|Summary:||Lady Marsei meets Princess Vhaerys on several of hers.|
|Related:||Prince Jurian Requests the Pleasure.|
In the few short months since her arrival since Dragonstone (longer, still, than she was intended to remain in the city unwed) Princess Aelia Targaryen has become a great success in the highest circles of Oldtown society, charming all she meets, to the bafflement of her elder brother and intended, Prince Jurian.
To call upon the little bird in her nest is surely one of Lady Marsei Hightower's most pleasant, if unpredictable, social duties.
To call upon her and meet instead with Princess Vhaerys, is… Words fail.
The elder princess, Lady Marsei's cousin by marriage, arrives at the manse only moments before; she is the owner of the gleaming dark golden horse being led away from the threshold as the Hightower lady crosses it in turn.
She is still in the hall, stripping off red-embroidered black leather gauntlets as she bends to breathe in the fragrance of the peculiar many-petaled red flowers in a vase near the entrance. Her tall, rangy figure is arrayed today all in Targaryen colours, black leather breeches and vest over a shirt of blood-red silk, flame-embroidered in red on black and black on red. Black pearls and rubies cluster at her earlobes. She wears at both hips daggers with dragonbone hilts. Her shimmering mane of white-golden hair (which used quite to put her horses to shame) has vanished, apparently for good; it's cut instead in a sleek, silky long bob, parted to the left and combed to cover the rightmost part of her forehead. In accentuating the strong line of her jaw and the rather lovely shape of her head, it suits her. Nonetheless it may prove an astonishment to eyes accustomed to seeing her draped in hip-length golden tresses, or else war-braids in Queen Visenya's own image.
A dragonseed handmaiden in a gown of lilac linen, almost the very shade of her eyes, waits two steps away with her head bowed and her arms wrapped round a large satchel of oiled leather, such as might contain books or scrolls.
Marsei does not see Vhaerys at first. It seems improbable, even impossible, to bypass the powerful sight of the princess; yet the sight of the golden horse caught her first, and it is that startlingly magnificent creature she attempts to glimpse again rather than the one in the hall. When she does turn her head back from over her shoulder to notice the presence up ahead is Princess Vhaerys and her dragonseed handmaidens and not the bustle of servants she expected, her seawater eyes widen. To her credit, Marsei may not have appeared so startled if it weren't for her hair. She's instantly struck with a look of surprise followed by an intrigued sort of awe, but tempers her staring to polite levels.
Marsei looks the opposite of Vhaerys in nearly every way: her red hair is long and bound elegantly up and away from her face and slender neck with invisible pins; her attire is soft and flowing, one of her simpler sleeveless gowns of blue; the pearls she wears are white, dangling like droplets at her throat. She carries a small, thin book, both hands neatly crossed over it. Whether she wants it or not, the — imposing, particularly by contrast — Targaryen receives one of her bright and kindly smiles as she approaches. "Princess Vhaerys," she greets, looking pleased to see her. "Was that your horse? I've never seen such a golden animal," she says, admiring, sincerely fascinated.
The slight curve of Princess Vhaerys's smile freezes in place as she turns from the flowers to the Flower. She straightens, shifting instinctively into a swordfighter's stance; she puts on different body language with her breeches, a fact no doubt immediately apparent to one who customarily meets her in elegant red or golden gowns. Her violet gaze flickers up and down the younger woman — looking for specks of dust, hairs out of place, the words on the spine of that book in her hands — and then, just late enough to mark it conscious rather than instinctive, her wide reddened mouth curves further still into a smile more predatory than pleased. "He is mine, yes," she concedes, stripping off her second gauntlet and dropping the pair of them on top of the satchel in her handmaiden's embrace. "Is my cousin accompanying you today, Lady Marsei?" she inquires in a light tone of voice, with a tilt of her lightened head.
The princess is wearing two or three rings. Perhaps a woman who doesn't know her well wouldn't even notice that her wedding ring isn't among them.
The princess's stance perhaps prevents Marsei from an even more genial approach she might give someone more familiar; a touch of the arm, a kiss on the cheek. No such familiarity exists between her and Vhaerys to begin with, however, and so she stands somewhat afar from the other woman. "Dhraegon was busy with the flowers, last I saw. I came from the sept," Marsei replies brightly. "I thought to visit Princess Aelia." A little gesture of her hand away from the book reveals that it is one of poetry. With no sign of Aelia from here, though, she seems in no immediate hurry. "May I say how lovely your hair is?" Well, she's going to. "It looks striking on you. Singularly, I think. I don't know if anyone else would look as lovely."As eager as she is to flatter, it's not empty, and it's not simply filling space: given space to speak, it's naturally kindness that spills forth. That, and she's looking at Vhaerys's hair more than meeting her eyes.
Princess Vhaerys accepts the idea of Dhraegon's preoccupation with flowers with a distant 'mm' and then a smoothly murmured, "Of course."
Her eyes narrow as she listens to the rest of these effusions; she studies Lady Marsei as though she were a specimen found unexpectedly in a net, origins and intentions unknown. She seems to have forgotten the state of her hair: she registers mild surprise, and lifts a hand to touch her pale and slightly wind-tousled tresses. She decides upon a dry, "Thank you," and follows it with, "The servants will find the princess for you, no doubt." The servants who are waiting at a wary distance, eagerness to make welcome King Viserys's goodsister warring with apprehension about transgressing Princess Vhaerys's personal boundaries. But her attention is already wandering toward the stairs.
"If she isn't busy," Marsei explains politely. She glances from the servants to the stairs as well; either she wonders if Aelia is in her room, or she senses Vhaerys's inclination to ascend away from her. "It was good to see you on Prince Jurian's boat the other day," she brings up, politely grasping the opportunity for more than a few words with the woman. "I know Dhraegon was pleased to see you as well."
Princessly eyes snap back to Lady Marsei's face at the mention of the prince they have in common. "Was he?" his cousin asks, lightly curious, in reaction to what she affects to consider a diverting new idea. She resumes her study; a thought occurs. "Perhaps you might give my cousin a message for me," she suggests, "since you see so much more of him now than his family does. A word or two — hardly worth the trouble of writing down."
The princess's curious query in response is a matter of curiosity for Marsei, who regards her — and not simply her hair — ever-so-slightly closer. As for the passage of a message, she's enthusiastic to comply even despite the preceding words. "Of course," she agrees, smiling agreeably all the while. "It would be no trouble at all — but I do hope you know you're more than welcome to visit."
"Am I?" the princess asks again, in that same tone mingling surprise and delight. Her golden eyebrows arch high. "What marvelous news," she declares. "I wonder to what I owe the honour." Of course her tone conveys several shades of dubiety regarding the honour and the sincerity thereof — and absolutely no suggestion that her words might constitute a question. She goes on. "Perhaps when you see my cousin you might tell him — that I am awake." A beat. Her gaze holds Lady Marsei's without a waver. "Might you manage that, do you suppose?"
There is a slight tension about Marsei's rosy lips, but not enough to chase away her smile altogether. She looks on Vhaerys with a tinge of regret in her seawater eyes, to think the woman feels she is somehow not free to see Dhraegon, but makes the tactical decision to bypass commenting on it. Sometimes, it is best not to fan a dragon's flames. Similarly, she doesn't inquire as to the meaning of the perplexing message. "Yes," she answers almost as dutifully as a handmaiden, complete with a slight demurring bow of her head.
The message isn't for her, though, is it? She is merely its conduit.
Perhaps it's the lowering of that head — that Hightower head, risen to be so lofty — which coaxes a slight genuine smile from the woman some people still call Vhaerys Goldenfyre. She considers that tidy arrangement of red hair, somewhat below her own height, and purrs: "Beyond that all I can say is that I wish you well of him. I no longer propose to take an interest," and her hand closes, low at her side, long white fingers curling in toward her palm to make a fist, "in his choices. Good day to you, Lady Marsei."
And Princess Vhaerys's booted and golden-spurred feet carry her away through the great hall of the Dragon's Door Manse, her stride confident and swift. Her handmaiden is put to some small difficulty in catching up.
Marsei's smile finally fades, but Vhaerys is striding away so swiftly that the noblewoman imparts no goodbye. A pleasant parting was difficult to come by, at any rate, in light of Vhaerys's words. Her hands squeeze too tightly around the little book of poems. Frowning thoughtfully, but trying not to look too insulted even when the hall empties of all but lingering servants nearby, she takes several moments to straighten her shoulders and give Vhaerys space to traverse the manse before she lets herself be led toward the garden, where Aelia is spending her time…. only to find she must wait, for the princess is engaged in an argument.
With a sparrow.