(123-09-20) Drinking For Two
Drinking For Two
Summary: Princess Joyeuse attempts to visit Lady Marsei Hightower; a compromise is achieved, and the latest news is well washed-down with wine.
Date: 20/09/2016
Related: None

The windows of the Hightower's grand staircase are drawn shut in defense against the heavy rain sleeting down outside, obscuring the views of the city and the sound which pass by in turn as one mounts higher flight by flight. The air is warm and close — too warm, in fact, and too close, for the pleasure of Princess Joyeuse Florent Martell, who has sat down like a very red flower to wilt at the top of the third flight, on the very edge of the landing. Her curly hair is uncharacteristically limp; she's flushed, and leaning forward with her chin lifted and her eyes half-shut to bask in the bespoke breeze created for her by a young Dornish lady-in-waiting, kneeling next to her upon the landing, in whose copper-skinned hands an ivory fan has become a blur.

Two Dornish knights, typically handsome creatures in leather and silk and scale armour, guard the approaches to her perch. Another lady proffers a handkerchief. Princess Joy's voice rises as she exclaims: "Oh, thank you, sweetling! I really didn't remember it being such a long way up… I suppose I must have been trying not to remember," she laughs. She clutches at the handkerchief and dabs hopefully at her forehead and her throat.

Little time passes before a particularly familiar face hurries down the stairs from on high. Joyeuse can be heard before she's spotted, and that shade of red makes for a quick confirmation - not to mention the Dornish knights and handmaiden.

The first to greet Joyeuse are a pair of pearled white slippers — with hurrying steps — beneath the hem of an equally white gown, so pristine they may not have ever ventured outside the Hightower. The busy grand hall may even be a risk to the purity of the fashion. Their owner - looking pristine, herself, locks of soft red hair pinned away from her temples — is surprised to see Joyeuse upon the landing, but pleasantly so. Marsei's features were faraway, lost in thought; her ever-so-lightly freckled face alights into the here-and-now, beaming outdone only by conern. "Joyeuse! How lovely to see you! But are you-are you quite all right?" She's carrying a thick, heavy old book, held against her chest with folded arms, and it all of a sudden becomes a burden, shuffled quickly to one side to free her hand to touch her newly Martell cousin's shoulder.

That shining white hem descending from the floor above does catch Princess Joyeuse's eye — she dabs faster, and presses the handkerchief back into the Dornish girl's hand, and loosens a curl which had the temerity to cling to her forehead — and then when their eyes meet she's all delight, returning Lady Marsei's beaming smile as though she hadn't a care in the world.

"Marsei, you look perfectly divine!" she exclaims first, that being the essential point (and don't think her heavy-lidded eyes haven't caught every detail, already, of that white gown and its workmanship); and then, "Oh, but of course I'm all right! It's only that not living here anymore I'm quite out of the habit of your stairs. And not living here anymore," she adds, "I simply never see you; and today I made up my mind that I would. How marvelous of you," she points out admiringly, "to have come down just at the hour to save me from going up. You really are a treasure," she declares, even as the watchful knight who bowed to Lady Marsei and stepped out of her way ducks in again to offer his prince's princess a hand-up. Between him and the bannister, she manages. Red sandsilk slithers all about a figure grown just a wee bit more generous in its dimensions since her marriage to a man for whom life, and especially every meal, is a banquet. No wonder she's daunted by the stairs.

Marsei grants the helpful knight all the polite decorum in the world, yet somehow gives that and more to Joyeuse, who is still the focus of both her delight and concern. She laughs softly; the familiar halls and staircases around them are well-acquainted with the little sound of joy from the Hightower's daughter. "Oh, I do miss you being just a few floors away! But are you sure you're all right?" she inquires, purely well-meaning and wondering as she takes in the slightly different state of that curly hair and (formerly) taxed brow. "I was just on my way to the library," she says as an offer and a question both; the library is not far — and, importantly, requires no stairs up — but perhaps Joyeuse prefers the landing after all.

"I've missed you too," sighs the princess, running an absent-minded paw over her skirts and stepping up from the stairs to the landing.

"Oh, well, then!" she agrees easily. "I'll come with you, shall I? Which way is it?" she inquires in all innocence. It was never her habit, when she was a guest here, to borrow a nice epic poem to curl up with of an evening. "But really, you mustn't fuss," she insists, making the instruction into a friendly exhortation; "I have quite enough of that sort of talk from all my watchdogs." Her red head tilts nearer Lady Marsei's as she speaks, as though in confidence: but her words are clearly pitched for her attendants ears, and her eyes are sparkling as she looks about her to gather them up. She has somehow found one of her cousin's hands, to give it a quick squeeze.

Marsei only smiles when Joyeuse asks where the library is; she'll lead the way, squeezing her cousin's hand once before lending her a ladylike arm, looped at the elbows. "They mean well," she says, giving said attendants a kind smile, tinged at the corners with humour. She descends the stairs at a casual pace. "Though I expect it must take getting used to. Being treated as a princess." Says the woman as though she's forgotten she's married to Targaryen.

The Dornishman who was standing further down on the stairs continues in that direction, several yards ahead of the ladies; the one who helped Princess Joy up onto her feet brings up the rear; the Dornish girls in attendance upon this very late addition to their royal family fall neatly into line behind the wives of two princes. (The stony Dornish girl raises an eyebrow at her salty companion and offers her arm likewise; with a mock curtsey, the salty girl accepts.) Princess Joyeuse, quite surrounded, hangs on to her cousin's arm and might be led that way from one end of the Hightower to the other, her steps swift and light, her attention more upon Lady Marsei's beautiful profile. She's wearing that new scent which was her husband's gift; she also smells faintly of peaches; and, as at any other hour of the day, there's wine on her breath.

"Well, sweetling, you ought to know," she giggles, "you've had quite a bit more of it than I. I really ought to introduce you," she insists; "I do keep forgetting which people I know already know which other people I know." She glances quickly over her shoulder, smiling at her ladies by way of apology, and also taking note of which is on which side. "Behind you, why, that's Lady Estela Dalt," the salty girl, "who has such a knack for card tricks, we really ought to show you one of these days — and behind me," the stony girl, who would by virtue of her Andal heritage blend in nicely in Oldtown if she weren't going to such lengths (and depths) to mark her nationality by her dress, "Lady Malika Fowler, who embroiders my handkerchiefs now, though she's quite as gifted with a spear as with a needle! Girls, I know you know quite well this is my favourite cousin, Lady Marsei Hightower. I commend you to her, and her to you — and I hope you'll pardon me," she sighs over her shoulder to the Dornish girls, "for ever suggesting for one moment I could get along without your company, for you know I couldn't," she declares. "Oh, my goodness," this as they cross the threshold of the library; "has this always been here?" she inquires of Lady Marsei, blinking in mild astonishment. Then, despite itself, her gaze is drawn away again to roam over shelf upon shelf of books, rack upon rack of scrolls, the wealth and the long history of House Hightower writ small and large.

"Oh, I'm— " is all Marsei had to say about the matter of princess-like treatment. Another little laugh, this one modest, subdued by a tucking of her chin, her gaze pointed at the well-worn stairs and tips of her slippered toes. She's so pleased to meet the Dornish ladies trailing behind that she goes so far as to rather crane her elegant neck to beam at them and address them as they walk, even though she leads the way.

Luckily, she could make it to the library with her eyes closed. "Only hundreds of years," she tells Joyeuse — as if reassuring — with amusement. The impressive texts aren't the only draw, however: there are also lush chairs and sitting tables, some of which have varieties of games with finely carved boards and pieces set upon them. Marsei's goal is further toward the back of the fine library, past the many histories and genealogies, even past the religious tomes of the Seven, landing instead amid storybooks and legends and poems of epics past. There's a cozy, private arrangement of chairs just beyond the wide aisle, and it is here Marsei pauses, at last depositing the heavy book upon the small table. It has a whimsical design of a horse inlaid on the cover, at home here among the flights of fancy.

"And I never knew," marvels Princess Joyeuse, craning her neck this way and that, smiling at all the books as though they too were much-missed cousins met again. "… Oh, this does look rather pleasant," she declares when they come within sight and then within sitting distance of chairs as well-padded as she is herself. She gives Lady Marsei a praising look and squeezes her arm again before releasing her to sort out her book. Then in another fragrant waft of cherry-red sandsilk she deposits herself in the nearest chair.

The members of the Dornish contingent establish themselves at a decorous distance, only for their princess to jump up again and complete the introductions. "And of course this is Ser Lothor Qorgyle," no doubt some sort of honourary cousin of hers, by way of her first marriage, "and Ser Mateo Sand." He's the handsomest; he receives an unmistakably smug little smile from his prince's wife as his name is spoken. "They've both been with my husband for years," though neither of them is a day over twenty-six, "and it's rather a bore for them to have to follow me about all day, but they're both so sweet about it I think they've forgiven me!" she laughs, casting a brighter smile from one man to the other as she resumes her chair. But only very lightly. She's so radiantly happy, so unconsciously fidgety, that with every moment an observer might suspect her of bouncing straight out of it again.

Lady Marsei receives another set of bows, complete with impromptu compliments suitable to the Flower of Oldtown. You know. The usual.

And it is with the rather renowned kindness and modesty of the Flower of Oldtown that they are greeted and welcomed to the Hightower. It is only after the introductions — although with a bright-eyed glance to the knights — that she says to Joyeuse, "I don't know, cousin; I have a feeling they haven't been too terribly bored. No one could be bored in your company!" Bundle of energy that she is. Marsei flits to the row of books to her right, trailing her fingers searchingly over the storybook spines, but turns her head to carry on, "You're like sunshine on this rainy day. Anyone ought to be warmed by your presence!" On that note: "Should you like anything sent in— ? Wine?"

"Oh, bless you," sighs Princess Joyeuse, turning in her chair to follow Lady Marsei's progress along that row of books: "You're so sweet to me," she declares appreciatively. "Perhaps just a drop. It is warm today, isn't it? Something chilled would be heavenly…" She looks again to her ladies. "Girls?" she asks, because why drink alone when one has ladies-in-waiting? Se collects a pleased 'yes' from Lady Malika and a deferential 'no' from Lady Estela and reports the results of her poll to Lady Marsei, to be passed on to one of the Hightower's discreet and invaluable domestics.

"But how are you?" the princess demands of her cousin, forgetting the wine again and rushing, pell-mell, to subjects new. "What news," she chuckles, "from the rarefied heights of the seventh floor? And when are you going to come and see our manse? We've quite put it in order by now," she assures her.

It takes a moment for the message of wine to be passed along, with no Hightower servant immediately lurking, but none are ever far away. "I'm trying to find a book I thought Dhraegon would like…" Which isn't quite news, but said in an idle hush as Marsei searches the titles, more or less thinking out loud. "I suppose it's just as well this was the wrong one," she says as she turns about to heft the book from the table, smiling, "I wouldn't want him to be put off by the cover." She carefully slides it into an empty space in the row, where it ostensibly belongs. "It's all been rather quiet, actually. After all that excitement of Dorne, I suppose we retreated into our tower for awhile," she admits — but is soon to beam all over again. "I should love to visit your manse. I was— oh, I think this is it!" Spotting a choice book, she stands on her tiptoes and tries to encourage it from a shelf taller than she is without causing it to fall on her head. Possibly. Her attempt is optimistic versus her height.

The better to look in her cousin's direction Princess Joyeuse leans an elbow on the arm of her chair; sandsilk falls away from her shapely forearm, and she nestles her chin in her hand. A slight furrowing of her eyebrows, smoothed away again the instant she realises what she's doing, suggests she doesn't quite follow the bit about the cover…? She dismisses her puzzlement at once, nodding, beaming, making a little 'mmm' noise of sympathy… She knows there are people who don't thrive on constant excitement; she has heard about them on a number of occasions during her almost forty (gasp) years of life…

The handsomer of the two knights, the Sand, murmurs a request for Lady Marsei's pardon and reaches easily above her to claim the book and present it to her with another bow. The princess nods approvingly, whilst chattering her way through a catalogue of her own recent treats. "We found quite a lot of rather lovely lamps in the attics — we can't think why anybody would have put them away in such a funny corner for so long. None of the servants can remember where they came from, isn't that strange? A gift from the gods, perhaps, or from some generous Martell ancestor of my husband's—! And we've new canopies on all the beds," she insists, because it wouldn't be nearly as exciting if some of the beds had missed out, "and a pair of flowered screens Auberyn ordered from Volantis months and months ago, before we'd even met one another again, finally came and were sent on to him here from Sunspear so he could see them at once, and now we have one each, for dressing — the lacquerwork is the loveliest I think I've ever seen… Sweetling, will you promise me to come soon?" she pleads suddenly, sitting straighter and stretching out the hand she was leaning upon, in invitation. "We've several months more till we have to go home again; but as for the days, well, the days do keep slipping away…" She wrinkles her nose at the cheek of them.

With much thanks complete with a bow of her pearl-pinned head to Ser Mateo Sand, the new book is deposited upon the table triumphantly and, more importantly, without harm to anyone. This one has a fanciful stag on the cover rather than a horse in a similar style of art. She's engaged with every one of Joy's topics, mysterious lamps, new canopies and flowered screens suddenly and quite sincerely being the most interesting things in the world. She can scarcely comment upon each point before she's reaching toward her cousin's hand to reassure. "Of course I will! Any day at all, only name it." She clasps the hand warmly. A hesitancy, at odds with her eager warmth, sneaks into her demeanor as she goes on to ask, "Why must you go back in several months?"

"Oh, but I'm too greedy — if you ask me that," laughs Princess Joy as she twines her own soft fingers with her cousin's and turns to draw her by such means round in front of her chair and toward the other which some previous occupant left drawn up close beside it; "I'll name tomorrow, and the day after, and every day till…" She bites her lip on her laughter; the colour in her cheeks heightens not with embarrassment, but with pleasure. One can see at a glance that whatever her reason for leaving Oldtown, she approves of it. She draws in a breath (eyeballs back in your head, please, Mateo) and leans nearer over the arms of both chairs to murmur (though it's hardly a secret from any of her Dornish companions): "Well, I have to have the baby in Dorne." Her other hand, as she speaks, curls comfortably round the curve of her belly. "It wouldn't do for a little prince or princess to be born away from home, would it?" A quirk of her eyebrows accompanies this unassailable point.

A flurry of emotion swirls immediately to the younger redhead's lively face, all of them separate, all of them widening her eyes and dropping her rosy mouth. While surprise is at the forefront, sheer happiness for Joyeuse is bright among Marsei's reactions — but, too, is something altogether harder to pin down behind her eyes. A tension. Worry, perhaps, or even fright. It doesn't touch her absolutely elated voice, breaking out of the unnecessary hush (if only a little). "Oh, Joyeuse, you're— really?!" She leans across the short distance with arm outstretched, a celebratory embrace.

Frantic nods of Princess Joy's head (and much bouncing of loose red curls) suffice to confirm the news; but her lips stay just for the moment pressed together in a madly happy little smirk, as she leans into that embrace. She never needs much of an excuse to put an arm or two about the Flower of Oldtown, and on this occasion she just twines both arms round her cousin and hangs on and breathes out a dreamy sigh. "I am, I am—!" she declares.

She rests her head on the other's shoulder to murmur a few words beneath her attendants' hearing: "You mustn't worry; I shall be quite all right." Because she has seen, too many times lately, pleasure in her condition mingled with apprehensions regarding the age at which she has found herself in it. She lifts her head again and leans away just far enough to see, if she can, in Lady Marsei's eyes, whether that was it: her elation is tempered by inquiry.

"I— ! I'm overjoyed for you! Oh, you must be so pleased!" Surprise is present within that statement, too; suffice to say she didn't expect these turn of events, not at Joyeuse's (gasp) age. Reassurance keeps that wisp of something at bay in her expression by a measure when she looks into her cousin's eyes, but it still persists, elusive, amid the joy. She leans back from the embrace but still toward Joyeuse, leaning her elbow neatly upon the arm of her own chair. "Still, I … do wish you didn't have to go back to Dorne," she confesses with an innocent sort of persistence: of course she does have to back to Dorne, Marsei knows that; perhaps it's her turn to be selfish and keep her friend around for longer.

Sharing the sentiment at least to a degree, for it is her fate to be torn between two homes, and to wish herself often in one when she's in the other, or at least to regret that she can't simply be in both, Princess Joyeuse makes a face at her cousin's last and nods. "Oh, bless you… I promise to stay as long as I can," she says sincerely, sitting with one hand still on the younger woman's shoulder and the other resting upon her opposite arm, stroking gently; "but I don't want to have to travel when I'm too big." She rolls her eyes. "And in the summer, too — the worst time for it," she breathes, horrified all over again by the return of that thought. "If I were you, sweetling, I'd wait till the autumn to do anything of the kind!" She winks. "The northerners say it won't be long… Too late for me, though!"

Marsei seems bolstered once again by Joy's words. Whatever her reservations, they're either vanquished or swept aside. She nods, confirming, and her smile turns smaller, quieter, closer … and quirks a bit to one side, amused but uncertain how to answer that last part about things to do in autumn. "I can't imagine that winter is really on the way," she notes with some bewilderment. "But Dhraegon says he trusts the Starks more than the maesters of the Citadel."

Much as she enjoys making such announcements, and being herself the cynosure of all eyes and all ears, Princess Joyeuse is still thinking of her cousin's curious expression (which has only just happened) more than her baby (which began to happen rather sooner than she's admitting); she has grown a little more sober withal. Fortunately, the servant returns with wine (and lemon water for Lady Estela), so that unnatural state of affairs needn't go on much longer. Princess Joyeuse's eyes light up: a visitor and royalty all in one, she's the first to be offered the tray, and she claims a goblet with a murmur of thanks and her noted alacrity. "… Oh, my husband's the same," she adds to Lady Marsei; "whenever anybody brings it up he says," and she lowers her chin and her voice: "'A man knows the ways of his own land.'" Her smile turns impish as she lifts her goblet in a toast to her thoughtful hostess.

She drinks healthily — after all, she's drinking for two now! — and sighs her contentment, and asks, "He's quite well, then? Prince Dhraegon? I did hear it said that he found his visit to Dorne tiring," she says delicately. "I like to travel, generally, but it doesn't agree with everyone, does it?"

Marsei chooses a goblet of wine with thanks; chilled is a stretch, but it is certainly cool. She sips less heartily than her counterpart and holds it aloft from her pristine white gown. "I'm the one who feels ill at sea, as it turns out," she answers with a light laugh to her voice. "But it was … a rather eventful visit. Prince Dhraegon is well now though! I know he'd love to see you as well; he ought to be around, sooner or later," she says with a glance to the library doors, hidden though they are by the wealth of books. The reminder prompts her to idly flip through the book on the table with one hand, making sure it is, in fact, the right one. She only stops on the pages with inked illustrations: fantastical creatures, figures in chaste romantic poses.

"Oh, I am glad!" declares the princess at once. "Going home again, it's sometimes quite the nicest part of one's trip, isn't it?

And is it the cool, fragrant wine? Or is it the assumption that her cousin isn't worried about anything anymore, or the reassurance that all is well with her favourite Targaryen tippler? Somehow she seems restored to her customary ebullience and fidgety with it, shifting one way to beam at her ladies sharing a quiet conversation of their own, then beaming again at Lady Marsei and the pages of the book open in her lap (they look even prettier sideways), then shifting the other way to beam at Ser Mateo Sand's bottom in those leather breeches. "You must both come and visit us," she decides; "oh, do please…" She lowers her voice again; her arm resumes that protective cradling gesture so common amongst ladies in her condition. "I was mad to think I'd get up your stairs carrying this," she confesses in a merry whisper. "I keep forgetting, in a way, and thinking I can just go on as usual, but I can't, can I? And it's only going to get more so till it's less so. Sweetling," she gasps, leaning nearer, "I do get so awfully fat when I'm having a baby. You wouldn't credit it! Well, I suppose you'll see it soon enough," she admits, "when you visit." She appears glum for an instant before breaking out into another glowing smile. She can't help herself. Right now she could probably find something cheery and entertaining to say about morning sickness.

Marsei is tickled by Joy's cheer. "I'm sure you'll keep on looking radiant," she says with the utmost confidence. "Is it so heavy already?" Which is an altogether different question than asking if Joyeuse is heavy already, it should be noted; the only clarification is in the benign tone of the lady's voice and her look to the cradled belly with the fascination of someone who has never carried a child in anything but their arms. With another sip of her wine, she settles in to ask all of the questions: does she think it will be a boy or a girl? What does Prince Auberyn think? Do they have a name? The Hightower servant will come around before all of these questions can be answered in full detail to make sure they have enough wine to last through the conversation.

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