(123-11-15) Thorny Marriage Proposals
Thorny Marriage Proposals
Summary: Loryn and Lady Olenna discuss a potential match with the Thorn of Highgarden
Date: Can't remember
Related: The whole succession plot

The excitement of the tourney has passed and Highgarden's plagues of noble visitors are beginning to drift away to their own lands, or else south to Oldtown — not without regret in some cases, or outright heel-dragging in others. Tyrell hospitality is quite something to bask in.

One who has given no sign of wishing to budge from her well-appointed, flower-strewn suite, unless it be to stroll sedately through rose garden after rose garden, is Lady Olenna Roxton. Led by her maid Sallei, or attached demurely to the arm of one of the several younger sons of good Reach families who seem to pop up as if by magic wherever she happens to be, she must have covered twenty miles in the last handful of days… Even now, resting, she's outside rather than in, savouring the warmth of what summer sunshine remains.

She and Sallei have occupied a carved stone bench and covered it in cushions. The maid is dressed in sober but pretty blue-grey linen and the mistress, for all her rumoured impecunosity, in another sky blue silk gown displaying weeks' worth of skilled embroidery in glittering thread-of-gold. White wrists emerge from bell-shaped sleeves, spanned by golden cuff-bracelets; white hands command a drop spindle turning ceaselessly before her. Her fingers take part in its perpetual motion, drawing fibres of fine undyed wool from a hank of the stuff wrapped loosely about one hand, pinching and twisting, rapidly transforming it into yarn for knitting. Her posture is upright, inclined slightly forward.

Her eyes don't lift from her work at the sound of footsteps coming nearer along a gravel path — well, what would be the point? — but when Sallei leans in to murmur 'Ser Loryn Tyrell', she offers a clear soprano, "Good day, Ser Loryn," even as Sallei is getting up from the bench to curtsey.

Loryn Tyrell hasn't been seen all that much since the tourney. The castle has been rife with gossip though. Something to do with Garvin Tyrell, heir to Highgarden, many whispered conversations and a sudden departure for Oldtown. Why? The tongue-waggers are uncertain. Perhaps something to do with the theatre he had left to Loryn. Whatever is happening behind the fashionably decked-out walls of Highgarden doesn't seem to bother young Ser Loryn though as he strolls through the garden towards the Lady Olenna and her companion. "My Lady of Roxton.", he greets Olenna politely and offers Sallei a saucy wink by way of greeting. "Is Highgarden to your liking? Did you enjoy the tourney? I've come to inquire if I may interest you in a walk towards the river with me?"

Perhaps this son of Highgarden would have liked to kiss the lady's hand in that courtly way of his — but she doesn't cease in her spinning, her hands quick and sure even in her perpetual darkness. Some find this uncanny.

"Highgarden is a delight, of course," she answers, faintly smiling, "and as for the tourney…" A slight tilt of her head, and a dimming of her smile. "It was something new," she pronounces. And then the fingers of one hand pinch off her strand of yarn to keep the twist in it, whilst the other hand swoops down to catch hold of a spindle already laden with a considerable length of the stuff. "I should indeed like to stretch my legs," she admits, wrapping the last couple of feet of new-spun yarn round the spindle with practiced motions and tucking in the end of it. She holds it out before her to be claimed by Sallei and put away in the small wicker work-basket which came out into the garden with them. Then the wool round her hand catches on her golden cuff — she pulls it free and her fingertips hastily explore the bracelet for loose strands, until she feels Sallei's fingers coming to help. Then her own fall away and she just turns over her wrist, this way then that, to let Sallei pick at her bracelet. Wouldn't do to go about with woolly bits caught in one's jewellery.

"It's a beautiful day, isn't it?" she speculates, rising from the cushioned bench with her right hand wrapped again round her left bracelet, just to reassure herself. Not that she doesn't trust Sallei, of course.

Loryn watches the fumbling with wool and yarn and bracelets, relieved that the lady can't see the look of impatience that crosses his face. Reminding himself that she can't see gestures, he tries to put things into words: "Would you walk on my arm, Mylady? I am sure I can safely guide you along the paths and Sallei here can continue your work or at least bring things back into the castle? If you don't mind of course. She can catch up with us later, perhaps. With a little picknick?" He looks towards Sallei, hoping that his suggestion meets her approval.

Another lady and another maid might exchange glances, each reading in the other's features some hint as to what might be preferable: Sallei, kneeling on the grass next to the work basket as she puts her own knitting away with Lady Roxton's spinning, gazes up with an anxiety her lady can't see.

… However, she can guess: "Go on, Sallei," Lady Roxton says after a moment — quietly, drily; "I don't believe my virtue is in any danger this afternoon."

"Yes, milady," says Sallei in a small voice. She gathers up the work basket and bobs another curtsey to the two nobles, accepting her dismissal without quite being happy about it. She has a strong sense of what is fitting, has Sallei. She believes in the keeping up of appearances.

The golden cuff upon Lady Roxton's right wrist glints in the sunshine as she extends her right hand toward the sound of her young host's voice.

Loryn offers Sallei a warm smile with half an attempt to be apologetic. He takes the lady's hand then and gently guides it to rest upon his left arm. "Just follow me.", he offers in a soft voice, nods at Sallei again and begins to lead Olenna away. His steps are slow and careful, gauging how fast he can walk with her keeping up. She'll notice the overpowering smell of roses will eventually fade as they leave the rose gardens behind and follow a small path that winds its way down towards the riverside.

It is only when they are out of the gardens, where potential eavesdroppers may lurk, that Loryn asks quietly: "Will Laurent still join us here in Highgarden, do you think?"

Lady Roxton's hand rests lightly on her escort's arm, as they leave bench and cushions and maid behind; she seems to prefer a slow, cautious pace, but that's well-suited enough to the occasion. The walk, as they're both aware, is hardly the point. "… Perhaps not," she answers after a moment's thought. "Though I hope to trespass upon your uncle's hospitality for another two or three days, my lord, before I return to the Ring. I'm afraid I don't relish travel," she says apologetically; "I always want to put it off a little, and then a little more." Her tone and her crooked smile suggest amusement at her own expense.

"Oh, you are welcome to enjoy Highgarden's hospitality for as long as you wish.", Loryn assures her quickly, "And if you need more guards to accompany you back to the Ring, I'm sure my uncle will be glad to oblige." He pauses as he tries to change tack, but stumbles upon finding the right words. "You and Laurent… uh…. you really get on, do you?", he finally asks, the youthful turn of phrase revealing that he isn't quite the smooth courtier he fancies himself to be.

"You're very kind," murmurs Lady Roxton. As he goes on she lowers her head, smiling at the unseen path beneath her feet. "Your brother has been a better friend to me than I deserve," she says with simple sincerity, "and I hope I shall one day find myself in a position to offer him some repayment for his care of my interests. But I do regret," and she repeats an earlier sentiment in only slightly differing words, "that his kindness to me has kept him from his brother's side, when you had need of him… When I wrote to him several days past, I did mention that you were eager to speak with him upon family business — in case my words might add just a little more weight to your own," she confesses modestly. As though the Thorn doesn't listen to pretty women over foppish younger brothers any day of the week.

"It pleases me to hear that my brother has been such a good friend to you.", Loryn says politely, "It's not someting that would first spring to mind when it comes to Laurent. I do think you have a somewhat… calming influence on him. And he speaks fondly of you.", he adds after a moment.

"Careful!", he warns when the path is suddenly strewn with little stones that might cause a woman to stumble if she can't see them. It also gives him a chance to try and phrase his next words. "It is a pity that it is only friendship you seem to share…", he finally murmurs.

Though she doesn't know at first what to be careful of, Lady Roxton slows straight away at her guide's warning. Her free hand lifts, instinctively, fingers splayed as though to ward off the very idea of danger, and her feet in their thin silken slippers grow terribly tentative in their exploration of the path ahead — hardly rising from it, feeling their way with care.

A line creases her brow, as though Ser Loryn has given her a great deal to think about. "… Oh?" she says at last, inviting him to go on without committing herself yet to any opinion or interpretation.

The danger has soon passed as the path evens out, though she will feel underneaht her soles that gravel is giving way to soft earth and grass. The rush of the river Mander can be heard nearby when it's not drowned by birdsong.

Loryn doesn't continue at first. He isn't good at this kind of thing. So he scratches his neck instead. "Well… he's single, you're single…"

The brief quiet between them suits Lady Roxton as she picks her way forward in an unknown place, on the arm of a man she hardly knows and doesn't wholly trust — but when she has gone several paces without encountering any more of those stones her stride begins to lengthen again, to a merely ordinarily slow and cautious walking pace. When Ser Loryn finally fills their silence with that rather broad implication, she doesn't look surprised. Only… thoughtful.

"… One might almost suppose," she says diffidently, after a moment, "that Highgarden is growing too crowded to contain so many young men."

She might notice that Loryn exhales a bit when he receives a measured response. "I only have my brother's happiness on my mind.", he responds thoughtfully and his tone does sound honest. Somewhat. "I witnessed his very unhappy first marriage. Of course it took two to dance that dance… he is no innocent flower… but even he does not deserve lonelienss for the rest of his life." He pauses again and adds some more warmth to this voice, before saying: "You are good for him. He is calmer and gentler in your company. And I think you appreciate his company too…"

"… Even he?" echoes Lady Roxton, as though something in the phrase strikes her as bitterly amusing. "Come now, my lord," she says then, more firmly, "I feel certain you have a great deal upon your mind in these days, as have I upon my own. My inheritance has proven a troubled one — that's no secret, is it? … I would that he could hear you," and she laughs aloud, and her hand tightens a moment upon his arm, "pleading his case. What would he say, do you suppose? He would make you some obscene suggestion, surely."

"Undoubtedly.", Loryn agrees serenely, "Though don't forget I've known him for my entire life, short as that has been so far. I know that his bluntness and rudeness is often just a mask. A mask he rarely takes off though. Careful -" He warns again, "Lift your feet, there's some wood…" He gently helps her to circumnavigate a large fallen branch on their path by the riverside and stops for a moment to inhale the clear air and scent of wild flowers.

"It's true that I have things on my mind.", he admits, "A lovely young wife I wish to make happy, a new settled married life… hopefully soon enough the pitter-patter of tiny feet… but I suppose it is my own happiness that makes me want to see others happy." He turns to face her directly. "I cannot blame you though, a lady in your positon, with your own title, to not want to be married and be subjected to a man's whims."

The lady catches up a handful of embroidered silk skirts, lifting her hem as a precaution against twigs as Ser Loryn guides her round the branch in their path. "I shall certainly marry," she says simply, as she lets go and the expensive cloth sighs back into its proper place, "in the new year. But I think, Ser Loryn, you misinterpret my motives and my reasons. My house is an old one, but poor — I must act in the interests of my dependents. Not everyone," she adds, "has the freedom you and Lady Miranda enjoy."

This takes him aback a little and he furrows his brows. "Oh? You are certainly getting married in the new year? And to who, may I ask, if not my brother?"

That tone in his voice brings a small smile to Lady Roxton's lips, not quite hidden by the angle of her head. "My lord, you have not been wholly honest with me," she points out, "and yet you expect me to be so honest with you…?"

Loryn tilts his head slightly, then remembers she can't see and asks: "What do you mean? Of course I have been honest with you?"

"One preference your brother and I surely share, is for plain speaking," the lady explains. "And I imagine he and I feel also much the same way about…" She presses her lips together. "About being flattered by those who seek their own advantage under guise of seeking ours. It is your advantage you seek, is it not, Ser Loryn?" she asks, without a pause to let him answer. Once she has begun speaking plainly, well, she can't resist going on in the same vein. "I cannot imagine that you would speak so otherwise — that you would take upon yourself the private affairs of your elder brother and of a lady who is no relation to you, upon no other reason than… than…" And she shrugs her gold-embroidered shoulders. "A care for so irrelevant a circumstance as our happiness. Please, Ser Loryn; I would that you'd say what you mean."

"Oh, you are such a cynic, my Lady of Roxton.", Loryn sighs, "Why do you find it so hard to believe that I wish to see my brother happy? If you want me to speak frankly, yes, then -your- happiness, Mylady, does not matter much to me, since I do not know you. But if you are the key to my brother's happiness, then, indeed, your happiness matters to me too. As for my own advantages? What could you possibly mean? In what way would I benefit from my brother's marriage?"

Lady Roxton sighs, and stops walking the better to talk. "That is not quite what I meant, my lord," she begins, slightly contrite; "I'm certain your interest in Ser Laurent's… happiness, is sincere in itself. I suppose I am a cynic, if by that word you mean that I am not a— a romantic fool." Again she presses her lips together to hold in some other, even franker remark.

"… Nor, I must tell you, am I fool enough to overlook the fact that if your elder brother married into the lordship of another house, if his children were named Roxton rather than Tyrell, your children would surely inherit Highgarden. Do you not consider that a benefit?" she inquires tartly.

Loryn smiles a little to himself when she declares herself to not be a romantic fool. Sadly she cannot see his little nod of approval. Her last remark gives him pause. "Mylady Roxton. You are a smart sharp woman, are you not.", he finally begins slowly, choosing each word with care, "With all that you know of my brother, could you in all sincerity say that Laurent would thrive as the Lord of Highgarden, entertaining courtiers every day, making sure to diplomatically humour the Targaryens in King's Landing, dealing with the woes of the smallfolk, hosting feasts regularly for the nobles of the Reach… do you think this would make Laurent happy? Or be beneficial for the Reach?"

At last they're getting to it. "Ser Laurent is a man of many talents," his dear friend Lady Roxton murmurs judiciously, "but you know very well I could not count diplomacy among them." A pause. "Nor can I reconcile such a list of duties, let alone a ruling lord’s greatest duty of all, with what I know of Lord Garvin. Am I to infer, then, that the lordship of Highgarden is expected to pass into the secondary line in your generation, and not the next…?"

Loryn lifts his chin and a tiny smile appears on his lips. "How insightful of you, Lady Olenna", he remarks, "Would you say that's a bad thing though? Considering what you know of my cousin Garvin and of my brother Laurent… would you not agree that others may be more suited to the task of making sure the Reach prospers?"

"I have firsthand knowledge only of Ser Laurent," the lady demurs, dark braids brushing her throat as she gives a slight shake of her head; "I know you rather less than I know him, and Lord Garvin least of all. I should not presume to judge so much from so little… Nor, I think, is it my place to do so." Another of her small, strategic pauses. "Though if you are Lord Tyrell's own choice for his successor, I cannot think he would make such a choice without good reason."

Loryn doesn't reply straightaway. He certainly won't say that he might have forced the man's hand. "You will only need to open your ears in Highgarden to hear the gossip - among the servants and the commoners, if not among the noble guests as well - to know my cousin Garvin and what people think of him. It must have been the darkest day of his life when his brother was killed, forcing him to step into the role of heir, a role he is entirely unsuited for and has been most unhappy in." Past tense!

Lady Roxton's hand is still resting upon Ser Loryn's arm, for he is the only anchor she has here by the Mander, in a place she has never been. She turns, orienting herself to face in the same direction as him, taking a small step indicative of a desire to resume their stroll.

"… House Tyrell has not been fortunate in its youth," she agrees quietly. "Lord Matrim's untimely passing — Lord Garvin's… rebellions — Ser Laurent's unhappy, fruitless marriage. What a contrast," and her voice lowers yet further, "with your vitality and strength, your victories won, your bride whose devotion to you is exceeded only, I am told, by her beauty. A house's lord is always its symbol into the bargain." Or a house's lady, poor and blind, still childless. "The future you and Lady Miranda stand for will surely prove appealing to the people of the Reach. More so than the alternatives."

Loryn is sensitive to the signal being sent and starts walking again as well, steps slow and considerate. She might sense him steering her slightly to the left though, away from the river, as if seeking a new path that will slowly return them towards the castle gardens. He remains silent, letting her speak, unable to resist a smile she cannot see. "Thank you, Mylady.", he finally says politely, sounding pleased, "I do not disagree with this notion. Nor does Lady Miranda. Or my uncle. I would not presume to think I know what my brother feels of this, but I cannot think that he might feel himself better suited to the task…"

"And so you seek my aid in reconciling him to the idea of your lordship," concludes Lady Roxton, "after one fashion or… another."

“Your support would not be unwelcome.", Loryn admits, "I would think that Laurent is fairly agreeable to the idea. He'd find happiness with a woman who appreciates him as he is, he'll have his own title and yet he need not bother with all the diplomatic things required of the lord of a house for which he is ill-suited." Which is really a polite way of saying, geez, take him off my hands, Olenna!

For a few yards the lady is silent but for the rustle of silk skirts teased by a breeze coming off the river. Then she ventures, "It seems you have thought through the matter quite thoroughly, from your own perspective and Ser Laurent's — but perhaps not from mine… I do intend to marry in the new year," she reiterates, speaking with a surety which isn't given to many maiden ladies past thirty, "but it seems to me I have several possibilities to choose between." She pauses. "I know that House Peake is interested in an alliance with House Roxton," she mentions in a neutral tone, "and House Florent also has made overtures to me." Naturally House Tyrell's ancient rival seeks to scoop up any plum its liege lords might let fall. "… Of course, first and foremost I am concerned to secure the greatest benefit to my house,” she murmurs virtuously. “Such is my duty."

She waits.

These words cause a slow quirk of eyebrow on Loryn's face, although in this case he is fully aware that she cannot see it. She might notice a somewhat deeper breathing though as if he's trying to keep some sort of noise under control. "House Peake, huh.", he finally mutters, more to himself, "Of course House Peake is so much the better choice compared to House Tyrell. We don't matter much, do we?" His voice may just contain a certain dose of irony.

Lady Roxton's keen ears detect every subtlety in the Tyrell heir's voice and his breath; she doesn't hesitate, but seems to have her next remark ready and waiting to be spoken. "On the contrary, my lord," she says quietly, "I am the one who matters but little in such exalted circles as yours. The Peakes are my near neighbours; they have a natural interest in seeing our corner of the Reach grow more prosperous, especially with a long winter coming," she explains with admirable logic. "I have become acquainted with Lord and Lady Peake these last months, and I believe them sincere in their good wishes for me." A pause. "House Tyrell has many cares and House Roxton is surely among the least of them. I have met and spoken with Lord Tyrell but twice, and Lord Garvin not at all. You understand, I hope, my reluctance to rely upon such slight connexions when the future of all who depend upon me hangs in the balance."

"I believe that Lord Garvin was rather pre-occupied before his departure.", Loryn comments dryly, before he returns to the subject at hand. "You know of House Peake's troublesome past. Surely you know that nothing good could come out of an allience with them." He diplomatically doesn't bring up the Florents. "You mention budding acquaintance with Lord and Lady Peake… but who is the lucky young man to wed you? Is his friendship as dear to you as my brother's?"

"More to the point, I think, is that all the Reach knows of House Roxton's… past," its lady points out, not presently bitter but resigned. Her shoulders have grown stiff with nervous tension beneath the opulent silk of her gown, and her voice is not quite as steady as it was when they walked this path in the other direction. "Many houses would like to see their second sons named lords — they would like, also, to gain greater sway within the Reach," which House Tyrell would surely love either the Peakes or the Florents to achieve, "but they are cautious. I might well gain more favourable terms from a house which has had troubles of its own, but is recovering."

"Unlike what the mathematicians in the Citadel may claim, dear Lady Roxton, minus and minus do not equal plus in reality.", Loryn replies almost cheerfully, "Sure if you wish to gain greater sway, an alliance with House Tyrell would be the more useful path to choose." He did notice that she ignored his direct question. "By allying yourself to my brother you gain status, money, friendship… even love. The full package, as some may say. You'd throw that away for a Peake or a Florent?"

"… Would I, Ser Loryn?" Lady Roxton asks, sighing. Her feet grow more cautious upon the path, for she recollects that scattering of stones being somewhere nearby. "Would I truly gain all those fine things?" she wonders with wistful cynicism. "You seem quite eager, today, to give away a brother — you don't speak of gaining a sister. The one doesn't necessarily follow the other, as it might if I chose Ser Prestyn Peake or Ser Imry Florent."

"I have a very annoying sister, why would I want another one to constantly inform me about my flaws and faults?", Loryn replies with a little grin on his face that should be audible to her. When they reach the stones, he murmurs a soft warning and places his second hand upon hers on his arm to guide her safely past the danger.

"I assume that you and Laurent would live at the Ring or in that grisly place he created for himself in Oldtown. Should you wish to live in Garden Isle, I'll be happy to welcome you into its walls as my dear sister. Of course… there's also the possibility of Laurent gaining his own mansion in the Reach. Tyrell possessions are vast. I believe there is a … farmstead of sorts to the north of the Ring that is in our possession. Wisteria Court it is called, I believe…" She would know it certainly.

Her hand on his arm tenses when he places his own upon it, but relaxes as she breathes out. When they've safely negotiated the stones she admits that, "I have heard the name… I should be grateful, of course, for the hospitality you offer me — I think you know how much I enjoyed your gardens in Oldtown — I place a high value upon such kindnesses, as is only fitting. But," and she sounds amused and sad at the same time, "you would do the same for any loyal vassal, my lord; you would offer the same lodgings and the same courtesies. It is House Tyrell's tradition, is it not? The lords of Highgarden have always been liberal with their hospitality, as all of us who attended your recent tourney might testify… I would hope to find a close bond with my goodfamily, a sincere interest in one another's fortunes. I have no family of my own," at least, now that Ser Laurent has killed her closest cousin, "and such things matter to me… Is it really— grisly?" she asks suddenly, of the Thorn's holdfast in Oldtown. She, of course, has never seen it.

"It's as grisly as it smells rank.", Loryn replies, thus ensuring that a visit would be as appalling for her as for seeing people, "I have no idea what possessed him to turn it into his lair. And the moment he suggests moving in there with you after a wedding, rest assured I'd be the first to protest against the wedding happening. And as for offering lodgings to loyal vassals, Mylady - " He pauses for a moment to steer her gently to the right as they start onto the path leading back to the castle and its rose gardens, "Of course it is no more than our sacred duty to offer hospitality on the guest floor. But to offer lodgings permanently as part of the resident family? I'm afraid you would only enjoy that as an actual part of House Tyrell. And trust me when I say you would enjoy it more than Laurent's bolt hole at the arse-end of Oldtown."

Lady Roxton registers a slight frown, of polite disbelief rather than fastidious distaste. "I did not smell anything unpleasant," she offers, "when I visited your brother's holdfast. Horses, of course, but I don't mind that. No, Ser Loryn — my needs are few, and I have discovered lately that they differ from those of other ladies. When I marry," she explains pensively, "it will not be for pretty chambers and a higher seat at banqueting tables."

Loryn bites back a comment of visual vs nasal impairments. "Well, even better then! You'd thrive in Laurent's place then. Now I am even more convinced that you and he are made for each other because I could not envision any lady to even consider the place." The rose gardens come into sight (for him) and he slows down a little as if trying to make their private time last a little longer.

The whiff of roses upon the breeze encourages Lady Roxton's pace to quicken, even as Ser Loryn's slows; for her, the gardens represent the safety to speak her mind without the risk of being left behind by an irate lordling no longer pleased to serve as her guide. Courtesy requires him to keep up.

Again, she shifts the angle of their discussion: "Did your lord uncle send you to negotiate with me?" she inquires. "Or is it your own idea?"

"My uncle knows nothing of this.", Loryn admits, "He's… I don't think he's thinking very much of the future yet. Which is understandable as it would mean pondering his own mortality." When she begins walking faster, he once more places his second hand onto hers to slow her down. "Lady Olenna, please.", he says softly, "I know you like plain speaking, so let me speak plainly: You and Laurent are well-matched, you are the only woman who's able to keep him in check somewhat. You need a strong ally as a female heiress and there's none stronger than the Tyrell family. You are broke and no purse is better filled than the Tyrell purse. You will benefit from marrying Laurent in more than one way. I'll be sure to make it worth your while."

The lady takes another quick step before her companion's halting requires her to halt also, with an unwilling air. She seems to take no offense at his blunt words; but for the present she dismisses them with a nod the better to persist in her other inquiry. "He knows nothing of your approach to me? Or…" she asks slowly, "do I understand you to say… when you say he is not thinking of the future, do you mean he knows nothing of your design to become his heir…?”

"Oh, he knows now.", Loryn says lightly, "While he was squirming with indecision on how to deal with Garvin and the multitude of problems him being the heir brought about, I took action. Let's say I forced their hands. And my uncle was none the worse for it. I am sure he is aware that Laurent is another problem to be dealt with. But he doesn't ask. I assume he trusts me already.", he grins lightly, pleased with himself, "I did not want to draw your name into anything. I mean, I could have been entirely wrong about you and my dear brother, couldn't I?"

His uncle's lady vassal lets out a deep breath, as though it's a relief to her to hear those words — to be tolerably certain she's not being invited into a conspiracy against her liege lord… A sudden fear, which complicated her already tangled and turbulent thoughts. "You think you are… right, then?" she asks him curiously. She hasn't yet admitted anything, after all. She takes a step, just a little one, trying to encourage him to begin walking again.

"I'm not entirely dumb, you know.", Loryn comments dryly. He begins to walk again until they are within the first carefully manicured gardens. Rose bushes pruned low enough to see over them, giving no room for potential eavesdroppers to hide within or behind them. The tinkling of a fountain can be heard nearby. "You don't need to give me your decision straightaway.", he says softly, "Think about it. Ask yourself what better offers you could possibly get. From House Peake or Florent for example." He doesn't bother to hide the slight sneer in his voice.

When sound and scent suggest to her that she is now within the walled precincts of House Tyrell's great gardens, Lady Roxton lifts her head. She is content simply to follow Ser Loryn's lead, no longer hastening their pace, and pitching her voice as softly as his in the understanding that his precautions against their talk being overheard will suffice them both.

"… I have received a vague suggestion of which Lord Tyrell knows nothing," she points out slowly, though almost at once her speech quickens, "from a young man who is not his heir. First you offered me love which will never be within your gift; now, you offer me riches which may one day be yours to bestow. It isn’t quite the way these things are usually negotiated, is it? And yet…” She swallows. “I have thought already, Ser Loryn, I have thought a great deal, since I began to understand your intentions. And so I know it is in my power to make credible the promises you might offer me. I suppose that’s rather… the point.”

Loryn nods along sombrely when she sums up his lack of valid claims on nearly everything. "It is true, that I cannot offer you riches now. It is true that I cannot force my brothers hand. But I do think this is an arrangement that would benefit us both greatly… as you seem to realize?" Since she cannot the rise of eyebrows that indicates he's asking a question, he raises his voice along with it to vocalize the question mark. Waiting to see what else the lady may have to say.

Lady Roxton's hand slips away from her escort's arm, and her fingers knit together in a soft white tangle in front of her waist. "Well, of course," she sighs breathlessly; then she repeats, "of course. I appreciate your reasons for supposing you would be better suited than Lord Garvin or Ser Laurent to— the duties and the dignities of your uncle's title; but the fact remains that Ser Laurent is the elder. The next in line. If now that Lord Garvin has quitted the field he wished to press his claim I think he would not find himself without support, among those who consider that primogeniture is sacred — after all," she points out, "isn't that how every other lord in the Reach received his title? — and then, those who believe it is needful for a great lord to possess… strength, resolve, the willingness to make difficult decisions and live with them thereafter, the… obstinacy, shall I say? To hold the border strongly against Dorne… I know you and I are of the opinion that peace with the Dornish is in the Reach's best interests," she confides, "but the rest of our nobility is hardly united upon that point, is it? Not every lord in the Reach has so many Dornish friends as you, Ser Loryn, nor holds Dornish parties…" Why, he's the veritable Dornish candidate for Highgarden. "And as for the smallfolk, the soldiers…" She shakes her head and goes on, still swiftly, carrying the conversation away along lines of her own. "I wonder in particular," she murmurs delicately, "whether House Tyrell's armies might not prefer to uphold the entirely legitimate claim of an elder brother who has lived and trained and fought and bled with them, over that of a younger brother whom gossip has it was knighted only in passing and who spends the greater part of his time away from home, putting on musical plays in the Hightowers' city."

This, she murmurs with an apologetic shrug, to let him know that of course she doesn't think of him so, no matter what the Thorn may tell her. It's only that he has a certain reputation among others.

"… The only credible challenge to your succession, Ser Loryn," she concludes, "would come from your brother — and it would be no weak challenge, would it? If Ser Laurent sets himself to a task he never flags or falters, still less owns that he may have been mistaken in his goals. If I were an unscrupulous woman, if I cared to bring about a civil war in the Reach on the eve of winter, if I held our people's lives in so little esteem, I would have a fair chance of making myself Lady Tyrell. But because I am not such a woman—"

She draws in a breath and holds it for several long seconds and lets it out loudly, accompanied by an impatient shake of her head which sets her looped braids a-swishing. "I will undertake," she declares, and her shoulders are shaking too, now, with the suppression of some powerful feeling, "to smooth your path to the lordship of Highgarden, to see that your brother is no obstacle to your ambitions and that he sincerely believes his is the better part. If," and she holds up not a finger but her whole hand, her palm toward him and her outstretched fingers rigid with tension, to ward off any premature optimism upon the Tyrell side of this little chat, "your lord uncle will meet my price, and see Ser Laurent dowered as befits the elder brother of the next Lord Tyrell of Highgarden. As you rightly point out, my lord, I cannot afford to sell myself cheaply, nor to be paid in wishful thinking. If your uncle trusts you so well as you suppose, then it should be a simple matter for you to take to him this scheme for settling your house's succession with due honour to Ser Laurent and due consideration for his wishes. I am costly, my lord, but less so I should hope than a war between brothers.”

Loryn listens quietly, intently, to her speech. Apparently these are things he hadn't really considered much yet. A tone of annoyance creeps into his voice when he finally speaks. "I was not knighted in passing, Mylady, Andolin Stark and I were knighted for finding and slaying a ferocious beast that had troubled the countryside, ravaged the livestock and killed people.", he explains defensively, "A beast, I hasten to add, other more experienced knights failed to find, much less to slay. Before I came to Oldtown I was squire to my uncle, I spent three years in the mud, shit and gore of war in the north. It is these experiences that make me believe in peace as the best solution and I am sure the smallfolk, those who see their nearest and dearest pointlessly slain in battle to advance the claims of the nobility, would agree with me. I cannot help the fact that my younger age makes me of less experience and status as Laurent and while I live in Oldtown for now, at least I still live in the Reach and haven't left for the far North for a Northern wife."

He catches himself and inhales deeply, lifting a hand to pace himself. Eyeing her a little. The spectre of civil war in the Reach looming for a moment before it is brushed away. "Name your price, Lady Olenna.", he finally requests simply.

Lady Roxton listens to Ser Loryn's tales of his adventures with wild beasts in the south and wilder men in the north, with all the attention a proud young knight might wish, her dark head canted toward him and the occasional soft, encouraging 'mm' rising in her sapphire-circled throat. She almost speaks, at the end — but he beats her to it and makes at last the very offer she has been waiting for all afternoon… Gracious in victory, she bows her head and gathers her skirts in both hands and dips into a careful curtsey to him.

"… I think there are many who do not know that of you, Ser Loryn," she says softly; "it did seem as though all Oldtown was present at your wedding feast, but the city is larger even than your largesse…" She clears her throat. "But of course now that you have acquainted me with the details I shall have an answer if ever I am asked. As for my price…"

She chafes her hands against each other as though touched by a sudden chill. "Do you know how many died in Roxton lands, last winter? I do." And she names what is a staggering total for such a southerly fief. "But last winter was brief; we stand now at the beginning of another considerably longer. I have, now, the opportunity to barter my own life for many others… I would wed the Stranger Himself," and though she's quite sincere she laughs aloud, an eerie sight in combination with unfocused eyes which give no clue to what amuses her, "if He promised me that none of my people would die for my choice… To see my granaries filled with grain, my storehouses with meat and vegetables, and my coffers with coin, is my true heart's desire. I have no need of such a grand Tyrell wedding as yours," and she lifts her chin, her sightless eyes seeming to seek his; "if Ser Laurent has no wish to be wed with grandeur, I would take the price of that, too, in food and in fuel. My maester has drawn up certain documents to aid me in my search for a husband — perhaps you and I might together persuade your uncle if he is reluctant to pay so heavy a dowry…? When you are Lord Tyrell, my people will be your people too," she says simply. "Those who die, we shall share between us the guilt for it.

Loryn listens carefully to her requests, a little relieved perhaps by the fair price she names. He laughs softly at the idea of Laurent and a grand wedding. "I believe if my brother was given a choice, he would opt for a wedding party of three - you two and a septon - to be followed by a piss-up in his favorite tavern.", he points out with a chuckle, but quickly becomes serious again. "You name a fair price, Lady Olenna. To see our people nourished and kept from starving is no more than any house's duty. In fact, were I Lord Tyrell, I would make sure that the houses of the Reach could always find help with me. You know my wife is a very charitably minded lady." Who comes with a dollop of sanctimonious preaching. "I would be happy to study the documents you mention. And raise the subject with my uncle.", he offers with a smile.

The lady's amusement doesn't linger; in fact, Ser Loryn's words of agreement have the curious effect of stiffening her back, and bringing her lips into another firm line. "I do not wish for charity, my lord, but your brother's due and my own, and a prosperous future for the nephews of your own blood who shall, if the gods will it, succeed us at the Ring. I asked nothing of you," she reminds him rather primly, "I presumed upon our acquaintance for no more than ordinary hospitality, until I saw that I had to offer you in return the very aid you most require at this juncture… Why, I shall not even tell your brother that you sought to arrange his affairs for him," she offers

"I would appreciate that, Mylady.", Loryn comments softly on her last remark. He wouldn't put it past Laurent to cause trouble just because. "And let's wait and see if these nephews materialize, mhmmm?", he adds even more quietly. Nothing is said about her age. "Come, let us return into the castle, I am sure your faithful maid is starting to worry that I might have left you behind alone in the wilderness to tumble into the Mander."

He needn't say it for Lady Roxton to hear it: her posture grows impeccable in answer, and her expression cool verging upon stony. "I am… glad, Ser Loryn, that we understand one another better than when we set out." That he at any rate understands to speak to her of solid material benefits to her house, rather than to her love life. "To Lord Tyrell it must be your idea," she goes on, "to Ser Laurent, mine. They are not in the habit, I think, of confiding deeply in one another…?" she suggests. And then because it's the only way, she untangles her white-knuckled hands and extends one to him.

"I do not think they've spoken much at all in recent years.", Loryn agrees with her suggestion. And when she offers her hand to him, he takes it for a short but firm warm squeeze. "I am glad we understand each other, Lady Olenna.", he adds with a smile she cannot see but definitely hear. Then he offers his arm again to lead her back to wherever she would want to be taken, her chambers presumably.

Yes, to her chambers — and she has little to say on the way.

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