(123-11-13) Highgarden Tourney Afterparty
Highgarden Tourney Afterparty
Summary: And a gathering of spectators and contestants slightly later in the day, when the latter have had the opportunity to wash.
Date: 13/11/2016
Related: Follows on from Highgarden Tourney.
Players:
Olenna..Deirdre..Arros..Bryce..Rhaeyn..Valaerys..Brynden..

A long, winding, many-hued (but mostly yellow!) arbour of roses, planted in pots and trained to climb up over delicate trellis-work, leads from the viewing stands set up for noble spectators to one of the many gardens surrounding House Tyrell's seat. Later there will be a dance, beneath a grand coloured silk pavilion set up in the next garden along; the music played by little groups of musicians tucked away here and there at calculated distances from one another hint at the evening's pleasures to come, whilst here long trestle tables have been draped with rose-embroidered cloths and laden to groaning with the best of House Redwyne's vintages, and all the rest of the Reach's late summer bounty. Whatever can't be preserved must be eaten, and isn't this the perfect occasion?

The scent of roses hangs intoxicatingly in the air, wherever one may wander. The tourney contestants, highborn and hedge knights alike, are shown this way to join the company of spectators, at least once they've washed off the dust of the lists and changed out of their ox-armour; Lady Tyrell, an older woman in her house's colours and jewels befitting her station, to whom offering such hospitality is second nature, is in constant motion amongst her guests, introducing one to another and congratulating all who rode so bravely.

Lady Roxton found Lady Deirdre Trant so useful a second shield against Tyrells that she has retained her company; led by the hand by Sallei, who walks just ahead of her and occasionally murmurs advice such as, "One step up," or "A little to the left, my lady, there are rose bushes," she's still in conversation with the Stormlands lady on her other side. "… I have quite lost count of all these northern rebellions," she remarks, in some dismay; "House Glover's, was that the first or the second?"

Deirdre decides to walk at Lady Roxton's other side in the hopes of helping deflect tipsy people who might jostle her new acquaintance. She hasn't much in the way of useful Reach gossip herself, but is up on the larger politics, "I think the raiders came first, but I don't know if they count as a rebellion, since it was only that one lord commander was technically a turncoat, wildlings being wildlings. So would Glover count as first or second? Then there was the Skagos revolt and that whole Winter Rose thing that turned out to be nothing… At least I think. We were all more taken up with the trouble in Tarth. It's like something out of a Story with all the murders and intrigue, though it's said that Lord Baratheon will weigh in soon as he is said to have been fond of his sister and that Lord Delwyn resembles her."

The muck and mud from the tourney has been washed off of Arros, and his white armor has been replaced with an elegant black sandsilk tunic with a low v-neck that shows off a sliver of his toned bronze chest. He wears a spicy masculine scent, in Dorne even the knights are unafraid of perfumes, and he carries himself confidently despite how out of place he must feel in the heart of the Reach. Despite the animosity between their people he is still the picture of courtesy. When he comes near Lady Tyrell he bows in a courtly manner and tilts his head down respectfully, but he doesn't speak. Bastards may speak to whom they like in Dorne, but he is savvy enough to know his limits here. For the most part, at least.

At first, it very much looks like the Stark runner up is not going to attend the post Tourney festivities. Truthfully, he'd just had things to do. Mostly, that had been convincing Sentinel that the world wasn't ending simply because he'd had to be in a kennel for a few hours. It is a testament to the wolf's disbelief that when Bryce does arrive, the dark direwolf is by his side. His own clothes are cut in a Northern style, but are made of fabrics much more popular in the South. Heavy silk, soft linen, a richly indigo tunic that pulls color to his face nicely. Honestly, he's actually quite nicely put together. People did whisper that his Targaryen wife had much say on his wardrobe, but who knew how true that was? For now, it seems he's content to remain quietly to the edge of things, considering those present and finding himself a glass of wine.

The wind blowing between the fertile Reach and the sandy wastes of Dorne has changed direction many a time in the four and a half decades of Lady Tyrell's life; and with the heir to House Tarly murdered at Starfall in the days after a tourney much like this, only a tissue-thin explanation forthcoming, and the dead man's house still desirous of redress from Ser Arros's very kin, the Dornish bastard is fortunate he's among people with manners.

There must not, there cannot be a scene in front of the cream of the southern nobility, and all those Targaryens besides. And so when the man cannot be dodged any longer, when he presents himself so for her attention, Lady Tyrell pastes on a perfect social smile and greets him. "Ser Arros Sand, is it not? It seems we must congratulate you," she says pleasantly, "upon your skill at arms and your sportsmanship both… The Golden Rose is always honoured by the feats of a true knight." She does not, however, offer him her hand to kiss.

The fine distinction Lady Deirdre draws between rebels and turncoats prompts a drawing-in of Lady Roxton's breath; with a murmured word she concedes the point. She has relaxed somewhat under the influence of whatever was in that pottery flask, not to mention its friend in Sallei's other pocket; but as the ladies pass through another unfamiliar garden (Seven heavens, how many gardens are there?) she tilts one ear this way and then the other ear that way, picking out what familiar sounds and voices she can amongst the hubbub, giving an unavoidance impression of mild anxiety. "Tarth?" she asks, not that Lady Deirdre seems to require much prompting! "I have not heard that tale either… You must think me very ill-informed," she laughs uneasily, knowing it to be the truth; "in each kingdom we have our own preoccupations, I think, and sometimes we dwell upon them to the exclusion of all else…"

Sallei leads the way to a cushioned bench, and places her lady's hand upon the arm of it: from there Lady Roxton manoeuvres herself gracefully enough, finding a seat and smoothing her glowing sky-blue silk skirts. She has been letting Lady Deirdre do most of the explaining: she does lean down to murmur to her lady, "Oh, there's Ser Bryce Stark — he's just about a dozen paces away, and to your left, milady — and Sentinel." Both of them wave: Lady Roxton uncertainly to the Stark lord, Sallei boldly to his wolf.

The look on Arros Sand's face is absolutely congenial. However, there is those little things to read into the exchange. When Lady Tyrell doesn't offer her hand to be kissed he doesn't insist. He keeps a very respectable distance from the older woman, and while it is out of courtesy it appears to be something else. Still, he is nothing but polite when he says, "Yes. Thank you, Lady Tyrell. It was an honor to ride, and I am grateful for the opportunity." His words match his spicy scent in sound, smooth and rounded out by his Dornish accent. His courtesies paid he bows again, and if the Lady Tyrell looks away from him he turns to grab a goblet of wine.

People in general and ladies in particular are giving the Stark lord and his direwolf a wide berth; whispering follows in their wake.

Honestly, Sentinel gets whispers. Bryce on his own gets whispers. A Stark, this far South? A Stark that was an anointed Knight? It happened, but it was rare. Let them whisper, it didn't seem to bother Bryce any. And as for the wide berth, that usually led to less endless blathering on. Really, there was no loss for him here. Someplace in this tangle of party, his wife probably floats somewhere, but Bryce does not even attempt a show at being her keeper. She was a dragon, there was no changing that, and dragons would do as they liked. It's Sentinel that notices the women first, though. Long taught that puppy-ish behavior got favorable responses. So when Sentinel trots quickly over to Sallei, it is with wide, golden eyes and excited chuffing. Bryce laughs quietly, following behind the wolf only by a pace, and offering a bow of his head to Olenna. "Lady Roxton, it is good to see you again." He says, warm and friendly, letting Sentinel say hello with wiggles and very quiet noises.

"An opportunity you did well in seizing," agrees Lady Tyrell, still smiling; "it's not every fellow who gets up and rides again after taking so hard a fall, is it? You have our sincere congratulations," she repeats firmly to the Dornish boy, "and you may be sure you're welcome at Highgarden to enjoy your victory. You'll attend the dance this evening, of course? It's apt to go on past dawn," she promises, with a touch of pride; "some of our guests like to say it's the real test of a fellow's strength," she chuckles. Then her eye wanders over a passing direwolf and she exhibits just a taste of true dismay before drawing her attention firmly back to Ser Arros. Has e'er a hostess been quite so tested?

Deirdre laughs softly, "It's Stormlander gossip and likely less interesting to folk living so far away. It is said the brother of the Old Lord of Tarth, killed him and his wife. That was Lord Baratheon's sister, the wife of the Old Lord. The uncle was regent for the Old Lord's heir, who had an 'accident' that likely wasn't just as he came of age, leaving the uncle the Lord of Tarth. Only rumors started going round that the murdered lad had turned up in Oldtown, or his ghost. It'd make a fine mummer's play, wouldn't it? Only it wasn't a ghost, but the dead lad's younger brother whom the mother sent into hiding with a nurse, and he and his other cousin and all have been trying to get the lad's birthright back…. Oh!" She bobs her head for the Stark lord. "You did ride very well! Two unhorsings!

Of course there are plenty of personal servants interspersed among the noble guests, as well as the Tyrell retainers in green and gold refilling goblets and attending to other requests, great and small; but Sallei is the one having the nicest time, and the one perhaps most at her ease in such great company. She curtseys to Ser Bryce and then drops straight away to her knees on the grass to greet her four-legged friend in the style he appreciates, and with none of the terror which attended their first meeting. Namely, she scritches Sentinel's big wolfy ears with both hands — and gives him a hug into the bargain. Incidentally demonstrating to onlookers how safe a companion the beast really is.

Lady Roxton's lips part to remark upon the Tarth business, but then northern matters take first place again. "Good day to you, Ser Bryce," she says with genuine pleasure. "May I make you known to Lady Deirdre Trant, who is visiting from the Stormlands?" Her hand describes a figure in the air, only guessing at where the Stark lord is standing but managing to indicate very neatly the lady seated on the bench at her side. "We have been discussing your northern troubles of recent years," she admits; "it seems fortunate, now, that House Stark can spare you to our company and Highgarden's tourney. I think we must congratulate you — I didn't see," she smiles crookedly, "but Sallei and Lady Deidre told me how well you rode. Is it difficult, in such heavy armour?"

Arros takes a swallow from the goblet as the Lady Tyrell speaks. "See Loryn is an excellent knight." He says of his fall. "It was luck that handed me victory today. Not skill. Ser Loryn or the Northman could have bested me under other circumstances. I remember Ser Loryn from Oldtown. I believe we met very briefly before he was knighted, and in a few years he's grown into the stuff of legends. You must all be very proud of him." His smile widens a touch. He has a nice smile; it lights up his unusually colored indigo eyes and shows off his straight teeth. "I would be glad to dance, My Lady."

Deirdre eyes the wolf curiously from under her veil, but keeps her delicious fingers to herself. She bobs a curtsey to the Stark lord on being properly introduced.

Sentinel is exactly thrilled. Bryce might not mind the whispers and the wide berth, but Sentinel got itchy with everyone being afraid of him. Which, well, it was a fair thing. Direwolves aren't dogs. And if he was pushed, or Bryce was threatened, there was no doubt the direwolf could be a very real threat. But it seems the Northern wolf tamer has socialized him incredibly well. He ends up on his side in front of Sallei, side heaving with excited breathing.

His person, though, gives little thought to the direwolf's antics. "You are gracious for the introduction, Lady Roxton." Bryce says with a smile, eyes shifting to Deirdre easily. "It is a pleasure, my Lady." Though he does catch the turn toward Sentinel. "That is Sentinel, my companion. He will not harm you unless you offer harm yourself." Spoken with absolute certainty. Then, though, he laughs just a little, nodding to Olenna. "Difficult? In its own way, but it's not really the armor that makes it so. It just makes anything but riding difficult. Nevertheless, thank you, your congratulations is appreciated." As for being spared by his House? Well, he'd moved South for a reason.

Those kind words for her nephew go down well, as they're calculated to do; "Yes, we're very proud of how well Ser Loryn has acquitted himself in the field lately," Lady Tyrell assures Ser Arros, and is that something bittersweet in her gaze? "… Though I shouldn't think he'll be competing with you for dancing partners tonight," she goes on; "he has eyes only for the lovely new bride he's brought home to us. I don't know whether you're acquainted with Lady Miranda…? Well." She smiles. "Perhaps you'll meet her this evening. You'll excuse me, I'm sure," and she takes a step back, politely extricating herself; "I must go and console a few of our runners-up. Good day, Ser Arros."

Deirdre says, "Any creature, no matter how tame might do harm if provoked, but I've no plans to provoke. He is a pretty beast though, your Sentinel."

"I have not met Lady Miranda, but it is heartening to hear that Ser Loryn has found success outside of the field." When she excuses herself Arros bows to her yet again, "Thank you for your hospitality, Lady Tyrell." He turns then to have another swallow from his wine and drifts towards the last competitor and his massive wolf. "Does it do any tricks?" He asks with a wry little twist of his lips.

Surrounded on three sides by her beloved Sallei, so congenial a tourney expert as Lady Deirdre, and a Stark lord who's oddly soothing company to a woman accustomed to Ser Laurent Tyrell, with thorny rosebushes as a shield for her back and Sentinel as an outer bulwark, Lady Roxton is quite beginning to enjoy the party. This part of the party, anyway. She nods seriously to Ser Bryce's talk of the pros and cons of tourney armour: "When Lady Deirdre explained it to me I realised I… didn't know the difference, between armour forged for one purpose and for another. I thought of how many tales and poems I have read describing famous tourneys and great battles in history, and I wondered—" She falls silent at the interjection of Ser Arros's unknown voice; her head tilts his way, her lovely blue eyes gazing past him unseeing.

"I'm sure he will appreciate the flattery…" Bryce says, glancing down to the wolf in his flopped state, "When he's done being a giant puppy." He shakes his head, settles into listening to Olenna. It brings a smile to his face, her interest. He could go on about armor for awhile if given then chance. Out of his peripheral vision, he even notices Arros' approach, and after a well won tourney, that even warms his thoughts. All of that warmth, however, dies quite suddenly at the Dornishman's question.

It's an odd thing, this dichotomy that comes from the Stark. Outwardly, there is little change. His stance stays exactly the same, easy, socializing, a glass of red wine held lazily in one hand. No tension through his shoulders, perhaps some in his back, where he was compensating from bruised muscles in his chest, but that was it. But his eyes, blue like northern ice, turn just as cold as they turn to Ser Arros. And his tone is… Well, it's polite, but it is terribly distant. "Sentinel is most certainly not an it. He is capable of a great many tasks, but direwolves are much too intelligent for something as trite as tricks."

Unless one counts annexing other people's maidservants for his own as a trick; this, Sentinel has accomplished, and it's only belatedly that Sallei notices Ser Arros and rises again as though to get between her lady and Dornishmen — as she used to get between her lady and direwolves… Her sky blue linen frock is all over wolf hair, which she surreptitiously tries to brush off.

Lady Roxton is still silent, awaiting an introduction by the new voice. Sallei leans down to whisper, not quietly enough that the others couldn't overhear: "It's that Ser Arros Sand, milady, who won the jousting…"

The tilt of Lady Deirdre's head suggests she is studying the Dornishman from under cover of her veil. She speaks softly, likely to herself, "I was betrothed to a Dornishman once, but he fell into the sea…."

Arros is briefly distracted by the gaze from the blind woman. He looks back, as if he isn't quite sure that he knows what is wrong with Lady Roxton's eyes but can tell something is wrong, before he bows to the Lady. She cannot see him do it, but courtesies must be observed. Contrary to what some will say the Dornish are not animals.

He is distracted again by Bryce's receptive of his question. He grows more serious and says, in as best a disarming manner as he can, "Forgive me, Ser. I speak out of ignorance. I thought they were legend. He is a fine and noble creature."

Deirdre's voice is soft, but he still catches it. He gives the woman a broad smile, "I hope not to fall into the sea, my Lady."

Bryce nods, and seems to warm again quite readily. "It is forgiven, then." He says to the Dornishman. Honestly, he's never been one for grudges, and if people could accept correction that well, he certainly wasn't going to go looking for one, either. "They're rare these days, south of the Wall, but no, they are not legends." The chuffing, wiggling mess of wolf on the floor to his side was quite proof enough for that. He smiles simply, and drinks. "Yes, we can't have you bested by the sea after besting all of us. It would bode poorly for all of the sea-based tade for the year, surely." Was that a joke? It's delivered a little too dryly to be sure, but one might think it. "Though I think I might be the most well acquainted with you, Ser Arros, though it was only a tourney field's introduction. But may I introduce you to the Lady Roxton and Lady Deirdre Trant?" It's the best he can really manage without more familiarity all around. Viserra normally does this part.

Deirdre tilts her head, says with gentle amusement, "That is wise Ser… Arros, it was?" Her veiled gaze turns towards Ser Bryce, her tone is friendly, "And what brings you so far south? An urge for adventure? Business? Curiosity?"

Lady Roxton has never before met a Dornishman — let alone been betrothed to one! — her pale pink lips make an 'O' of surprise and fascination at Lady Deirdre's words, but in such mixed company she doesn't dare ask, however much she might like to. She is still for a time, listening to the play of voices about her, judging the position of each of her interlocutors; just as she's supposing she really ought to untie her tongue and find a pause in the talk in which to introduce herself, Ser Bryce relieves her of the obligation: the reserve in her features is softened by a smile. "Thank you, Ser Bryce… Ser Arros, how do you do?" she asks, lifting a hand from her sky blue lap and offering it uncertainly to the Dornish knight, as Lady Tyrell did not. "Congratulations upon your Golden Rose," she adds; "I am told it is lovely."

Making a proper entrance is half the fun of these kinds of affairs and thankfully the sheer number of people in the small garden space has warmed the immediate atmosphere enough that she's allowed one of her handmaidens to take the fur from about her shoulders. Doubtless she will not be able to remain without it, but for the icy starlight princess, the proper first impressions must be made. This venue is, at least, a little more appropriate for her elaborate attire - not much, but a little. She steps into their little society function on her brother's arm, as is appropriate, but the looseness of the hold says she doesn't expect him to stay so close for long.

Rhaeyn is quite content to enter in, notably late, on Valaerys' arm. But honestly, who told dragons they were late? With their arrival handled, though, and the loose hold his sister has on him, the Prince grins. Leaning to press a kiss to his twin's cheek, he flits off to mingle in the circulating groups of partygoers, like a dragon taking to the sky. It's where he belongs, milling with people, idle chatter, drinking, laughing… Having people wonder how the young man who was just right there is suddenly across the garden. He never stays in one place long, but the pleasant chatter seems to linger in his wake.

Arros laughs a little at Bryce's joke regarding losing him to the sea. "You rode well, Ser. Better than I did, actually. Luck handed me victory. Not skill." After the compliment is paid he turns his attention to the ladies as they are introduced. "I am quite well." The first thing Deirdre may notice is Arros' accent. His words have a rich tone to them, and it sounds exotic while sounding nothing like an accent from Essos. When she holds out her hand he takes it. His hands are calloused like most other noblemen who pursue the martial path, but they are soften than a laborers. His scent is different as well; exotic and spicy and yet more masculine than the perfume a woman might wear. He bends down to kiss Lady Roxton's hand. "It is a pleasure, my Lady." He then repeats the process with Deirdre, but steps back when she excuses herself.

When the Targaryen twins enter his eyes fall on Valaerys. He drags his eyes away from her and says, "Oh yes. Would you like to hold it?" This is said to Lady Roxton, but he sounds awfully distracted.

Bryce smiles, letting Olenna and Arros mingle for a moment. He has need to fetch a new glass of wine anyway. But when Arros is momentarily distracted, he glances over his shoulder, noting the incoming Targaryens, and seeming to understand. But it doesn't hold his attention for longer than that, as the northern lord seems to settle into comfortable quiet.

The lady from the Stormlands excuses herself from the company with the mention of a shawl she wishes she had brought from her chamber, for the day is beginning to cool; Lady Roxton is briefly distracted, herself, by bidding farewell to her new friend and earnestly entreating her company later on at the dance, she incorrectly assuming a lady still in her widow's weeds will be content to sit at the side and enjoy the evening's music.

But then Ser Arros reclaims her attention with his intriguing spicy scent, still teasing at her sensitive nostrils — and his offer, which surprises and unmistakably pleases her. Dark eyebrows lift even as a smile transforms her features with a new loveliness. "I should like that," she confesses, and when the fanciful jeweled bloom arrives in her hands she explores each petal with clever, delicate, respectful white fingertips. Sallei, leaning over her shoulder from her station just to the side of the cushioned bench, murmurs which jewels are rubies and which emeralds: the rest Lady Roxton can gather on her own. (She herself is wearing sapphires at her ears, and another in the form of a ring on her right hand, balancing the golden signet on her left.) Her eyebrows lift again as she tallies the number of stones and guesses hazily at their likely cost: "What a precious gift… The Tyrells do great honour to their guests." A beat. "Perhaps they were hoping Ser Loryn would win…?" she suggests in a low, guilty voice, out of Tyrell earshot — she hopes.

With Rhaeyn safely launched into his evening games, Valaerys is in a position to turn to her own pursuits - though there is perhaps a strangeness in the way she approaches her first target, this towering Stark knight. The closer she comes, the straighter her back, the more measured her steps, the farther back her shoulders rest. None of it ever goes so far as to appear unnatural by any stretch, but the difference is there for those inclined to watch long and closely enough. "Ser Stark," she offers, voice as light and sweet as a child's. "Congratulations are in order. It is rare to see sport that can call itself both well-fought and clean all in one go."

Arros watches Lady Roxton feel the Golden Rose with a curious expression of his own. Perhaps blind noblewomen are just as unfamiliar to him as Dornishmen are to her. He lets her touch it and hold it as long as she'd like without reaching to take it away. It is precious and worth a lot, but he's not so bent on greed that he won't show the fine trophy off. "I am surprised Ser Loryn didn't win." He admits gently to Lady Roxton's quite musings. He then chuckles a bit, "Then again I am always surprised when I win that I set my mind on another man taking victory." As the Princess approaches Ser Bryce his attention shifts to her again. He looks as long as he dares before glancing downwards.

Bryce had been quite content with his quiet drinking. Lady Roxton had proven to be relaxing company on a number of occasions now, and this allowed him to watch the circulation of people about the garden. It let Sentinel remain passively on the grass, which tended to have people worry less. He honestly isn't expecting to get approached by his some variety of cousin by marriage. Nevertheless, the Princess gets a smile and a bow of his head. "Your Grace." Comes a relatively passive, but warm, greeting, "Thank you. I am glad you found the sport worthwhile."

Late in arriving from the tent where he removed his armor, took a bath and tended to sore muscles, Brynden has been here a little while, although he's just been staying in the background. Now he looks around more carefully, although he doesn't approach anyone yet.

The civil dip of Bryce's head earns him one in return, though the way such things are taught to ladies it becomes almost a shallow dip of her entire upper body to the accompaniment of soft rustling as skirts brush at browning, brittle grass. "You are most welcome." It's a true enough sentiment, though it is the smile that brightens her face which shows that more than tone or message. She takes another step closer so as to facilitate the continuation of what promises to be pleasant conversation, but with the increase in proximity comes a sudden draining of what little color resides in her pale face and a bobbing tension in her throat as she swallows convulsively against what might almost be seen as a bout of nausea. That step forward is recanted, though there is at least a genuine apology in her face. "I had hoped to inquire about your magnificent charger, Ser Bryce, but it would appear that to so monopolize you now would be unpardonably rude." She has some practice at smoothing over these sorts of social snags. "Another time, perhaps." And with a sharper nod than perhaps she'd intended, the Targaryen princess sweeps away in search of wine and a moment to breathe before attempting the harrowing process all over again with the next and the next and the next.

Ser Arros's surprise is immediately comprehensible to Lady Roxton; she nods her head, the golden chain woven through her looped dark braids glinting in the glow of the coloured glass lanterns Tyrell servants are moving through the gardens and lighting one by one ahead of the oncoming dusk.

"It must come at least as a pleasant surprise…?" she suggests to him. "More so, surely, than being certain of one's victory only to…" But she trails off, recollecting too late that that's the runner-up's direwolf still sprawled at her feet, redolent of clean fur and panting lazily after the manner of canines, betokening the presence of his master very near. She smiles and offers the Golden Rose back to its owner, held carefully upon both her palms. "It's a remarkable piece," she says sincerely; then, daring to tease, "and I'm certain the Dornish lady who receives it from your hands to keep, will treasure it as a memento of your victory today." She has one ear tilted towards Ser Bryce's low voice and the unfamiliar tones of… a princess? But again she prefers listening to offering an immediate introduction; missing the sight cues which guide others through such occasions as this, she errs on the side of caution.

"Winning is always a pleasant surprise." Arros says with a chuckle of agreement, and he reaches forward to take the Golden Rose from Lady Roxton carefully when she offers it back to him. His attention is completely on the woman in front of him now instead of the woman behind her. He chuckles again before he says jut as teasingly, "My lady mother treasures all of my trophies." This is said a little self-depreciatingly, as if he's joking about the lack of women willing to take such a gift from him. If the lady had sight she could see this is clearly not the case. "Roxton…from where do you hail, my lady?"

Lady Roxton's empty hands sink into her lap, there to clasp one another; her bell-shaped sleeves have fallen away again to show her finely-wrought golden cuff bracelets, two other superb pieces wrought by Tyrell jewelsmiths, did her companions but know it. "Oh!" And she laughs, enjoying his jest. "I'm sure she must… but perhaps in time you'll gather so many that you'll be obliged to share them between your lady mother and another…?" she suggests.

She answers his polite inquiries, inevitable as they are, with a few brief words which hint at her unusual position in the world. … Well, unusual for Westeros. Dornish houses pass often enough through the female line, don't they? A reflection which lends her confidence in speaking so to him. "My castle is called the Ring," she explains, giving the word a capital 'R' which can be heard in her voice as well as glimpsed in the slight but proud lift of her chin; "it is but a few days' ride from Highgarden. And you, ser? I'm afraid I don't remember much of my lessons in Dornish heraldry," she confesses, "but you wore… whitened armour, did you not? With a purple star?"

The question is for her maid Sallei as well, who puts in a soft: "Yes'm."

Brynden's steps take him over in the direction of the Dornishman and the lady, without him really having noticed that it does. When he notices the two, however, he steps the rest of the way over, taking a few moments to offer a grin to Arros. "That was some good riding, Ser," he offers.

"Perhaps in time." Arros says in agreement, but there is a subtle hint of sadness as he says this that he tries to push out of his voice. He seems to welcome the chance to speak of her keep instead. "The Ring. How descriptive in so few words." This is said genuinely, and a smile can be heard in his voice. "My father was Lord Dayne, and I wear his colors, but I serve under my stepfather Lord Uller." He explains as if he's had to unweave the complicated web of his relations more than once.

Lady Roxton's well-honed ears detect that note of sorrow in the Dornish knight's voice and she appears pensive as she nods to… not him, precisely, but a point just beyond his left elbow, but the thought is there. Her demeanour lightens again in speaking of the home she loves, now more than ever her own domain: "It is just as you must imagine it," she promises him; "one can walk round and round through all the points of a compass, from the sept all the way through the barracks and back again, without ever coming to a wall and turning round. And so I do, sometimes, on rainy days," she confides, "if I am… restless." A mild word for the moods which occasionally take her, to be sure.

There's a small silence at the end of his explication of his heritage and his colours, as though the lady is hopeful of hearing more — but it seems this is another for her bouquet of unsated curiosities, gathered one by one throughout the day's festivities. "… And did you come to Highgarden just for the tourney," she asks for a moment, "or on your uncle's business?" Then she colours, her cheeks turning as rosy as her lips. "Forgive me," she laughs; "you mustn't answer if you don't wish to. I can't see," she explains, "and so I am used to asking whatever it is I want to know, and sometimes, like any lady I suppose…" That soft soprano laughter fades. "I ask too much."

Brynden smiles as he listens to the conversation, glancing around at the various people present. There's a brief shrug as he does so, expression turning a bit distant for the moment.

Arros' smile widens as Lady Roxton tells him of her castle. "What an ingenious design. Most of our castles are of First Men and Rhyonish design save for in the Red Mountains where Andals settled, and they are either squat and ugly or completely different from anything here. I am always impressed by the castles in the North." At her question he laughs a little, "I am here for the tourney. And because I was asked to come, but not by my step-father." He hesitates for a moment before he says, "Prince Torren is interested in peace. He is of the opinion that familiarity will help it along. So…" He smiles, "How do I put this? More…ah, polite knights are being encouraged to travel north for tourneys."

He spots Brynden and calls out, "Well rode, ser!"

It is the work of a few moments - a slice of time in a quiet corner with a glass of wine and the soothing white noise of the person most well-acquainted with Valaerys' particular burden - but the young princess does, in fact, begin to circulate among the guests again, out where she can see and (more importantly) be seen; where she can be seen to smile and laugh and flirt and play as all young dragons are wont to do from time to time. She hasn't quite made it around to the dashing young Dornishman and his companions, but she'll make it there presently.

The light dawns upon Lady Roxton, figuratively speaking.

She exhales a soft "Ah!" of understanding and twice nods her dark head. "I think perhaps you have done fine work today for your prince," she suggests, gauging it simply by how pleasant he has been to her; "and if you've inspired envy, perhaps you may yet have opportunities to soothe it…? If I should ever host a tourney I'll be certain to invite you, ser, and your most polite friends — though without such prizes to inspire you," she laughs, "I shall have to hope my very round castle is attraction enough!"

Brynden offers a brief grin to Arros as he hears the man's words, shrugging a little bit. "Thank you. I had hoped to do a bit better, but all in all, considering I have not spent as much time training lately as I should have, it was not too bad." A brief moment of pause, before he adds, "But then again, my biggest reason for coming here was not chasing the win, I must admit." Looking to Olenna, he offers her a polite nod and a smile. "I'm sorry for stealing some of the good Ser's attention from you, my lady."

"I hope I have." Arros says with an easy smile and a swallow of wine, and his smile widens at Lady Roxton's last words. "I would enjoy seeing your castle. You must have fine hunting grounds. I resided in Oldtown for a time, and served the Princesses in residence. The land quite bountiful. In Dorne when we feel like having a hunt we have to chase snakes and scorpions with spears." The last part is said jokingly, "Nothing else is mean enough for the desert."

"We were all even matched. It could have gone to anyone." Arros says to Brynden, but he sees the pale Princess in the crowd again, and his gaze follows her for a minute. It makes the direction in which he speaks as off as Lady Roxton's.

The nod and the smile are alike wasted upon Lady Roxton; though when the unknown knight whose voice she heard nearby a minute or so ago speaks again, addressing her, she turns her head to look past him instead of past Ser Arros. It's the best she can do, shy of speaking herself, to reassure someone who doesn't know her that she is paying attention. (Those who do know her, know she's always paying attention.) Sallei, who has since knelt down again to collect yet more grass stains and wolf hairs upon a dress she's resigned to laundering anyway, rises to rest a hand on the arm of her lady's bench and murmur to her: "The Hightower knight, milady, Ser… Ser Brandon?" she guesses.

"… But I have no particular claim upon Ser Arros," Lady Roxton protests lightly after a moment to gather herself; "for my part you are most welcome to whatever you need of his attention, ser." With Sallei so uncharacteristically uncertain she doesn't risk the name; she silently curses Maester Tirius for the combination of altruistic impulses and subsequent exhaustion that have kept him from her side today. To Ser Arros she admits, "I don't know whether my hunting grounds are more or less fine than those of my neighbours, but perhaps you shall find out one day, Ser Arros, and tell me! We eat venison from my woods now and again — but then," a whimsical smile, "we eat rabbits, too."

Brynden nods a little as he hears Arros speaking, he offers him a brief smile. "Ah, but you won the day, Ser Arros. That is the most important thing, isn't it?" A brief pause as he looks to Lady Roxton again, nodding a little. "All in all, I just wanted to congratulate him on his win," he offers, before he looks between the two. "It must be an interesting place, Dorne. I have never been there, I fear."

Arros' gaze upon her is an almost palpable thing, given the way it has found her again and again this day. Valaerys becomes aware of it almost the instant it falls upon her and like any good dragon blossoms under it - her migration through the garden becoming a performance in and of itself - with motion and posture and pose and angle set in just such a way. It's a harmless enough sort of exhibitionism and moreover it's fun, but it also means that by the time the princess approaches their little group, there is color high and rosy in her cheeks. "Aha, so it is here the victor has been hiding." Nevermind that the party is hosted in a space not at all suited for him to have actually been out of sight. Her voice is light and playful; a bit of hyperbole can be surely forgiven. "There was a moment, good ser, where we quite thought you would be through." She clicks her tongue in a sympathetic noise, though there is nothing but wicked delight in her vivid violet eyes.

Arros falls quiet while Lady Roxton and her maid try to determine who Brynden is. Since he does not do introductions he clearly doesn't know, either. "Perhaps I will." He says with a broad smile that carries warmth in his voice. To Brynden he says, "I found the Hightower most grand and exotic the first time I saw it. Anything we are unfamiliar with is interesting. And thank you."

But then Princess Valaerys is approaching, and she seems to steal his attention. When she is near him he bows, "Your Grace." His voice seems to grow more warm and soothing, the honeyed tones of his accent rounding out his words and giving them body, "Had I known you were looking for me I would have been at your side." There is a slight tease there as well. Enough to hint at impropriety without being inappropriate. He takes a swallow from his goblet, "Did you hope I would be through, Princess? Ser Loryn was rather…ah, dashing today."

And as another voice sounds amongst the little group gathered about the bench where she sits, Lady Roxton's own is no longer heard. Sallei's whisper offers nothing but her ignorance — and an unknown, unmet princess, whose name has not yet been spoken, is too great a social conundrum to be solved all at once. The Lady of the Ring sits discreetly listening, her hands clasped neatly in her sky blue lap and her fringed shawl of golden silk not quite slipping off her shoulders, while her sightless eyes gaze irrelevantly off into the garden.

Lady Tyrell has been circling among her guests, taking pains to unite the wallflowers (and even, ruthlessly, a few of the whispering pairs) with larger groups, to feed the general sense of companionship and merriment: Lady Roxton and those around her seem to be doing all right on their own, and thus don't come in for her particular attentions, but it's her unheard order which sends a trayful of goblets of red and white wine to wet their throats.

"True, Ser Arros," Brynden replies, offering the man a smile, and a chuckle. "I suppose anything we are unfamiliar with truly is interesting." There's a brief pause as he notes the silence from the Roxton lady, before he seems to realize something. "I hope you will forgive me my lack of manner, my lady. I forgot to introduce myself. I'm Ser Brynden Hightower." Another brief pause, before he looks over to the approaching princess, offering her a polite nod. "Your Grace," he offers, without adding anything else, since he isn't too familiar with all the Targaryens that have been in the Reach lately.

As predicted, there is a handmaid who appears at Valaerys' elbow, draping the cloak over her shoulders before falling back and somewhere near Sallei. And while Vala reaches to pull the garment closer around herself as fingers disappear into soft white fur, her handmaid makes a point of whispered nuance to Lady Roxton's attending woman, dealing with those little things her mistress is often remiss in offering herself. That this is the Princess Valaerys, eldest child of Prince Aegon, who so happens to be the King's brother of diplomatic renown. And while her servant is being helpful, Valaerys herself is doing rather the opposite. She comes close to Lady Roxton first, though her initial address had been to Ser Arros and there is a moment wherein she freezes entirely - does not even breathe - but it passes, as do all such things, and with it over she finds some bastion of safety in standing here, where she can perhaps avoid two more repetitions without even the appearance of being rude. "Hope? Goodness, you give me too much credit if you believe I hope for any particular outcome in these sorts of games." It's spoken lightly, dismissively, though certainly not with any unkind intent. It is often the way of the young and pretty, this kind of carelessness. Perhaps she can be forgiven. "No, I only truly noticed because I have never before quite had the privilege of being the reason someone ended up entirely un-horsed." And that smile goes just a tiny bit crooked. "Tell me, was it myself or my brother who so distracted you?" Careless; careless laughter, careless teasing, careless dismissal. Even so, Vala had been raised to the height of society, and so Ser Brynden's civil greeting earns him one in return.

Some men might be embarrassed by Valaerys' teasing. Or bristle under it. Or become angered. Arros only looks more intrigued with her. He smiles an easy smile as she laughs, and while it is mostly polite there is a bit of a predatory quality to it. "Maybe it was both." He responds smoothly, and in a voice low enough that it is meant to coax out a blush from the Princesses' cheeks. He then adds courteously, "Have you met Lady Roxton and Ser Brynden Hightower?"

The blind lady appears to have drifted into a trance upon her bench, so intently and yet expressionlessly she listen to those near her — but, spoken to, she reacts at once by shifting slightly upon her cushions to face the origin of Ser Brynden's voice. "How do you do, Ser Brynden?" she inquires, unlacing her fingers from one another and offering him her hand with cautious grace. "I had the pleasure of passing several days in the Hightower not long ago, when I first visited Oldtown…" And, seeking some pleasantry, some compliment, she confesses, "I had the impression that your gardeners were in rivalry with the Tyrells' to see who might produce the most glorious fragrances. I think it must be a pleasure to live there always."

In whispered conference with the princess's maid Sallei casually makes the point that though her lady lacks a famous father, she is Lady Roxton of the Ring not by marriage but in her own right — a rare distinction among the ladies of Westeros, and one of which her servant is justly proud.

"The gardens at the Hightower are quite lovely, yes," Brynden offers to Lady Roxton. "I missed them quite a lot in the years I was away in Darkdell." Another brief pause, before he adds, "I must admit I have been better, though. But coming to take part in the Tourney here has helped quite a bit." As he hears Arros introduce them to the Princess, he offers her another polite nod, and a smile.

When Valaerys had departed from his side, Bryce had a moment to blink, to think, and then… Well, there had been another Targaryen stealing his attention. This one, however, was not built like her cousin. Sturdier, vibrant, those who keep track of such things would know her to be his wife. And with how easily she earns his focus, that's likely little surprise. The goings on of the party had past him by while he talked quietly with her before she slipped off back into the circulation with no small amount of affection sent to him. So when he refocuses on the party, he takes a moment to get his bearings again… And another glass of wine.

Both? "Indeed." And if Arros is looking for pretty blushes on such a topic, he will be sadly disappointed. "In which case, good ser Knight, I can offer both our congratulations on a contest well won. And such a pretty prize for your trouble." It's a particular kind of teasing that she enjoys and employs, though given her nature it seems highly unlikely that there is much in the way of forethought involved. "I have not yet had the pleasure. Lady Roxton, Ser Brynden, I am delighted to meet you both."

"Thank you, your grace-" Arros looks poised to say something else, but just then his squire rushes up and tugs on the sleeve of his sandsilk robe, and murmurs something into his ear. He gives his squire an annoyed look before he says, "Fine. Tell him I'll be right there." He looks up apologetically before he says, "Forgive me. It seems I am needed." He bows first to Valaerys, and then he holds out his hand so he may kiss hers.

Next in the chain of whispers is Lady Roxton herself, to whom Sallei confides the name of the unknown princess and a brief description she's careful to confide to her lady's ear alone, leaning in so close she has a noseful of softly shining dark hair. She has checked the tray of goblets the Tyrell footman is offering about: "There's red or there's white, milady," she explains, in a more audible, though rather doubtful whisper. At a little shake of her lady's head she suggests, "Shall I ask him for a proper drink?" … The shake becomes a nod; "Thank you, Sallei," the lady whispers, smiling faintly.

Of course then the maid has to step carefully round the direwolf lounging at Lady Roxton's feet, and give his fur a fond stroke on the way. She goes up on tip-toes to whisper to the tall footman in the green and yellow tabard, while Lady Roxton, feeling Sentinel shift and brush against her skirts in response to Sallei's passage and her caresses, reaches out an absent hand questing for wolfish ears which seem to meet her fingers halfway. "You were away from home a long while?" she inquires politely of Ser Brynden; then, hearing the princess's voice, she turns her comely face and useless eyes toward the point in her permanent darkness from which it issued and adds, "A pleasure, Your Grace."

"Many years ago, on my path to the knighthood, My Lady," Brynden replies to Lady Roxton, before he offers a smile and one more nod to the princess. "It's a pleasure and an honor, Your Grace." As Arros starts to leave, he offers the man a brief smile. "Take care, Ser."

After a few minute reorienting himself, Bryce decides his direwolf has the right of this night. Pick a spot and stay there. He may as well pick the spot with Sentinel. So over he strides, smiling faintly, and giving nods to those who are still, or have arrived to, this knot of people. "I hope he's not been a menace to you, Lady Roxton." Bryce says, but with a tone that says he is not only doubtful that he did, but that he is mostly amused by Sentinel's making friends.

The airy sigh Arros' sudden departure draws from Valaerys is simultaneously dramatic and playful. "You I shall forgive this once, though you should warn the man stealing you away that such mercy does not extend to him." It's so primly stated that it can't help but sound just a little like a child playing at being entirely grown up, but all the same the princess steps forward and places her dainty hand in his. She pauses again - similar to the way she'd done when approaching Lady Roxton at first, but instead of tension, it is a minute shiver that runs down her spine and leaves violet eyes darker when they look down upon the man bowing over her hand. Trouble. Oh, trouble.

By now there are wolf hairs on Lady Roxton's elaborately embroidered silk gown, as well as all over her maid's simple linen — but, unconcerned with her appearance, she smiles down at the lupine muzzle resting on her knee and gives a little shake of her head. "He is charming, my lord," she answers Ser Bryce, "once one begins to know him. I think," and she lowers her voice, hoping he still can hear, "I envy you him, a little — I imagine nobody stands too close to you when he is there, no matter how crowded a party may become." This one is sizable — and spilling over from this garden into the lanternlit pavilion where the dancing has begun — and with the red and the white flowing in glorious unison the noise hemmed in by rosebushes and late-flowering trees only grows and grows. Speaking of picking a spot, since Lady Roxton arrived she hasn't budged from the safety of her bench, where nobody can get behind her!

The footman returns with a single glass upon his tray, generously half-full of fragrant amber-hued whiskey. This he offers to Sallei, who takes the glass and presents it to its proper owner: "Your whiskey, milady," she whispers, and Lady Roxton's free hand rises from her lap to claim it with a grateful smile.

"I shall convey the message, your grace." Arros says to Valaerys with an amused little uptick of his lips. He looks utterly charmed with the slight Princess. When she places her hand in his he bows his head to brush his lips against the top, and his thumb strokes her wrist briefly. He looks up into her face before his lips leave her hand and his eyes, a similar violet shade but much darker than hers, meet hers. When he stands up straight there is a broader smile on his face than when he won the tourney earlier. "Goodnight." He says in a low voice to her before he draws away. "Goodnight Lady Raxton. Ser Brynden and Ser Bryce." This is said louder, and then he turns to walk out of the garden and towards the tents.

When the Dornish knight at last tears himself away from the Targaryen princess Lady Roxton says quietly, "I'm so glad to have spoken with you, Ser Arros. For all the tales I have heard of Dorne, you're the first Dornishman I've met… I hope we might have another moment to talk while you're at Highgarden; I should like to hear more of your land from one of its own sons. But I mustn't keep you — good evening, ser." And she smiles a farewell in his general direction, and avoids the faux pas of offering a hand which won't be taken simply by dint of having her own quite full of whiskey and wolf-ears.

Brynden has gone silent again, taking the moment to sip his red wine. His gaze has moved to Valaerys and Arros, before he looks around the room once more. "Have a good night, Ser Arros. Hopefully we will meet again soon," he offers to the man.

"See that you do." But it's an order offered in the same quiet, breathy tone that a more intimate goodnight might be. And the little dragon does watch him leave, but when he is gone turns to the others as though he'd never been there at all. It is key, you see, to focus on the people and not the enormous sprawl of fluff and death there at the lady's feet. "Is not Dorne only a pleasant ship's voyage away from Oldtown, Lady Roxton?"

As another mouthful of whiskey burns its way gloriously down her throat Lady Roxton pauses, uncertain how to address this. At last she ventures, diffidently, "I am not certain of the length of such a voyage, Your Grace — perhaps you would know that better than I? — but I think perhaps I should not find it so pleasant." Her tone is regretful without verging on apology.

"It should not be too far, I believe. It would depend on what part of Dorne, of course," Brynden offers, after another thoughtful ship of his wine. "A bit longer than the trip to the Arbor, if one were to go to the nearest parts of Dorne one could reach by ship." There's something in his expression as he mentions the Arbor that looks a bit distant, but it's gone after a few brief moments of pause.

Reaching for the tray of a passing serving boy, Valaerys plucks a goblet of red wine, holding her cloak close with the other hand and taking a moment to turn slowly, drinking deeply and enjoying the background sounds of not-so-distant music and of immediate and surrounding merriment. "And is Oldtown not a hub of commerce - of trade borne on the crest of the sea?" she asks, that same light tone of nigh-childish curiosity.

There is a nod to the departing Ser Arros. "I am glad he has delighted you so." He says, and he does legitimately seem glad. Sentinel getting a reputation as not a terrible, murderous beast would make his life a lot easier in a number of circles. The less writing ahead he had to do, the less headaches he would get, and that made things so much better. And then he settles to listen, seemingly content to do so.

Sentinel's reward for being such a good boy continues; Lady Roxton's fingers linger in his fur, instinctively responsive to every shift of his head, every tiny suggestion that he ought to be scratched here, or rubbed there, or that she is (Seven forfend) insufficiently enthusiastic and ought to step it up a bit. She has been smiling rather more since he turned his attention to her from a Sallei too busy (and too self-conscious in the presence of a princess!) to go on worshipping him as he believes he deserves. Pets are so soothing.

"He has," she says simply to Ser Bryce. And then Valaerys resumes her quizzing, and again she hesitates before answering a question which just seems off somehow. Isn't such a thing common knowledge anywhere in Westeros? Is there a trap here, somewhere, which she is about to fall into? "… I have always been told that Oldtown is the largest port in Westeros, Your Grace," she murmurs. "Perhaps Ser Brynden could tell you more of the city and its ways…?"

Brynden nods a little slowly, as he finishes his glass of wine. "True, it is a hub of commerce," he offers, words spoken a bit quietly as he looks between the others.

Lady Roxton sits quietly apart from a soft word of praise for Sentinel, and drinks in the conversation along with her ample supply of whiskey.

There's a smile that sadly Olenna will miss, though it is for her. Sentinel was sometimes more a fluffy son to him, there's a quiet pride provided in his good behavior. Which, the direwolf does, in fact, seem to be quite content to just sit quietly and be petted. But there's a look that Bryce turns to Valaerys then. It's almost inquisitive, but a little too observant to be outright questioning. There's a subtle smirk then, a twitch at the corner of his mouth, at this childlike curiosity. But he muffles any other reaction for her in his glass of wine.

Valaerys continues in her slow turn, engaging in conversation between sips of dry wine while perusing the organized chaos around her. It's not anywhere approaching the realm of how responsible grown up ladies deport themselves in polite society, but there's an innocence to it that acts as buffer for most censure - no matter how well-intentioned. "So, as I understand it then, Dorne is but a short journey from Oldtown by sea, Oldtown is, in fact, a world player in trade and commerce by sea and - you'll forgive me, Lady Roxton, for the assumption, but one could hardly be the much-contested Lady in her own right without having spent at least some extended exposure to Oldtown…" Coming to a stop again facing their little group (though careful to stay in her corner between the two people now considered mostly 'safe' for the moment) Valaerys is so careful not to look down at the fantastic fluff ruff or the fanciful sound triangles or any of the other parts that make up the wolf on the floor. She may very well be stupid, but she's not stupid. "One must wonder, then, Lady Roxton, at the peculiar twists and turns your life must have taken if indeed Ser Arros is the first Dornishman to make your acquaintance."

Ah, these games… Bryce just listens, drinking his wine, letting words hang in the air. But when it becomes obvious that his cousin has made the point she intends to, and the Lady Roxton has other matters she need focus on for a moment, he takes the opportunity to redirect some of this conversation. Perhaps those who sat in the boxes had now, but Bryce had enough sport for one day, at least for now. "Your Grace," He begins then, putting on his own air of curiosity as he begins, "Earlier, you'd expressed that you had something to ask about my courser. The party was rather more busy then, but now that things are rather more quiet…" It's an invitation, and earnest one, even if the redirection is not terribly subtle. Then again, he's northern, what did anyone expect?

Raising an eyebrow momentarily as he listens, Brynden shrugs a little to himself. Nodding a bit at Bryce's work on redirecting the conversation, before he looks around. "I should retire for the evening," he offers to them all. "Been a long day, after all."

Brynden's withdrawal is addressed first, with a shallow dip and a very civil, "Good evening, Ser Brynden." And that would be that, except that there is a very unsubtle Stark doing a hard left on the conversation and… well, Valaerys hates rewarding such things - just on principle, mind - but, well, he's picked just exactly the right subject. "A courser? Goodness, the dapple grey looked large enough to be a proper charger, but I suppose that's of little consequence. Which line of stock does your mount descend from?"

Brynden's departure gets a nod and a lift of Bryce's glass. Then, though, there's a light laugh. "She's stock from up near Winterfell." He says, "Been with me for a good while, was my training horse for years. I've started to take her out to tourneys now that I train with her less, give her something to do." There's another drink of his wine. "Seems an interesting thing to pique your curiosity."

"I want one." It's a simple answer followed by Valaerys draining the last of the wine from her goblet. "We had to leave ours when we made the crossing and I've had an eye out for good horseflesh for a little while now and your mare is delightful." But now she's on the hunt for another glass of wine and so stepping away from the remains of their little group. "I'd love to meet her properly, weather permitting. I'll send a note to 'Serra." And with that, the dainty princess is lost behind a small crowd sweeping off to the dance floor and isn't easily spotted again.

"I'm sure that can be arranged." Bryce says with a small smile. His mare was a precious thing, fussy but not delicate. Not unlike another woman in his life, if he thought about it. And as Valaerys departs, he just shakes his head. Mutters, "'Serra" under his breath, even. Nicknames, oh his wife would ruffle so. Nevertheless, he turns his attention back toward Lady Roxton and his direwolf, seeing if her business has concluded. If he was going to start picking up dropped threads, after all…

When the young princess's cannily-constructed series of questions reaches its crescendo Lady Roxton's porcelain complexion bleaches white as parchment.

She doesn't speak, at first — her maid Sallei saves her by kneeling again and leaning close and affecting an urgent question regarding the direwolf, the nearest subject to hand. A whisper or two, and then Ser Bryce rides to the rescue, as it were, with talk of fine northern horses, and between the one lady's distraction and the other, and the remainder of the whiskey in her glass, Lady Roxton gathers herself from her initial discomposure.

She is on the verge of shaking off her silent brooding with some carefully-nursed remark when the dragon takes wing; instead she sighs, vexed and relieved all in the same breath, and having kept careful count of footsteps coming and going and being sure enough that the Stark lord and his wolf are the only ones left by her, she murmurs with unexpected sarcasm: "As I understand it, that young lady is a princess of royal birth and a niece of King Viserys himself. One must suppose she has had extended exposure to the court and its ways — how curious then that the twists and turns of her life have kept her from making the acquaintance of a little tact, wouldn't you say?" But perhaps he wouldn't, and she draws in a breath and sighs, "Thank you for speaking when you did, ser. I didn't trust myself to answer her."

Lady Roxton sits quietly apart from a soft word of praise for Sentinel, and drinks in the conversation along with her ample supply of whiskey.

There's a smile that sadly Olenna will miss, though it is for her. Sentinel was sometimes more a fluffy son to him, there's a quiet pride provided in his good behavior. Which, the direwolf does, in fact, seem to be quite content to just sit quietly and be petted. But there's a look that Bryce turns to Valaerys then. It's almost inquisitive, but a little too observant to be outright questioning. There's a subtle smirk then, a twitch at the corner of his mouth, at this childlike curiosity. But he muffles any other reaction for her in his glass of wine.

Valaerys continues in her slow turn, engaging in conversation between sips of dry wine while perusing the organized chaos around her. It's not anywhere approaching the realm of how responsible grown up ladies deport themselves in polite society, but there's an innocence to it that acts as buffer for most censure - no matter how well-intentioned. "So, as I understand it then, Dorne is but a short journey from Oldtown by sea, Oldtown is, in fact, a world player in trade and commerce by sea and - you'll forgive me, Lady Roxton, for the assumption, but one could hardly be the much-contested Lady in her own right without having spent at least some extended exposure to Oldtown…" Coming to a stop again facing their little group (though careful to stay in her corner between the two people now considered mostly 'safe' for the moment) Valaerys is so careful not to look down at the fantastic fluff ruff or the fanciful sound triangles or any of the other parts that make up the wolf on the floor. She may very well be stupid, but she's not stupid. "One must wonder, then, Lady Roxton, at the peculiar twists and turns your life must have taken if indeed Ser Arros is the first Dornishman to make your acquaintance."

Ah, these games… Bryce just listens, drinking his wine, letting words hang in the air. But when it becomes obvious that his cousin has made the point she intends to, and the Lady Roxton has other matters she need focus on for a moment, he takes the opportunity to redirect some of this conversation. Perhaps those who sat in the boxes had now, but Bryce had enough sport for one day, at least for now. "Your Grace," He begins then, putting on his own air of curiosity as he begins, "Earlier, you'd expressed that you had something to ask about my courser. The party was rather more busy then, but now that things are rather more quiet…" It's an invitation, and earnest one, even if the redirection is not terribly subtle. Then again, he's northern, what did anyone expect?

Raising an eyebrow momentarily as he listens, Brynden shrugs a little to himself. Nodding a bit at Bryce's work on redirecting the conversation, before he looks around. "I should retire for the evening," he offers to them all. "Been a long day, after all."

Brynden's withdrawal is addressed first, with a shallow dip and a very civil, "Good evening, Ser Brynden." And that would be that, except that there is a very unsubtle Stark doing a hard left on the conversation and… well, Valaerys hates rewarding such things - just on principle, mind - but, well, he's picked just exactly the right subject. "A courser? Goodness, the dapple grey looked large enough to be a proper charger, but I suppose that's of little consequence. Which line of stock does your mount descend from?"

Brynden's departure gets a nod and a lift of Bryce's glass. Then, though, there's a light laugh. "She's stock from up near Winterfell." He says, "Been with me for a good while, was my training horse for years. I've started to take her out to tourneys now that I train with her less, give her something to do." There's another drink of his wine. "Seems an interesting thing to pique your curiosity."

"I want one." It's a simple answer followed by Valaerys draining the last of the wine from her goblet. "We had to leave ours when we made the crossing and I've had an eye out for good horseflesh for a little while now and your mare is delightful." But now she's on the hunt for another glass of wine and so stepping away from the remains of their little group. "I'd love to meet her properly, weather permitting. I'll send a note to 'Serra." And with that, the dainty princess is lost behind a small crowd sweeping off to the dance floor and isn't easily spotted again.

"I'm sure that can be arranged." Bryce says with a small smile. His mare was a precious thing, fussy but not delicate. Not unlike another woman in his life, if he thought about it. And as Valaerys departs, he just shakes his head. Mutters, "'Serra" under his breath, even. Nicknames, oh his wife would ruffle so. Nevertheless, he turns his attention back toward Lady Roxton and his direwolf, seeing if her business has concluded. If he was going to start picking up dropped threads, after all…

When the young princess's cannily-constructed series of questions reaches its crescendo Lady Roxton's porcelain complexion bleaches white as parchment.

She doesn't speak, at first — her maid Sallei saves her by kneeling again and leaning close and affecting an urgent question regarding the direwolf, the nearest subject to hand. A whisper or two, and then Ser Bryce rides to the rescue, as it were, with talk of fine northern horses, and between the one lady's distraction and the other, and the remainder of the whiskey in her glass, Lady Roxton gathers herself from her initial discomposure.

She is on the verge of shaking off her silent brooding with some carefully-nursed remark when the dragon takes wing; instead she sighs, vexed and relieved all in the same breath, and having kept careful count of footsteps coming and going and being sure enough that the Stark lord and his wolf are the only ones left by her, she murmurs with unexpected sarcasm: "As I understand it, that young lady is a princess of royal birth and a niece of King Viserys himself. One must suppose she has had extended exposure to the court and its ways — how curious then that the twists and turns of her life have kept her from making the acquaintance of a little tact, wouldn't you say?" But perhaps he wouldn't, and she draws in a breath and sighs, "Thank you for speaking when you did, ser. I didn't trust myself to answer her."

Really, Bryce had been just about to ask about what it was that Olenna had been wondering earlier. It would be pleasant. Companionable. Friendly, really. But he'd decided to take just a moment to drink again. The wine was just starting to really make itself known, pleasant sunshine ringing in his head. The moment shatters in a thousand pieces very suddenly, and Bryce near chokes on his wine. In fact, his hand comes to his mouth, and if he was just slightly less composed, it really probably would have been a mess. The sudden action makes Sentinel lift his head, and Bryce steels himself, his shoulders easing again until the direwolf finds his peace once more.

"Lady Roxton," He says then, quiet, voice a little hoarse from his choking, "You have met my wife, have you not?" Speaking ill of his own cousin-by-marriage really wasn't going to win any favors. "She grew up on Dragonstone, as Princess Valaerys did." That's where he leaves that subject though, because he really doesn't want to have to get any more explicit than that.

The sound of Ser Bryce's wine going down the wrong way inspires Lady Roxton to concern; she can't see if he's all right so she asks, anxiously, shifting on the bench with her hand still upon Sentinel's head, "Ser, are you—? Sallei, fetch him water," she directs, and with a glance full of misgivings the maid obeys, stepping away to inspect footmen's trays in search of one of the evening's least prominent and least abundant liquids… And then he is all right; and he explains as best he can without surrendering his hold upon that elusive quantity, tact; and she begins to laugh aloud.

"Oh," she gasps, "that's quite a small island, isn't it…? Oh," she says again, with that ripple of mirth still in her voice, "I think I understand, now. But I don't know what she meant about — did she say, contests? Did I hear her aright?" She shakes her head and sighs. "It's true I have spent little enough time in Oldtown, and during a period when Dornishmen were scarce in the city after that unfortunate business of the Tarly heir at Starfall; I have lived on my lands," she says simply. "I had not been to a tourney, either, until today — what would be the point of it, for me?" is her frank question, spoken with a shrug. Then a happier thought occurs and she changes the subject without waiting for an answer. "Ah, but I remember — Ser Bryce, I had the idea that when I saw you again I might be so bold as to ask you a favour."

Poor Sallei, off on a wild goose chase for water. He doesn't need it, clearing his throat using the last of this glass of wine. It's… A good amount of wine still in that glass, the long pause and the sound of swallowing probably clue in at least a little to his draining it. "That is… A perfectly legitimate reason to have not known a Dornishman." He says, almost sighing, it's the safest thing for him to answer to immediately. After which, the Stark falls silent for a long moment. "But I think you misunderstand me, my Lady." He says, shaking his head and shifting his weight to one leg, "I was attempting to request that perhaps I may not be the best accomplice to commiserate with upon the insult of my family, not attempting to explain the Princess' behavior." She may not have paused for his answer, but he's giving it anyway. There's another small pause then, though, and he takes a small breath before asking, "What is this favor you seek?"

When Ser Bryce doesn't quite let her shift the talk away from the late contretemps, Lady Roxton is quiet for a moment. She fills the empty place beside her on the bench with her empty glass, and clasps her hands neatly in her lap. "… Perhaps you supposed I meant I understood you yourself better," she says slowly, "when it was your lady's cousin and her behaviour I had in mind. There is, I think, less harm in her than I supposed and a deal less experience of the world. You and yours have been offered no insult today, my lord Stark; and if you believe you have been in truth it is better then that I ask no favours of you. I will find another way, easily enough."

Sallei does indeed return to stand about rather uselessly with a glass of water to neither of the nobles' taste at present. After a moment she kneels by Sentinel and offers it to him, in case he's thirsty.

Sentinel will, in fact, indulge in water. All of this two-legged foolishness was exhausting just to sit and be privy to. Thirsty work, being a direwolf at a garden party. In the Reach. It was hot as you like down here.

Bryce, though, he just sighs. "That is not what I supposed at all." Is all that he answers in return. A passing tray of wine is eyed, but the Stark thinks better of it. "I should turn in, I think. There has been a lot of wine, and the comfort of bed sounds more appealing than much of anything else at the moment."

The Lady of the Ring likewise has had as much two-legged company as she can bear for one day, even with Sentinel's friendship to sweeten it. She rises at last from the cushioned bench which has been her refuge as afternoon turned to evening, and adjusts her shawl about her shoulders; and takes her leave of the direwolf with one more caress as Sallei, surprised and yet somehow not surprised, steps forward to take her lady's offered hand.

"… And I supposed wrongly, too," Lady Roxton sighs to Ser Bryce, "when I imagined you spoke to excuse your kinswoman's discourtesies to one who is a stranger to her — I think we all have one or two relations who warrant it, occasionally," she muses. Though she has one less of those now, if the gossip round Oldtown in recent weeks is anything to judge by. "Shall we blame the wine?" she suggests, her voice and the faint lines about her blue eyes tightened by tension. "Isn't that its chief function on these occasions, to drown blame as well as regret? Good evening, Ser Bryce," she says at last, "and good evening, Sentinel." She nods, more accurately to the wolf than to his master, and Sallei leads her cautiously away through the thinning crowd of nobles, many of whom can be heard laughing and leaping through a lively gaillard in the pavilion nearby.

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