(123-10-15) Some Of Them Shall
Some Of Them Shall
Summary: Two princesses discuss birds — and their chicks…
Date: 21/10/2016
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The dragonseed handmaidens in servitude to Princess Vhaerys are a regular sight in the garden of the Dragon Door Manse — working diligently amongst the plants which are her particular pets, tidying the view from her windows, or else choosing flowers in warm Targaryen flame-hues to ornament her chambers.

This afternoon she attends in person to the last-mentioned task, prowling between the flowerbeds with gilt-handled silver shears and a demure handmaiden at her heels. The latter carries a basket of golden straw half-full already of blooms which will in the next day or so reach the zenith of their beauty. The princess herself is dressed in a sleeveless gown of low-cut violet silk, flowing simply over her long, lean figure. She has lately bobbed her white-golden hair, and now she wears it parted toward the left and sleekly framing her strong features. Her gardening-gloves are of thick cream-coloured cloth, embroidered with violets gold-edged and golden-leafed. Impractical, perhaps, for any serious gardening — but she always knows just where the dirt is.

Aelia was out in the gardens earlier making a bit of a fool of herself while Jurian is otherwise occupied, and now she comes back into the garden, which seems so orderly under the care of Vhaerys and her carefully-chosen maidens. Aelia today is somewhat disorderly. She comes rushing into the garden, raising her hands over her head, and charges right toward a little group of sparrows on the ground, sending them scattering.

The cries of the birds bring Vhaerys's gaze up from the luminously red rose presently enduring her inspection and the caress of a gloved fingertip. Her eyes tighten. Untidiness. Drab little city birds and their messes, and girls running about willy-nilly… The fewer airborne visitors the manse receives, and the fewer inhabitants cluttering up its public spaces, the better she likes it. But there have been worse than Aelia, in Vhaerys's many years of spending the better part of her time in Oldtown — much worse — and so, having snipped the stalk slantwise and laid the rose among its fellows in the basket following behind her, she turns left instead of right and lets her curiosity lead her toward the girl. It has been an age since they met, if one doesn't count the party on the barge. Vhaerys is not inclined to count it.

"Good afternoon, Aelia," she says crisply. The shears glint in her grasp. "You know a great deal about birds — perhaps it is you I ought to consult," she suggests, "about how to discourage the sparrows from coming into our garden."

One stubborn sparrow remains, and Aelia holds her skirts taut in front of her as she moves toward it to shoo it away. "Yes," she agrees, looking up only when the bird takes wing. "They take all the good nesting holes. This garden is for tits. We need all the bugs to eat."

As with anyone else exchanging more than the briefest greetings with Aelia, Vhaerys tilts her head by a fraction and considers the placement of the girl's pronouns. "Frightening the sparrows into flight one at a time," she suggests, "may not prove the most efficient method. A shame Visenya took her dragons away — they kept down the pests marvelously," she muses, with a sharply wistful note in her voice as she recollects the sight of those magnificent young creatures basking upon the pavilion's dome of sun-heated glass…

"But then they might burn the good birds," Aelia tells Vhaerys, with a hint of disapproval. "You can't just have no birds. Then your flowers will get worms." She puts her fists on her hips. "And the tits will have nothing to eat."

"I should prefer too few birds to too many," maintains Vhaerys, that ardent opponent of mess; "the servants can easily search the garden for worms and their eggs." Leaf by leaf. With no thought of the time spent.

The handmaiden behind her can't quite hide a crestfallen look.

Aelia frowns up at Vhaerys. "That would be very silly. Then your servants are too busy and the birds are hungry. And they die. And there is no reason for it."

"The birds," Vhaerys explains, her tone hinting at patience running dry, "have the rest of Oldtown's gardens in which to eat supper; and with fewer of them here we should have a cleaner and quieter garden to stroll in. The number of birds who sing pleasant songs is far exceeded by the number merely shrill or raucous, as I'd imagine you of all creatures, Aelia, must know."

She doesn't pause long enough to allow the girl to answer her before changing the subject to more agreeably dynastic matters. "And how is your dear brother today? He tells me that he shall soon make you a bride."

"I don't want to stroll in any gardens without birds," Aelia says firmly, not to be deterred by smooth conversational pivots. "The Hightower has a garden with birds /and/ butterflies and little hummingbirds with tiny, tiny feathers like jewels and they let me go there to look at them and they give me suet cakes." She seems to think this will perhaps jar Vhaerys into thinking a /little/ harder about her bird policy. "Jurian went out today," she says. "To talk to merchants or buy something. You need to buy a lot of things for a wedding."

Vhaerys has never seen the butterfly garden and perhaps never will. She appears wholly unimpressed by the idea of it — not to mention the suet cakes. "Indeed," she observes on the subject of weddings, "new clothes and jewels, and all that shall be wanted for your wedding feast… If you and Jurian were setting up a new household of your own you would want linens as well, plates and goblets and cutlery, hangings and carpets, and a thousand other beautiful new things. But you are to remain here in Oldtown, I understand…? The manse is so well-provided I shouldn't imagine you'll be put to any difficulty."

"Yes," Aelia confirms, giving herself a delicate little shake as if to put her ruffled feathers all back in order again. "And then when Father dies we are to go back home again. And then Jurian will be the lord there. And I will see all the people I said goodbye to." She hops from one spot on the path to another. "Where do you belong? Is your father still alive?"

"My father passed away many years ago," explains Vhaerys politely; "I keep a home here and another in the Crownlands, though I prefer to remain in Oldtown most of the year for the warmth of the climate, and the convenience of having the world's largest library so near at hand… the Citadel," she adds to this pert child who shows no signs of having had a literary education. "Do you like to read?" she attempts, not expecting a gushing affirmative.

"You choose by warmth?" Aelia asks, but it's hard to tell just what she thinks of that. She's interested in the next topic. Although she is also interested in the way the hem of her skirt moves when she twists at different speeds. "Some books," she answers. "Others I don't understand."

The twirls of Aelia's skirts reveal another interesting flower, which Vhaerys and her shears step nearer to inspect. "Perhaps as you grow you will learn to understand them," she suggests diplomatically, taking hold of the stem of her chosen flower and eyeing it from all angles before her next crisp snip.

Aelia looks up, taking a step back from the approaching Vhaerys and her scissors. "I don't think so," she says. "People give me the kinds of books I like."

"Then I," says Vhaerys, "shall give you a book which you may not like, but which will certainly improve your mind." She is an ambitious woman. "If," she adds, eyes narrowed in challenge, "you have the patience to read it."

"The chick of a tit is born blind," Aelia replies, smiling. "And the mother sits on her eggs all day. She does not even get her own food."

Is it a 'yes, please'? Is it a 'no, thank you'? Is it merely a remarkably plausible prognostication regarding Aelia's own future offspring by her dear brother Jurian? Vhaerys considers the girl, and smiles kindly. "You must give my regards to Jurian when you see him, and my commiserations on the shopping." Snip. "I do look forward to seeing the two of you married," she goes on, prowling nearer again to Aelia, examining roses one by one. "It will be charming to see another traditional Targaryen marriage in this age when so few young princes and princesses still wish to follow the customs of our house."

"Yes," Aelia agrees, smiling at Vhaerys. "I think it will be very wonderful and glorious. We are a good match, you know. Our children will be very beautiful. I hope some of them live."

Her shears upraised and gleaming in one gloved hand, and the stem of a fragrant red rose held delicately in the other, Vhaerys lifts the flower to her nose and inhales with an air of sensual satisfaction. She holds that breath and then lets it out and smiles. "I'm certain, my dear," she says soothingly as she places it in the basket at her elbow, "that some of them shall."

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