(123-12-18) Autumn Beauty
Autumn Beauty
Summary: Marsei and Lars are delightful human beings, basically.
Date: Dec. 18, 2016
Related: Fast Friends

Battle Island - Oldtown

Battle Island sets in the Whispering Sound near to the mouth of the Honeywine. It has no banks nor beaches, only great basalt cliffs that tower a hundred feet or more above the water, depending on weather and tide. The only easy access is a wide arched bridge of white stone leading to the harbourside terminus of Hightower Street. It is guarded day and night by knights loyal to House Hightower.

The island is dominated by the Hightower itself, a stepped tower over seven hundred feet tall made of bright white stone. Its top tier houses a great beacon fire, visible for miles out to sea.

Except at the site where there are mule-powered pulleys to lift the wood for the beacon fires off the ships that bring it, there are little walls around the island's edges. They're white stone, and low, just enough to keep House Hightower's smallest members from venturing over the cliffs. Aside from the stable and one small guardhouse, the island is dedicated to gardens with flowers of many colours, fruit trees, pretty paths of white cobblestones, white fountains, and white stone pavilions.

The fruit trees on Battle Island are holding fast to what's left of their fall bounty, yet leaves tear off their finely pruned branches in the breeze and whip about the gardens, getting caught on ladies' skirts until they break free and skitter along the white cobblestone pathways. Ladies are, however, few and far between; the wind is downright brisk when it gusts off the Whispering Sound, easily surmounting the short wall encircling the island.

Lady Marsei has not been so dissuaded — yet, at least — and drifts, solitary, about the gardens looking at the trees and flowers. It's hard to say whether or not she's coming or going from the Hightower, or simply checking on the state of the familial gardens as fall sets in with the promise of winter. The sweet-eyed redhead wears a light-coloured garment overtop her turquoise dress; between peach and dusty rose, it wraps and ties like a dressing gown, yet flows elegantly and protects her in some small measure against the weather with extra long bell sleeves and a spacious, lined hood.

Despite the weather beginning to draw in, Lars Costayne, ever the most fashion conscious of that family, manages to combine warmth with style. Picing his way back through the gardens towards the bridge, he lifts the brim of an elegant hat towards Marsei as he spots her out and about, even going so far as to dip into what would in other other man be an overly elaborate bow. But this is Lars. This is the bare minimum one would expect of him. "Lady Marsei, you're looking particularly lovely today," he greets, turning on a genuine, warm smile.

The lady quirks her head when she spots him, as if to make sure she recognizes Lars under the brim of that hat when, really, it couldn't be anyone else. She beams, waiting out the bow with something resembling a combination of expectation and delight. "Oh, thank you," she says, earnest as she is modest, bringing a hand up to clutch at her collar, where a thin display of vining embroidery is not quite fully embellished yet — clearly a point of self-consciousness. Her small hands are ensconced in a pair of soft white gloves, elegant in their simplicity, almost too pristine to have ever touched a single thing. "How lovely to see you! I was hoping I would soon. Are you just coming from business indoors?"

"I am," Lars admits, hands spreading helplessly, as though this is one failing for which he can never apologise enough. "Although had I known you were out here, I'd have cut the business short and come to join you sooner. The gardens are rather marvellous in the autumn, don't you think? The leaves suit your colouring wonderfully. Honestly, it's at times like this that I wish I could paint. But, my lady, are you warm enough?" he frets, unwrapping a fur scarf (that had to have come as part of a 'gift', there's no way Lars has the sort of money to spend on this sort of quality) and offering the soft, pale, speckled end over to the woman. "Here, I insist."

Marsei looks over her shoulder, tucking the edge of her hood out of her line of sight to take in the sight of the trees she was so recently pondering — seeing them painted in a new light, as it were, by the Costayne's observations. "I hadn't thought— " she starts, again modest, interrupted by her own smile when she notices the scarf being held out to her. "You are too kind," she tells Lars, smiling warmly. "In truth, I am, a bit." She accepts it - slowly, and with some reluctance, looking at him as though worried he's now cold, but such a cycle could go on forever. She sneaks the fine fur around her slender neck beneath the hood. "The wind is chasing everyone away, but the way I see it, I must make the most of autumn before winter comes. I do get so cold. And you're right — there is so much beauty to see," she says with sparkly-eyed look to the changing landscape.

"Not that the winter doesn't have a charm of its own, provided one has a nice hot toddy, a warm fire, and a window to watch it through," Lars insists, leaning back to better view how she now looks, scarf and all. "My word, and I'd thought you couldn't look any more stunning, and yet it would appear that I was wrong. I'm not interrupting your walk, am I, if I were to join you for a bit?"

"Well, I do have many windows," Marsei says with bright humour in her soft voice, referencing the nearby Hightower and its fine views from its lofty windows; indeed, perhaps the highest views in all the land. Her cheeks might blush, but they are already cheerfully rosy from the cool wind, so who's to say; either way, she lowers her head and smiles at the compliment. "Only for the fineness of your scarf. It would be no interruption at all; in fact, I'd be delighted. But I warn you, I have no destination," she says, merrily taking up the stroll.

"All the better!" Lars insists, tucking his hands into his pockets and taking up place beside Marsei to walk with her. "You do have the most marvellous view from here, and I'm honoured to be able to share it with you. And," he adds with a conspiratorial tone, "I do rather like crunching through the leaves, don't you?"

Marsei laughs, a pure and happy sound filled with curiosity. "I prefer them on the branch," she admits, "I can't say I recall stepping on them on purpose…" Perhaps because winters are few and far between, or the cobblestone paths are so often swept, or because ladies don't do things like crunch through leaves. She dips into a silly conspiratorial tone, herself. "But I expect there's something to be said for it."

Lars flicks an easy grin. "Oh, it's childish, but… well, if one can't be childish every now and then, what's the point in being a grown adult? But if you're not here to crunch through the leaves, and you're not here to have them set off your complexion to perfection, what brings you out for your aimless wander in the howling winds of Oldtown?"

The notion of childishness brings a sunny and rather knowing smile to the lady's face, despite not yet having been introduced into the joys of crunching leaves. Anyone married to Dhraegon Targaryen must know something of the joys of childish play. "Why, because I love the gardens," she answers with innocent matter-of-fact. "The gardens up in the tower are my favourite — tell me, do you visit them? — but these ones have more trees. I want to see how they change with the seasons. To remember the delicate flowers before the go, the ones that don't survive inside. And," she reaches toward a low-hanging branch as they pass by, plucking a hard red-and-yellow apple free with her spotless glove. She offers it to Lars.

Lars laughs happily as he's presented with the apple, withdrawing an elegantly adorned and carved knife from his belt with which to split it in half and offer the prettier half back over. "I visit the tower all too rarely, my lady," he notes, slicing off a piece of apple to pop into his mouth. "And mostly on terribly dull business. It's usually the Maidenday gardens for me. But I must know, how do you remember what they looked like from year to year? Tell me you sketch, or paint, or something?"

"Oh," Marsei shakes her head after a small bite of fresh apple; her hair is most unbound but for a few braids, and the coppery waves toss within the confines of the hood, bright against the snowy scarf. "I'm fortunate if I manage to embroider a flower, let alone paint one, I'm afraid. I just hold it in my mind. It's easy to remember a beautiful thing," she says, smiling upon a bush full of fragile flowers in great bunches, their tiny petals dried on the branch. It's a wonder something so delicate has withheld the forces of nature. "But there are so many new plants in the gardens above this year, thanks to my husband, it might be too many to possibly recall." On that note, she beams insistently at Lars. "You simply must make time to visit them before the green fades. If you adore Maidenday as I do, you'll love my butterfly garden."

"When there are so many beautiful things, I can only remember the most beautiful of them all," Lars insists with an easy smile. "Flowers pale into insignificance when I'm in company such as yours. Even your butterflies can't compare, I'm sure. But how do you even… I mean, what makes a butterfly choose one garden over another? I'm intrigued."

"You flatter me too much, Lord Lars," Marsei says demurely, but with gentle insistence, even though her warm smile is utterly unmarred. She brightens all the more to speak of the whimsical garden creatures. "They too remember the most beautiful flowers of them all," she's happy to explain, a story-like quality to her telling. "There are flowers they like the best, above all others, special flowers with sweet nectar, and so they come back again and again, never having to fly far. Dhraegon nurtures them somehow, before they've grown wings, so when they take flight it is in our garden and they know they are home."

"I'd ask to learn which flowers they are, so we can plant some outside our window, but I think I'd be pulling butterflies away from your home to mine, and that's hardly fair," Lars admits. "Perhaps instead I might have permission to visit your butterfly garden with my wife some time, so she can enjoy it, too?"

"Of course! I'd be thrilled if you both came to see it," Marsei replies straight away, sounding, in fact, thrilled already. "And I imagine Dhraegon would be delighted to tell you how to attract butterflies," she goes on, her jubilant expression only fading ever-so-slightly when a gust of wind — bringing a swirl of storminess along with it — rustles her hood, hair, and the soft fur of the scarf. "… although butterfly season is coming to an end along with the flowers, I expect…"

"I'll see if I can coax her out in the next few weeks," Lars promises, brows furrowed for a moment. "The weather really doesn't agree with her, though. The moment it gets cold, she freezes if she's not practically in the fire. I've a mind to see if we can't find a diplomatic job in Dorne, just for the heat. But I'm loathe to leave Oldtown."

"We have that in common, your wife and I." Marsei wraps her arms around herself, still holding on to that bit of apple. The weather is becoming increasingly cantankerous. "I grew up accustomed to the rains of Oldtown, but the cold… I know we ought to be thankful, spared the worst of winters like they see in the North…" she trails off. "Dorne is remarkably lovely," she says as though this was a surprise, "I made my first visit to Starfall some months ago. But unpredictable, I think. And afterall, what would we do without our customs master?"

Lars laughs amiably. "Oh, I'm under no misapprehensions that I'm not replaceable. When was the last time Oldtown had an exciseman with a noble title? When I'm gone, one of the smallfolk will take over and nobody will be any the wiser. But I'm comfortable here, I'll admit. It's a lovely place to be, and it helps you and your family to look good, so I'm only too willing to help. Is your apple all right?"

"It is!" Marsei chirps, quick to reassure Lars — even though it was her hand that picked the apple from her family's tree. "Only I forgot they were more tart than sweet orchard trees." The variety she grew accustomed to — and then tired of — in the time before her return to the Hightower. In the apple capitol of the Reach. "You're clever at your job, by all accounts," she encourages cheerily. "I should still like to learn more about it."

"You know you're always very welcome to drop in and I'll show you what goods are passing through," Lars offers, slicing off a piece of his apple to nibble. "I'll provide wine, at least, so it's not too dull."

Marsei gives a soft laugh. "At any time at all?" She doesn't want to inconvenience Lars, though she sees no clues to expect she would. "I will, truly this time, and soon," she announces, smiling. Another gust of wind rushes past them, sending leaves in the air and going on to whistle around the giant tower. The lady gives a soft little squeak as she fends one away from her face. The wind carries a hint of rain with it. The clouds look particularly tumultuous. "…on a finer day!" she adds. "Walk me back to the Hightower?"

"With inordinate pleasure, my lady," Lars insists gallantly, offering his arm and a smile. The remains of his apple are disposed of into a nearby bush for the birds to peck at.

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