|The Seasons Change|
|Summary:||Despite her earlier denial of winter, Marsei is optimistic for the change when it means a return to charitable traditions. Dhraegon looks forward to the answer to an important question he's been waiting on for some time.|
Maidenday Gardens - Starry Street
The Maidenday Gardens are perhaps the loveliest of Oldtown's public gardens. The gracious footpaths are paved in white stone and lined with with flowering trees and rosebushes bearing pink and white blossoms. The beds alongside them are thickly planted with narcissus, lily-of-the-valley, trilliums and wood anemones. An occasional arbor arches over the path, supporting a clematis or wisteria, a virgin's bower or a honeysuckle. Most of the flowers are pale or blushing, but splashes of bright yellows, purples, and blues are not uncommon. True red is all that is absent. In the evenings little lamps hang from slim iron posts to light the paths.
There are benches here and there, and pavilions enshrouded with flowering vines. There are also shrines to The Maiden throughout the garden. They feature statues of stone or wood, some painted, some plain, some large, some small, some dressed in real clothing. All are beautiful and all have a little altar before them. While this is a public garden the rest of the year, on Maiden's Day it is closed to all but maidens. Those girls who feel the ritual at the Sept is not enough to express their piety may, under the watchful eyes of the Septas who maintain this place, light candles at these altars and sing more of their songs of innocence.
Dhraegon is dressed very similar to Marsei in fabric and style, only with the huge sleeves and highly structured torso design he favours. He has a wide basket full of nut bundles at his feet and is carefully tying a bundle of nuts in a handkerchief high up in a tree, giggling. Flox stands with Siva and more supplies, within calling distance, but far enough to give privacy. They and several well placed guards prevent any curious onlookers from disturbing them.
Marsei is happy to be once again gracing the Maidenday Gardens the day after her last visit; rather, she is graced by the gardens, always so pleased to be in one of the city's gems so cared for and special to the sept. And, of course, to the Maiden. For all her consistent denial that winter was on the way, she's cheerful as can be about the chance to uphold the charitable traditions. Early, as the case may be. She carefully circumnavigates the precious foliage, holding the skirt of her gown — a favoured shade of blue — just to her ankle while trying to tie a bundle next to Dhraegon's branch. "I wish we could do these things all the time," she comments, the most merry lamentation there ever was. Meanwhile, she has severely overestimated her ability to reach the branch, lofty above her head. "No fair," she says, the tone carrying from the last and with added humour, "You can practically reach all the branches. Oh well; someone needs to provide for the short."
This is Dhraegon's first Autumn in Oldtown, and so his glee at taking part in Hightower traditions has him with his nuts out early, as it were. He puts his hands at her waist and lifts her giggling, so she might reach a higher branch, "Are there any traditional nut carols we ought to be singing? I want to do all the traditions the right way!"
Lifted, Marsei gives a shrill little squeal that quickly turns into delighted laughter that rings pure through the gardens. She hurries to tie the bundle of goods on while she has the chance; and, speaking of doing it right, her rush to do just that causes a couple of hard-shelled nuts to slip from the bundle. Well-the squirrels need charity too! She ties it up deftly enough. "Oh— " She has to think about carols. "I don't remember any— but there is a song about preparing for winter. I don't think there are any nuts in it. But it's not cold enough to sing about winter."
Her delighted squeal has him grinning his biggest and goofiest grin and laughing along with her. He sets her down carefully, lightly kissing the top of her bright head, "It is definitely too soon for us to sing winter songs. There is time yet for things to grow." He is studying her carefully, too polite to ask the thing that's been on his mind for months now.
Marsei's toes are barely on solid ground for a second before she plucks another bundle from the basket and skips toward another tree across the path — but she whirls about in the middle to look again at Dhraegon. "Turnips," she points out airily, smiling. Deeper consideration swims behind her gaze, behind the merriment, hesitant to come to the fore. She goes to Dhraegon, reaching for his hand. "I know it's my answer you wait for…" she says apologetically. Her voice quiets, and so softens. "But have you come to any … any new feelings about it?"
Dhraegon collects another bundle and follows her so his might be in the tree with hers. He looks genuinely confused, "Turnips?" His mind had wandered from Autumn and Winter crops to more personal things and it takes a little time to catch up, but he does, taking her hand in his own. He asks very seriously, "Do you carve neeps in Autumn here?" Then he blushes and looks down, "I worry for your health, my Asphodel, but I… like the idea of children with your eyes and smile." The other thing is left unsaid, but is in his eyes, "It is your risk and so must be your choice. Some women go into confinement and never come out. The… the tilling I think can be managed." He is blushing to his ears.
Up until 'risk', Marsei's expression is warmed, listening to Dhraegon. As colour pinks his cheeks and all notions of turnips are forgotten (more the shame), her instinct is to go to his side and wrap her arms about one of his, leaning, a small pillar of reassurance. Even while her own conflict dances across her delicate features. "I know, but…" she says, quieter still. "As it turns out, I… I am not so good as choosing by myself. What I am good at is talking myself in and out of things in circles." Her eye catches sight of a statue of the Maiden down the garden path and she turns her forehead against Dhraegon's arm. And there's a new concern to add to the growing list: "And what would your family think?"
Dhraegon lightly strokes her cheek, "I admit, the idea of a child born of… who I love best is… exciting, and I think…"
A pair of maidens approach from the direction of the sept; a few quiet words from Siva and Flox direct them the long way 'round. They don't mind. It's a treat to spy the unusual pair of the Clown Prince and the Flower of Oldtown embracing the charity of the season and wondering what it must be they talk about while standing so close. Perhaps Siva and Flox wonder too: out of range, they look at each other and back at their beloved nobles. Dhraegon has wrapped Marsei in his wing like arms.
"I suspect they'll each think another of them stepped in to… to solve the issue," he's telling Marsei. It wouldn't be the first time. I'd be surprised if you hadn't already had offers."
"U-um…" Cheek against Dhraegon, Marsei looks up almost timidly, mouth open, as if to say something on that point, but decides there are more important matters at hand. "It's not just that. There are those who … well, I— I am not certain they would look kindly upon more children with Hightower blood and the Targaryen name." It's a difficult thing for Marsei speak in a vaguely negative light toward anyone, let alone certain Targaryens, and her struggle shows through her worried brows and circumspect, wondering words. "Princess Vhaerys acts as though we lock you away in the tower."
Dhraegon sighs and nods, "And it's my fault you were in that position. I will need to speak to her. I am thinking…I might have been contagious and we didn't want to panic people. How do you think she might take that? The problem is she's a healer, so might have been willing to risk… Oh! Perhaps it was for her protection?" He sighs, "She's my closest family and she worries. I should have thought of her coming to check."
"A healer… she seems so sharp and clever — I think she would see through it. But you know her best," Marsei says, earnest in looking to Dhraegon's opinion as well. She's barely held one conversation with the woman. Even so: "It isn't your fault, though; it isn't why you were away, it's where, and who with. She would see it differently if I were a Targaryen. I know everyone does not think that way, but — "
But there are some, with Princess Rhaenyra above them all.
Dhraegon sighs and nods, "She's very sane, really. People underestimate her because of her brother, but she's quite stable now that she sees him." He drops his voice, "It was bad before, but she's fine now. Better than I am, really." He nods, "It is important to keep the blood strong, but if we don't graft now and then, we end up with people like me or Jurian or Maelys, and we need more like Viserys or Daevon if we mean to carry on…." He looks worried at how she will take this next, "You know that if we do the thing we are discussing, your children will never ride dragons?" He smiles gently, "Do not worry about the Princess." He has a thought: "Did Vhaerys mention Princess Rhaenyra?"
Worry frets around Marsei's lips as she tries to interpret Vhaerys through Dhraegon's assessment of her, and pinches deeper when he mentions Maelys. It passes into bewilderment and a reassuring smile when it comes to the next part. "I worry enough about my niece and nephews being dragon-riders. It would be a relief," she says, proving herself to be of far different blood, indeed. "Oh— no," she goes on wonderingly, "I only spoke to her for a few moments, really."
Dhraegon kisses the top of her head, charmed as always by her, and pleased by her difference, "I never wanted to ride, and I do not mind that our children don't." His tone grows sad, "She and her brother were riders and when she lost all at once, dragon and husband brother…. We nearly lost her. Now she sees her brother again, she is better. It's best to include him in conversations and set him a place, even though we can't see him. She's very clever and sensible, and very devoted to the bettering of our House. I wish she were more open-minded about grafting, but she means well and she and her brother were very much in love. It is hard for her to understand why anyone would something different than she had." He strokes her hair, "I know I am luckier than I ever deserve to be in you, My Bluebell, and I'd not trade you for a sister even if I had one. That is hard for her to see."
The tale of Vhaerys is both a tragic and strange one, and perplexing to take in stride. Marsei certainly does her best, winding up really rather fascinated, but it is Dhraegon who holds her admiration. She looks up fondly, touched by such words every time. "I know it is … your opinion that matters more to me than any of theirs now." Still, part of her can't help but worry for the fate of a child born between two worlds, two families — powerful allies with powerful forces among them. And isn't that a mother's way of thinking?
Marsei wraps an arm about Dhraegon's midsection, squeezes, steps back from the comforting wings of his arms and smiles. With a cheery rattle of the bundle of nuts, she turns to cross the path to scatter more good fortune among the trees.
She halts again— just long enough to stare wide-eyed into the myriad flowers, bursting with life in the face of winter. The septas walking the far edge of the garden. The innocent, benevolent face of the Maiden at the far edge of her vision. She turns all of a sudden, her face alight in the spur-of-the-moment. "Let's try it!" she exclaims exultantly, a dizzyingly buoyant split decision. "Let's have a baby." Her eyes dance and glitter with as much thrill as nerves: she can hardly comprehend what she's saying, but rushes on, eager. "One way or another. But, wait— !" She hurries to Dhraegon, reaching a hand way up to press a finger to his lips, hers smiling nearly ear to ear. "Not a word on it, or I might change my mind." Before she can truly hear a reply, she runs, quick as a hummingbird, and more girlish more than ladylike, into the gardens.
Dhraegon says fervently, "I think any child of yours can't help but be loved by all or at least most." He adds the last bit thinking of Vhaerys. He follows her with another wee nut sack to hang. Then her decision breaks over him and he is chasing her, wanting to sweep her up to lift her spinning, laughing with delight.