(123-09-09) A Fool's Errand
A Fool's Errand
Summary: Lord Rowan seeks help and reassurance from his wife's best friend. Yes… right.
Date: 04/10/2016
Related: Waiting and Still Waiting.

Some might say it's a fool's errand, trying to find Lady Bryony Tyrell in her own company when she might be in her sister's instead; but Lord Rowan, bless him, is just that determined, never-say-die sort of fool.

Four days after his gentle apology to his lady, four days after holding her hand and admitting his share in her fears, Lady Rowan is away to the Starry Sept at an hour too early for her kinswoman and best friend, not a morning person, to match. A man who'd been paying particular attention to the rhythms of the ladies' recent days might hope to find her on her way downstairs an hour or so before noon, unencumbered even by her offspring, for their nursemaids (and sometimes Lady Rowan too) take them out for a walk before their midday meal to ensure they'll have a healthy appetite for it. Lady Bryony always manages to get herself up and dressed and coiffed before the children's return, though as she says herself, she doesn't know quite how she does it…

She has been wrapping her bountiful figure in purple silks almost every day lately, paid for with Tyrell coin but unmistakably embroidered by Rowan hands: vivid violets or delicate, greyish lavenders, or rich dark hues seeming almost black when she's in shadow. It's almost as though she's trying to match the purple orchids and wildflowers, and the dainty garden violets, with which Lady Rowan has been filling every vase. Today's gown is pale and frothy and distinctly low-cut: her golden hair is done in ringlets, falling softly about her throat and over her pale, creamy decolletage. She's two years younger than Lady Rowan and looks younger still, despite almost annual pregnancies — or perhaps because, this year, she hasn't ventured upon another.

"… Oh! Lord Rowan, good morning," she declares, catching sight of him when she has three steps still to descend. She hesitates; then she continues, undeniably surprised, but not shunning the conversation he seems bent upon.

"Yes, good morning," Antony says, rather having emerged into Bryony's path. "Look, forgive me for waylaying you in the corridor, but I want to speak to you. I know you may not be terribly happy with me, but it isn't really about me."

At first Lady Bryony is nonplussed. "I may… not… be…" she murmurs softly, thinking it over, trying to remember what he— oh. Yes. There was that, wasn't there. She shakes her head to clear it and just smiles, forgiving as well as forgetful, and knowing better than most that Lady Rowan has had her own way in all things, of late. In Lady Bryony's world all's well that ends well. "About Margot, you mean," she says unhesitatingly. "What was it you—?" She glances swiftly this way and that about the foyer and its many doors. "D'you want to step in the other room, Lord Rowan, in case someone should come in?" she suggests. He always receives the politest address of any in their familial circle, though Margot is 'Margot' to Adarian, and Adarian is occasionally 'Adarian' even to Margot. "If it's something… private?"

"Yes, I'd prefer it, Lady Bryony," he says, moving to open the door to the next door to allow her to pass in before him. "And yes, it is touching my lady, though I don't know if it is terribly sensitive. It's only that I wanted to say to you that as she is somewhat…under stress, these days…I was hoping that I could…well, ask you to find something to occupy her time. Things to amuse her, pleasures that might take her mind off of things for a while."

The Tyrell lady is quick on her feet — quick and rustly, and hardly has she crossed the threshold of the sitting-room than she turns again to see Lord Rowan's face as he speaks to her and he to him. Thus it is that coming in after her he has a perfect view of her wide-eyed startlement and the shading of her fair and healthy complexion through white into a deep, rosy pink.

She smooths her skirts and gropes for words. "I… I do see what you mean, my lord," she says, nodding; "and of course I do my best to… make her happy," she admits, spreading her hands helplessly. "But she does — of course, you'd know all about it — she does have those — dark moods, now and again, doesn't she. Lately. With all that's happened. If… if you feel I'm not doing enough for her, then I can certainly try to— that is, I'm sure I can think of something," she admits, laughing nervously.

Antony puts up his left hand. "Please, Lady Bryony," he says. "I do not intend to say that you are not doing all you can for my wife, I…" He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, I don't know how to talk to women. It's just…I thought you could help her more than I. I only put her on edge. There's nothing I can do about it."

"I think she always expects it to be a difficult conversation," suggests Lady Bryony, "and perhaps you do as well, my lord, and because you expect it — why, then, it is." She gives a small ringlet-shifting shrug and then adds, more soberly: "Her happiness is more important to me than…" Anything. One corner of her mouth lifts and both her hands, as though inviting him to see how it is. Almost how it is. "Whatever I can do for her I always will. So I hope you won't… That is, you are worried, aren't you?" she asks apologetically.

"That is because it it always difficult," Antony contradicts, though quietly. "We are ever at cross-purposes." He folds his hands behind his back, remaining on his feet. "I'm…very worried," he admits, though he tries to keep his tone one of dependable masculine strength. "And there's nothing I can do."

"Fathers are generally so pleased not to be obliged to do anything," and Lady Bryony lets out a musical chuckle before bringing herself back to the present case and flattening the corners of her mouth appropriately; "but of course, I see why… you might feel a little bit differently, now." That shadow passing over her face is genuine, her sister's loss something she too still feels.

"My midwife," she says earnestly, "always says a happy mother makes for a healthy babe, and that's how it's always been with Mar and me. And she is happy, my lord — I truly believe she is — when she isn't thinking of it too much. I do try not to let her dwell on the future — that always brings her down again, the sheer uncertainty of it all. But passing the days one at a time, ignoring all the rest till they come along in turn, instead of feeling the weight of so much time all at once — that's best for her, I'm sure of it," she insists, her warm brown eyes full of sincerity.

"I've…never had the privilege of seeing her happy," Antony says. He frowns thoughtfully. "Do you think it would be better if I went away for a while?" he asks. "She might be happier in my absence than my presence."

Lady Bryony's big brown eyes widen again. This is a difficult one. "That… might be so," she admits, honest but apologetic about it. "If she didn't think she was driving you away — I know she wouldn't wish to do that."

Antony blinks a few times and furrows his brow. "Then should I make up some reason to be absent?" he asks.

"If she thought it was her fault, she'd worry about it," explains Lady Bryony simply, "and think she was failing even worse than usual in her duty to you."

"Yes, I understand," Antony replies. "Although I can't imagine why she cares about how she fulfills her duties to me. I suppose she'd feel the same way if she were married to a block of wood. So I'll have to concoct a summons of some kind. I suppose I could go all the way back to Goldengrove, get mother to write me a letter." He heaves a faint sigh. "And how long ought I to stay away?"

And the lady's chin lifts. "You were there, weren't you?" she asks him, with an accusing edge to her voice. "I could have sworn I saw you — standing with her between the altars on your wedding day, when she made you all those terribly solemn promises in the sight of gods and men… Do you not know her at all, my lord? Could you really have lived with her as long as you did and still suppose it all meant nothing to her? Or are you only being willfully ignorant because you don't want to think about it? I don't know you well enough to tell. Only, if it had meant nothing," and she sniffs, nostrils flaring — she's not only high-bred but high-tempered when she's roused, "I promise you she'd have had a much easier time of it, and probably you would have done too. Instead she half-killed herself trying to achieve the impossible, for a man who claims he has no idea why she'd even try… She gave you her word, Lord Rowan," she declares, emphatically and yet wonderingly.

"I was trying to ask," Antony says quietly, "Whether it was anything to do with me, as a person, or merely what I represent. The position that I hold as the object of her word. But yes, I understand, I think, that she holds her honor very dear. You need not lecture me on that point, Lady Bryony." His jaw pulls slightly to one side. "Forgive me for airing a thought I ought to have kept private. I know you are her family and friend. I've taken enough of your time as it is."

When he answers her so peaceably, in such measured terms, Lady Bryony deflates a wee bit. "But you do know why she cares," she insists, quietly sincere, "and I think it's still rather cruel of you to say you can't imagine, as though she were— a woman without any honour, or any feeling at all. I know as well as anyone that she isn't the wife you wished for, my lord, but she isn't…"

She presses her lips together and goes in another direction. "If our parents had wed her to a block of wood, I suppose she would have tried her best to be that block of wood's dutiful lady, because she does always try to make the best of what she can't help. I don't think you can separate the two, though, my lord, the husband and— and the man. I think it goes too deep for that. A husband is a man, and it's one of the chief things in a man's life, to be a husband. As to what you do," she clears her throat, "that's entirely up to you. She wouldn't want to banish you from your own manse — I wouldn't want to do so, either, and it's even less my place than hers. I only said what I thought, that's all, because it seemed to matter to you that I did."

"Yes, it does matter," Antony says. "And to tell you the truth, it is…" He pauses, looking aside. "No, I'm sorry, it's…you give off an air of being…kind or…open or something. It makes me trouble you with more than I ought to say. It's a breech on my part, I'm sorry for it. I've never been a good host to you. I hope you will be at ease here."

Lady Bryony grows repentant. Look at him, the poor pitiful creature, coming to her for comfort only to be slapped in the face by her loyalty to his wife… "… Well, I hope I'm kind," she stresses, "but I'm not always patient with people who aren't kind to themselves," she explains. "I'm sure Mar would tell you the same. I'm cross with her too, sometimes, when she makes herself more miserable than she has any need to be. I think the world gives us no shortage of reasons to be unhappy — there's no call to cultivate even more."

"No, I don't think Margot would tell you that I am too hard on myself," Antony says with a smile. He has a charming smile when he wants to. "And I hope I am not cultivating anything. I think if I go elsewhere it might be easier on me as well. There is no one in Oldtown I know to talk to. Not really talk. I have friends in other places."

"… Then you've no call to sound so reluctant or sigh so much when you're contemplating the prospect of going somewhere else. Have you?" nudges Lady Bryony, giving him a deliberate, cheery smile. "You might find it agrees with you, a change of air. You could always bring your friends back to Oldtown, too, to stay here or at the tower. There are always so many guest suites standing empty, you know, waiting for visitors from the Reach and further abroad."

Antony looks curiously at Bryony, perhaps to guess whether she really believes any of this or not. "I— Yes. I'm sure I could, if they wish to come." His smile is perhaps rather of the put-on variety, but rather out of a desire to comfort Bryony than to mock or mislead. "Now I really should leave you to your day. I know your children will come home before long."

Of course she believes it. Why wouldn't she? If a man says a change of scene and the company of friends might do him good, what is there to disbelieve? And the empty suites at the Hightower, she has seen with her own eyes. Really, none of it's at all far-fetched, to a woman who believes that one can improve one's own circumstances. "Oh, yes," she agrees, and it's her turn to sigh, "I'm sure they'll be here soon enough, without you hurrying them along—!"

Then she feels as though that was too insensitive a remark; she adds hastily, "Of course you ought to join us for luncheon, if you're hungry. Margot will be back from the Sept soon, too; she doesn't eat breakfast at present, but luncheon is sometimes all right. So hard for her to keep anything down — she gets much sicker than I do," she explains. "The tea does help, though."

"It might be more peaceful if I find a tavern," Antony says softly. "But if I do go off for a bit, you'll write me, if anything changes or if it would be a help for me to be here?" And the asking is a request.

"Oh," says Lady Bryony, and then, nodding, "well, yes. If you wish it, my lord. If there's anything to tell… There mightn't be, you know."

"I know," Antony allows. "And if there isn't, and…it turns out to be healthy and…all that, I might not be needed to return. In that event, it might go easier on me if I have found some distraction somewhere."

Lady Bryony lifts her hands to ward off a worrisome thought. "Of course it's up to the two of you what you arrange, when the time comes — I shan't say a thing," she insists. "Except if something… happens, of course."

"Lady Rowan keeps me in suspense," Antony says. "Although I suspect she does it for my sake. That postponement might serve for hope." He shrugs. "I can't say. You know her mind better than I, I am sure. I wish you a good day and a fine lunch, Lady Bryony."

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