have— " The tremble in her voice practically fears sacrilege, from the personal to the spiritual, as she voices, "Have the gods led you astray in coming back? Is that why you have been so … so as you are?"

She tilts up her chin too, maybe without realizing, when Marsei does. Leire removes her hand from the noblewoman's forearm, and lays it atop her own instead, holding hand to wrist while both slender arms hang in front of her body listlessly. "Thank you," she ultimately murmurs. "I will speak with him if he comes." Others have begun to trickle out of dinner, but now they go around rather than between the women. The septa doesn't look to them, but to the high, vaulted ceiling while she considers her answer, and finally back to Marsei herself. "He sees me for a woman, not a septa, when he stares at me. What he has awakened will never again be dormant." She touches the star at her throat, but tells Marsei, "The Seven are not to blame."

The grand hall of the Hightower might as well be across the Whispering Sound for all that Marsei notices it. As people climb the stairs, shoulders to tense as though instinctively fending off a cold breeze; Leire's words could just as well be the cause. She tries, so clearly, she tries to understand, but what she understands only serves to make her aggrieved. She takes a deep breath in — it tightens all of the cord-like muscles in her slender neck — and, with a rather tremendous effort, puts aside the words that wanted to leap out first. "If the Seven are not to blame…" she ventures instead, "… would you betray them?"

The sound of steps on stone and the departing din of feasters echos in the silence between Marsei's words and Leire's. The septa sees the effect of her words, but doesn't do her companion the disservice of altering them to provide false comfort. "I haven't yet," she says, low but steady.

"You have not seen him yet," Marsei reasons. Immediately, she looks down, mouth pulled taut, apologetic, thinking herself petty. In a further hush, she says, "Do you remember…" Halfway through, only her eyes raise, "the first time you told me how he looked at you?" She smiles at Leire, small and wistful— so fond, yet melancholy. "You are a woman and a septa." The noblewoman's seawater eyes well, and she begins to turn away. Toward the grand hall and the fading din. At the very last moment, she whirls about, kisses Leire lightly on the cheek, and descends hurriedly toward the grand hall. A few paces faster and she'd be running.

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