|Farewell to Highgarden|
|Summary:||With their business concluded, the Lady of the Ring and the soon-to-be heir to House Tyrell take leave of one another, until such time as their houses are joined in marriage.|
|Related:||The whole succession plot|
It may come as some small surprise to Lord Tyrell and his new heir presumptive, Ser Loryn, how thoroughly prepared they find Lady Olenna Roxton to undertake the negotiations for her betrothal to Ser Laurent Tyrell.
Of course the talk is largely between their appointed representatives, with the principals meeting only to approve the final draft of the contract and then to sign all the copies written out in a Highgarden scribe's finest hand — but she has a firm idea of what she wants, and certain helpful documents just happen to be in her luggage, and whenever Maester Tirius returns to her with a Tyrell proposal her answer comes swiftly, absent maidenly shyness. The future; coin; allegiance; provisions for children of the match; provisions for a possible lack of such children — she has considered every matter, and if she's inclined to shrink from one or two of them, she doesn't let it show where Tyrells might see. She seems oddly certain, too, of what Ser Laurent himself — the groom being bartered away as high-handedly as any noble young bride! — would wish; and she stands firm in his imagined interests as in her own.
Having Ser Loryn over a barrel helps. His generation rather than his uncle's will bear the cost of his brother's expensive match — he must agree to it, and so he does. Well, it's not as though all that Highgarden largesse is flowing beyond the borders of the Reach, is it? The wealth and security of House Roxton's lands is a natural concern of House Tyrell's as well. This winter they'd surely have been called upon for aid in any case — and in the years to come they'll have part of Ser Laurent's glorious dowry back again in greater tithes, borne more easily by a people prosperous and at peace.
And so the union is negotiated smoothly, amiably, above all swiftly, between two sides whose interests are all more or less united; and a small signing ceremony takes place in a deliciously-decorated bower in Lord Tyrell's favourite garden, in the presence of Tyrells young and old and those of their lingering noble guests considered to be of such a rank that their signatures as witnesses will lend lustre to the documents. The question of how a blind woman signs a contract is answered in the event by her maid, Sallei, who with a curtsey to Lord Tyrell steps forward to look over each copy of the contract, and then inks her quill and guides her hand to the right place upon each page; her signature is simple, but quite legible, the fruit of careful practice.
Though nothing is to be announced — Lady Roxton insisted — till she has spoken with Ser Laurent, it's then an open secret at Highgarden, and at that evening's feast there are a great many veiled toasts to her. She wears her loveliest gown; she looks pale, and hardly seems to smile; when the serious drinking begins she excuses herself, pleading a long journey upon the morrow, and retires to her chambers led as ever by Sallei's steady hand.
When Ser Loryn follows later with the idea of bidding her goodnight and farewell, he finds her sitting fully dressed and wide awake upon the only chair in her sitting-room which hasn't got an expensively-embroidered silk gown draped over the back of it. Her women are packing — well, they're busy, anyway. She is staring at nothing and picking at a loose thread on her sleeve.
Sallei announces the new Tyrell heir; after a moment Lady Roxton turns further toward where she knows the door to be — for her it's a deliberate courtesy, rather than an instinctive reaction — and murmurs, "Ser Loryn."
Loryn is dressed leisurely, perhaps because he is aware she cannot see him or more likely because the hour is late. "Lady Roxton, good evening. I hope I am not intruding? Since you plan to leave tomorrow morning, I wasn't sure if we'd have another chance of speaking privately…" He hovers in the door, waiting to be invited further inside.
The lady reaches once more for that thread which is bothering her and then changes her mind: she clasps her hands together and rests them in her smooth blue silken lap, one atop the other, showing the front of one of her golden cuff bracelets and the back of the other. She has never said so in so many words, but it's natural to assume they were a gift from Ser Laurent. He installed her in the Garden Isle Manse still in her mother's old dresses, made over for her: in a matter of a week or so new silk gowns began to appear on her back, and then the jewellery started. The bracelets first.
"Oh, please come in," she says to her visitor, smiling. "I'm not tired. It was only… a little overwhelming," she admits. "Sallei tells me that not all those people were looking at me," and her smile falters, and she purposefully renews it, "but I did keep wondering whether they might be."
"Oh, I can assure you, that you are the talk of Highgarden.", Loryn replies leisurely, a smile spreading on his face, "Everyone wants to know who the woman is that takes on my brother voluntarily and even happily. And earned her house a pretty penny in the bargain." He pauses for a moment to cross the room so that Sallei can close the door and looks around for potential seating. "Are you happy, Lady Olenna? Satisfied with the outcome?"
Lady Roxton's servants are unusual in that they're trained to make noise when they do things like shutting doors. Sallei does so, and she's just pouring a second glass of whiskey when she notices the chair/dress conundrum Ser Loryn is facing: she hurriedly finishes pouring, then puts down the glass, and draws up a chair nearer to Lady Roxton's (he did say speak privately) and swipes a deep blue silk brocade number off the back of it. She curtsey to Ser Loryn and says to her lady, "We'll go in the other room, milady, and start on the first trunk, as you were just saying." She wasn't, and they all know she wasn't, but it's a useful fiction with which nobody will argue. Three other dresses go with her into the bedchamber where the other maids are variously at work, and she shuts the connecting doors. Again with an audible thump.
"Of course, Sallei," Lady Roxton agrees; and then, taking up her own glass of whiskey and warming it anew in both hands, she ventures dutifully to Ser Loryn: "And of course I'm humbled by your generosity, ser, and honoured by this new connexion between our houses." Eleven generations since the last time a Tyrell bride traveled to the Ring, and she was only a third cousin to Highgarden's main line. "I hope… I can only hope that Ser Laurent will be as pleased with the arrangements as I am. I did try to think of what he would wish," she mentions; "we have… sometimes discussed contracts such as these, and he was kind enough to advise me upon provisions he felt I would be wise to secure." Having opinions on paperwork — it doesn't sound like the Thorn…
Loryn smiles faintly. "I'm sure my brother is happy with whatever gets him away from Highgarden and Garden Isle and generally having to be social and accommodating to people he despises. Living with you in the Ring should be pleasing him. And you can now work together on elevating House Roxton to new heights. Although I hope we shall meet regularly, either here or in Oldtown. You still have the Holdfast there waiting for you.", he points out. During his little speech he has sat down on the chair Sallei so generously provided and taken his glass, from which he now takes a careful sip. Ah, whisky.
"I hope so too," echoes Olenna, courteously; and then, lest he suspect it of being an empty courtesy, she bows her head over her glass and takes a tiny sip of whiskey and confesses, "Your sister and your cousins were very kind today." Some of them were, anyway. "I think you know I grew up almost alone; I have never really had a family before." Apart from, perhaps, that cousin who conveniently got into a duel with Ser Laurent last month. "I'm touched by the thought that I might become a part of yours, in time. I hope so, Ser Loryn; I hope I did not…" She presses her lips together. "… Bargain too fiercely to retain your goodwill," she admits, "which I value all the more for knowing that it cannot be quantified and set down in a contract." A faint smile.
"My appreciation for you cannot be quantified either.", Loryn assures her warmly. She took Laurent off his hands like that dusty outdated thing on the upper shelf that nobody has been wanting to buy for over a year! "I look forward to having you in my family which is rather large indeed. And perhaps you and L——" he suddenly chokes on his own words as he realizes his mouth is running away with him. He looks all at sea for a moment, but gamely finishes: "You might yet grow your own family?"
His pause is long enough for Lady Roxton to catch his drift, and for a rather becoming flush to creep over her cheeks. She looks younger when she blushes: thus, she probably looks younger in Ser Laurent's eyes all the time…
"I hope so," she says again, taking refuge in her glass. It really wasn't the drinking that drove her from the hall. Then again it's probably the drinking which inspires the next turn in the conversation. "Ser Loryn, I… I am as I say very sensible of the honour you do me, and more than that of the care you have shown for the future of my house and of my people. You could not have done more; I think you are a good man, and I hope that when I am your brother's wife, you shall be my brother as well," she says with perfect candour. "And so there is something I ought to say to you… to confess, I suppose," she smiles apologetically at his left ear, "before I go away. No, two things," she corrects herself, "a confession and a word of advice, if you are willing to hear such from me, when we don't yet know one another well."
She can't see him open and close his mouth as he tries and fails to get a word in during her speech. But when she reaches th end of that, his eyes widen a little. "I… oh… of course. As you, Lady Olenna, we shall soon be as brother and sister, so… you are always welcome to speak freely to me…" He may be bracing himself just a little bit, fingers tightening around that whisky glass.
As ever the better part of his reaction is lost upon Lady Roxton, no matter how keenly she listens in the pauses between his words and thereafter whilst she's gathering her own. Again she speaks quickly, as though fearful of losing her chance to put her case. "I came to Highgarden not to attend the tourney but with the fixed intention of asking Lord Tyrell for your brother's hand in marriage. I was waiting only for the right moment, a time when he was no longer plagued by guests and social duties and would be better-disposed to listen to me and consider my request. But when I began to understand your plans, my lord, I thought…" She hesitates just long enough to moisten her lips. "I thought that if I let you think you were persuading me, I might make you my advocate with your uncle and so secure more favourable terms. A man argues most passionately for his own causes, don't you think…? … But I am sorry for deceiving you; I did so only in my house's interests," she points out by way of apology, "and not against the interests of the Reach." A distinction she draws quite firmly. "I hope you will pardon me that subterfuge."
She cannot see his mouth twitching, but she can probably hear the soft chuckle at the back of his throat. "I believe the term is: I kicked an open door in when I thought of getting you interested in marriage to Laurent." He pauses for a moment to consider, but the amusement remains in his voice when he continues. "I cannot be angry with you, Mylady, and there is nothing to forgive. Just like I am acting in the best interests of House Tyrell, you do the same for your house. I suppose we should be happy that our interests align so perfectly, wouldn't you agree? I'd drink to that!" He does indeed raise his glass a little to take another sip.
The lady's smile is tinged with relief from the moment she hears that faint sound of mirth and recognises it for what it is. She raises her own glass in appreciation of the sentiment, and drinks gladly.
"I hoped you would feel as you do," she says then, quietly; "but now that we are to be family, my lord, I wished our new relationship to be founded in honesty — and because I know you have a care for your brother's happiness I wished you to be certain that I was not simply…" Again she presses her lips together, as she is apt to do before voicing a necessary but unpalatable thought. "… Persuaded to this deed by the thought of House Tyrell's wealth."
"Oh, I am sure not all the money of the Reach could have enticed you to spend as much time in my brother's company as you do if it had only been about coin.", Loryn assures her, "While you were right in assuming that I was pursuing my own aims in the end, you did me wrong in assuming that I do not care for my brother's happiness. I do. And I hope your marriage will be filled with all the happiness you could wish for." He pauses for a longer moment, toying with the glass in his fingers while he ponders his next words. "You know, Lady Olenna… between my brother's hot-headed temper and my wife's endearing innocence… I think you and I should profit from each other's company when it comes to the future of the Reach…"
And Lady Roxton, who during their walk down by the river tried to sound out what sort of a relationship she might enjoy with her new in-laws, and was not above indicating that she hoped to share a genuine closeness with the next Lord Tyrell of Highgarden, bows her head — but not far enough to hide the rare genuine, natural smile which touches her lips.
"If ever I can aid you as a sister might, Ser Loryn, now or in the future, I hope you know you need only speak the words… I am only a woman, of course," she disclaims modestly, though it’s not his imagination that the words have a faint, bitter ring to them, "but I will gladly do whatever is in my small power to serve the Reach. I am… late come to such things," her smile dims, "but I hope I shall find ways to make up for all my time lost.”
"You are being too modest, dear Lady Roxton.", Loryn assures her in a warm tone, "Do not underestimate the power of a smart woman." He pauses for a while to slow drain his whiskey, playing and weighing the empty glass in his hand. "Of course, we'll have to take it slowly.", he reminds her, "It will be some time until the official announcement of… the change in succession. I hope I will have another announcement by then as well."
With a tilt of her head the lady concedes the point; and she nods once or twice as Ser Loryn goes on. "Of course it would seem all the more natural to announce a new heir to House Tyrell who has an heir of his own… I hope you and Lady Miranda shall have the news you wish, very soon," and she brings her glass to her lips again to hide the tremour in her smile.
"Your aunt and uncle haven't been blessed with grandchildren yet, I don't think…?" she inquires a moment later, all sympathy, having reckoned up an elder son's death, a second son's predilections, the youth of the girls and the curious difficulty there seems to have been in arranging matches for the sisters of Lord Garvin Tyrell. "I will keep your secrets till the time comes to speak well of them, my lord," she tells him, not for the first time; "and if Ser Laurent is agreeable," she hesitates infinitesimally, "perhaps… I don't know how long you wish to wait to make known your news, but perhaps it would be a convenience to you if we were wed soon, if he were firmly removed from the line of succession before it became widely known that it were in flux. You might avoid, then, any hint of a question from your vassals of which brother would be most suitable: you would be the only choice as well as the best.
"I hope so, too.", Loryn admits, the hint of impatience perhaps audible to someone with very fine ears. "And no… Matrim would have - should have - given them grandchildren by now, but…" Yea, they all know how that went. When Olenna suggests swift marriage to Laurent, he can't help grinning. "Well, I would hate to rush either of you…. but why dawdle on something that brings you both happiness? Would you want to marry at the Rock or would you let me arrange a feast for you in Oldtown?"
"I can't afford to waste what youth I have left, can I?" says Lady Roxton practically. "And I think by now we know one another well enough, which is a gift given to few of our birth before they meet between the altars… If he is agreeable," she repeats, "if it would bring him such happiness as you suppose," she for one sounds doubtful, "for my part I see no reason to delay. Though…" She has recourse again to her whiskey, and even signals Sallei to replenish their glasses. "It would be best, certainly, for me to marry at the Ring, for my smallfolk to see me wed — I think they have had little enough reason for gaiety, these past years," she says apologetically, "and surely the sight of a Tyrell lord coming to us with all his wealth and his strength would… gladden their hearts. We might give away salted meat and fruit preserves to everyone who attends, to put away for the winter." And yet outlining this programme to gladden other hearts, her own seems troubled.
Loryn nods slowly as she explains her reasons for marrying at the Ring. "All of that makes a lot of sense, Mylady, so we shall see it done." He tilts his head slightly. "It doesn't sound very joyful though… salted meat and fruit preserves… I mean… yes, it's useful, but little more than that?" That's probably what he assumes is troubling her.
Lady Roxton smiles wryly. "You gave away roses at your wedding," she remembers. "From a bride and bridegroom who have never known hunger, to guests who haven't either. I think meat and fruit for the winter will serve just as well as a token of Highgarden's bounty," she explains gently, "and please my farmers and their children better than a crop which yields only perfume." She shakes her head. "No, no, I— if I am lacking in joy at the prospect of my wedding, it is because… well, I have not seen my guest quarters," she sighs, and her lips twist with displeasure, "but I imagine they are meagre and shabby, and unfit to host you, or… any other of your kin, or Ser Laurent's friends, who might wish to stand with him upon such a day. My parents rarely received visitors."
Loryn aaaahs softly at that. "And my brother, despite the gift of sight, is a poor judge of these things. Yet, I would not worry." He looks towards where the inevitable Sallei may be sitting now. "Let your maidservant help you. She's seen Garden Isle and Highgarden, she knows what nice guest quarters should be like. Let me know what you need and I will see to a delivery being made in time."
Sallei is knitting and chaperoning in the chamber's farthest corner; she looks up at her name and gives Ser Loryn a very definite nod. Yes, she knows!
Her lady meanwhile is shaking her head. "But I can only think it would take a great deal of time and work and coin to furnish chambers in anything like the elegance you enjoy here, Ser Loryn," she protests. "I do hope to make— changes, in time, for Ser Laurent's sake," for she has a higher opinion than Ser Loryn of his brother's taste, "but the roof must be mended first of all. I understand there are a great many leaks in that part of the castle, and I see no sense in putting expensive new beds and tapestries in chambers where they would only get wet at the first proper storm." She presses her lips together and breathes out a sound of vexation. "It is hard to know where to begin, when so much is amiss," she confesses; "and though it is generous of you to offer, I hardly like to ask you for a loan against that first payment, before we are wed, before Ser Laurent has even… before the announcement has been made. And yet I am not sure what else there is to be done. How… how many of your kin," she inquires diffidently, "do you suppose might wish to be present?"
Loryn nods in agreement that fixing the roof should be priority. "With winter coming, yes, make sure that the castle is safe and sound against the chills that will arrive." Of course Loryn will start shivering on any shady day. "And your wedding doesn't need to be a large affair. Of our family… well, the siblings, me and Lisette, our mother… probably a few of the younger cousins who welcome any excuse to party… but a wing with six or seven chambers should suffice…"
Gazing pensively into the middle distance, Lady Roxton pales.
"… Perhaps," she says faintly, at the end of a long moment's contemplation of the taste of her whiskey, "it would after all be better to have the ceremony in Oldtown, and then another feast at the Ring for my smallfolk. Of course," she clears her throat, "I should like to welcome Ser Laurent's kin to my home, when it is his as well, but it may be best not to hurry the necessary repairs."
Loryn considers these things carefully, having noticed the lady's loss of facial colour. "Listen, I have an idea.", he finally says with a smile, "We'll send a few experts along to the Ring with you and Laurent. They can survey the damage, make up an estimate of the costs. One of the carpenters from here, a roofer, someone who does up rooms…" He becomes a bit vague there. As a rich noble he's used to things just -existing- and doesn't question where they come from.
Her colour doesn't improve, but she's quick to nod her acceptance of the notion. These, at least, will be Highgarden guests not too difficult or expensive to house for a time. "Thank you, my lord," this poor noble says sincerely; "if you're certain Highgarden can spare such retainers for a time, it would reassure me to know for certain what must be done and what the cost of it will be. I have carpenters, of course, but I think they are not used to…" She breathes out, and lifts her glass to indicate the chamber in which they sit. "This. I should truly appreciate such advice — though when it comes to it as much of the work as possible ought to be done by my people, rather than outsiders. Perhaps they will learn as they go along, and know better how to make such repairs as might be necessary in the future," she speculates, sounding more sure of herself now that she's scheming.
"Ah, they'll enjoy the trip.", Loryn claims cheerfully, "And I'm sure we can spare them. My uncle will be glad for a breather here when Miranda and I have departed. So -" He sets down his empty glass and rises to his feet. "Perhaps I should be on my way. Alert the workers to prepare for travelling tomorrow. And seek my own chambers."
"… I'm sure it must be growing late," Lady Roxton agrees, though it wasn't the next thing she had planned to say. "Thank you, Ser Loryn, for everything," she says quietly as she rises from her chair and offers him a tentative white hand in parting. "I shall write to you when I have spoken with your brother," she says, and then falters in adding: "Or perhaps he shall write."
Loryn takes her hand into his and brings it to his lips for a brief kiss. "I look forward to receiving your communication.", he says softly, letting go of the hand. "And to see you again soon at the Ring." He nods a 'bye' to Sallei and makes his departure from the room.