|Summary:||Ser Loryn brings a stranger in need of help to the Hightowers for aid.|
The Hightower — Battle Island
The great tower is all of white stone, ancient and beautiful, but for the lowest part, which is seamless black, akin to dragonglass, and more ancient still. This lowest tier is quite wide and grand enough for any palace. There are two stories of this bottom part of the tower, and while the grand entry is wide and open, the corridors are a twisting maze of black stone. The tower has a narrower white stone tier above, and a circular balcony-garden on the roof-space left unoccupied.
The ground floor is dominated by this grand receiving hall, and the great main doors lead directly to it. High windows let in light that reflects off the glossy walls and makes the space airy and brighter than one would think black stone would allow. It is here that the Lord of Hightower holds his local court, from a large chair on a tall wooden dais. Both chair and dais are carved with images of the tower itself, and with dolphins and sea-dragons. They are inlaid with stones of white and grey, and decorated with silver-leaf. There's space for the Lord's councillors to sit alongside him, but visitors seeking audience must stand.
Past this grand hall there is a wide gracious stone stairway allowing access to the higher levels. Hidden behind the wall behind it and to and on one side, ramps allow wagon-loads of firewood for the beacon to be hauled up.
Having left Micaella in the young actor Ronan's care in the market, Loryn has gone in search of a captain of the guard on duty. Finding none, he grumbles to himself and decides to directly take the Hightowers to task. So he hurries back to the market to extricate Micaella from Ronan, explaining to her that he's going to see Ormund Hightower himself and that it would be better if she came along and stated her case herself. Along the way he explains a bit how the Hightowers rule Oldtown from the mighty Hightower in the harbour and are generally decent folks, except for the big old fatty who taxes his theatre to death. And finally they are by the entrance where Ser Loryn Tyrell announces that he wishes to see Ser Ormund, or failing that, perhaps the Lady Marsei.
Micaella follows Ser Loryn Tyrell all the way to the tower with due heist. She listens attentively to his explanations and is blown away by the impressive tower when they arrive. Not quite knowing what to do, she keeps behind the Knight and just admired the architecture of the place while she waits for the audience.
The visitors are in luck on one count. Though the sitting Hightower lord's face does not appear, a gathering of ladies seems to be just dispersing from the far end of the grand receiving hall. Their myriad beautiful dresses and coiffed hair part like a kaleidoscope of butterflies, colours reflecting in the shining black stone of the enormous hall for one of the caped-and-armoured Hightower guards to easily find Ormund's younger sister Marsei at the center. She doesn't notice at first — caught in bright-eyed conversation with a lingering lady of some neighbouring Reach house — but the moment she's given the message, she turns about with a whirl of softly curled red hair. Giving quiet apology to her friend and smoothing down the front of her peach-coloured dress — long bell-sleeved and ever-so-slightly structured about the shoulders, delicately embroidered around the gentle V of a collar with pink and red — she approaches Ser Loryn. She has a genuine beaming smile ready for him, which quirks with curiosity at the sight of his golden-haired accompaniment. "Ser Loryn! Cousin, a surprise again. I'm afraid my brother is held up with the council."
Loryn strides forward to take Marsei's hand and bring it up to his lips for a light kiss. "Lady Marsei, always a sight for sore eyes.", he smiles at her, "It's a pity your brother has no time for us right now… I met this young woman in the market and she's been the victim of a crime. Her family rather. I could not find the captain on duty and I thought that at the end of the day, Oldtown's security lies in the hands of your brother. So perhaps you know how to help?" Realizing that he should be doing some sort of introduction, he turns back to Micaella: "This is the Lady Marsei Hightower, my cousin. Lady Marsei, this is Micaella…" His voice trails off, since he doesn't know anything else about her.
Micaella lets Loryn speak as she stands behind him trying not to call too much attention. When she is introduced she does the proper reverence towards Lady Marsei, flexing her knees slightly, grabbing her own dress and lowering her own head. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance my Lady, I'm really sorry for bothering you"
"A crime?" The sweet Hightower's face instantly grows distraught with worry, though it turns warm just as quick, smiling sympathetically at Micaella as though she already knows the girl, welcoming even before she can comprehend the circumstance which brought her here. "It is no bother at all," she assures, sincere, "It is good to meet you, Micaella. What a lovely name." She gestures the nearby guard toward them, telling Loryn meanwhile, "The city's security lies in the hands of two of my brothers." To that point, she tells the guard quietly, "Tell Lord Commander Gwayne to find me if you see him." As the guard nods and returns to duty, Marsei holds her arm out, as though around both Loryn and Micaella though she touches neither, ushering them toward one of the corridors snaking off the grand hall. "I am no lord or commander of the City Watch, but I will do my best to help if I can. Let us go somewhere we can talk in quiet," she suggests.
Loryn nods in agreement to the suggestion to go somewhere else to talk in quiet. Preferably somewhere that has drinks. And a view. "Why don't you tell Lady Marsei in more detail what you told me?", he suggests to Micaella when they start walking again, "What happened to your parents… We might still find them alive, right?" One can hope.
Micaella 's lower lips is still shivering as the images of that fateful morning return to her head. She tries to be strong and show not signal of the emotions she showed last time she told her story. although her desperation and sorrow are evident nonetheless. She speaks as she keeps walking stoically relating her story "We were coming from King's landing this morning. It was a merchant caravan, around 15 men and women including some mercenary guards we have had hired down the road. I woke up and heard screaming. We were camping a few miles from the city gates. I don't know how many but I saw men, running with sword in hand, cutting and hacking, I saw limbs and blood on the floor" Her expression clearly changing to one of disgust and horror "I called for my parents but they were nowhere to be seen. Some outlaw smelling to urine and alcohol came close to me and I just ran for it, ran until I found the city gates"
"Oh no," Marsei breathes as she listens. It rather visibly takes all of her composure not to stop right there in the corridor and take in Micaella's story. She keeps her gaze, full to the brim with empathy, on the young woman, not even looking where she steps. The maze of black stone could lose anyone but a Hightower, but even so, the lady's path is a more straightforward one: to the library, where she says a few quiet words to one of the guards posted outside. She bids her company wait a brief moment while the guard enters the library and returns to nod to the lady: it's empty, and will remain so except for Marsei and her visitors. She leads them in, a hurry in her step. There's no view for Loryn, except for aisles and aisles of books and plush chairs and tables.
Library - The Hightower
This expansive room serves as the library for House Hightower and their guests. While its book collection does not compare to what the Citadel might offer, the space is entirely admirable, and well suited so socialization as well as study.
Tall shelves line the walls. The ends of the wooden bookcases are carved with the Hightower sigil, an image of the very tower that holds this room. They are painted, and the flames of the beacon-fire covered with bright gold leaf. While the carvings are largely the same, the paint-jobs are each different, some showing the tower at night, some at dawn, some in rain, and so forth.
The shelves nearest the door hold, not books, but games of various sorts, most in wooden boxes. There are several large round tables to facilitate play, surrounded by chairs plushly padded with silk, some in silver and some in red.
Further back, the bookshelves are not pressed against the walls but arranged in stacks that divide up the space into small, semi-private areas. Hidden there are more tables, these ones small, as well as single chairs and plush couches.
The room is windowless, but kept well-lit by many lamps.
"You poor thing." Marsei has hardly crossed the threshold before she's turned about, reaching to embrace the stranger.
Loryn does not comment on the lack of view, at least not audibly. He doesn't really pay much attention to the walls of books either as he wanders in to find a comfy place to sit with the ladies. He's been silent while Micaella shared her tale, but now says quietly: "You see, why I thought your brother should hear this. There's a chance to find the parents alive perhaps. And it's no good that brigands roam the main street again…"
Micaella is so unnerved that she barely notices the room she otherwise would be marvelled of she just follows the pair of nobles into the library. With a sigh and biting her lips trying not to cry like she did the last time she told the story she mutters "We were supposed to stay at the Golden Maiden my Lady, but I've been there the whole day and no one from the caravan has shown off. I really don't know what to do"
Lady Marsei hugs the young woman tight before sitting down neatly in a chair across from Loryn. "How awful. Seven blessings upon you, Micaella," she says, as pious as she is sincere. "It is good at least that you are at the Golden Maiden; it is a fine place, and you should be safe there." She folds her hands on her daintily crossed knee. "It happened outside the city gates?" Marsei queries to be sure, looking from Loryn to Micaella and back again, "I'm certain Ormund and Gwayne would know if they roamed our streets," she insists. "I'll tell them what happened straight away, as soon as the gods grant. I'm certain a search party can be sent."
A servant steps in shortly thereafter; he must have been sent by the guard after quietly instructed by Marsei. He comes bearing cups and a pitcher of red wine. It is Marsei, however, who asks, "Is there anything different you might want? Mulled wine? Hot cider? Lemon water?" She's clearly looking out for Micaella's comfort above Loryn's thirst.
Loryn is fine with the red wine anyway. It helps him to fade into the wall paper while the females talk. Though not before he's added quietly: "If it's happened close to Oldtown, chances are the brigands are using one of the small bays here to ship stolen goods. And assaults on the main street will harm trade going from the harbour to Highgarden and beyond…"
Micaella shigs as she's hugged not knowing if it would even be appropriate to hug back a noblewoman she barely knows. A bit more calmed now and utterly ashamed by her breakdown she takes a deep breath and answers to Lady Hightower's question "It was outside the city gates, on the road, about 6-8 miles away from the city.
The mere concept of such untoward business going on in and around her city causes Marsei's eyes to widen in almost incredulous distress. "I shall inform my husband and the Customs Master to keep an eye out," she says — soft of voice, strong in conviction. She tells the servant to bring some mulled wine and cider, just to be certain. "Do you think you and your fellow knights could aid a search?" she asks of Loryn. "You know more than I about such things," she says with a slight tone of sadness, "I only wish I could do more in my brothers' absence. I am so sorry you must go through this," she tells Micaella softly.
"Of course.", Loryn assures Marsei, "Brigands terrorizing the Reach and making travels unsafe is a Tyrell matter as much as a Hightower matter. Is Brynden around? He and I could assemble some knights to support the guards.", he suggests, mentioning the Hightower for whom he squired not too long ago. His eyes briefly drift to Micaella, then back to Marsei. "I understand the girl wishes to stay at the Golden Maiden for now, in case she receives news of her parents or her parents even arrive. But perhaps the future needs to be considered…"
Micaella having regain her composure once more but still but a heavy feeling in her chest. She looks at both Lady Marsei and Ser Loryn with a faint smile of gratitude showing up. "I can't find words to show how much I'm grateful to both of you. My Lord, my Lady, I'm glad that at least I was able to find people as kind spirited as both of you"
"I'm certain Brynden would love to help," Marsei says over-enthusiastically in a tone quite opposite that of her cousin of fewer words, Brynden. Rather, she would love for Brynden to help. She looks thoughtfully upon Micaella, smiling as the younger woman does. "I should think the only future that must be considered is finding your family?" she poses optimistically with a glance to Loryn. "Are you from King's Landing?" she wonders, then. "What brought you down to the Reach?"
"Perhaps I should go and see if I can find him.", Loryn offers on the subject of Brynden. Now that he has delivered his damsel in distress into the care of a lady, he seems quite ready to depart. Although he still has a glass of wine to finish and he also seems keen on hearing Micaella's answers to the question.
Micaella turns to the knight as he speaks and gives him a gracious grateful nod then she returns to Lady Marsei, her eyes looking upwards as she recalls her past 'Is complicated. See, I was born In Bravoos during one of my Father's merchant expeditions, but I've lived most of my life in King's Landing. We were going in another of such expeditions, selling wares from the capital and then picking up some more to deliver to Highgarden"
Marsei nods agreeingly to Loryn. "Merchants," she repeats as though it is a fascination to be pondered over. Beyond that, however, she speaks as though they are equals despite her position as a noblewoman. "I should like to hear about your family's wares some time — as, I'm sure, would my husband. He has a strong interest in trade." She smiles, warm as ever. "I miss the bustle of King's Landing from time to time." The servant returns expediently — truly, it's a wonder if the drinks he carries in are even hot. Marsei takes a small serving of warm mulled wine, having passed on the red.
"I've been to King's Landing only once.", Loryn admits between two sips of wine, "Although that may change in future." After that somewhat cryptic remark he rises to his feet, empties his glass and sets it down. "I shall be on my way to seek out Brynden then.", he declares steps closer to Marsei to say goodbye with that pretendy-kisses-past-the-cheek thing people have going on. He then turns to Micaella with a warm smile. "You are in good hands with Lady Marsei. The best hands you could wish for." And she won't be sermonizing at the poor girl like Miranda would.
Micaella smiles at the servant as she grabs the red wine turning now toward the parting Knight "Thank you my Lord. You have been most helpful" She takes a sip and turns back to the redheaded noblewoman "I'm sure my father would love to discuss such matters. I don't control my family's business but I'm indeed fascinated by it my Lady"
Marsei smiles at Loryn's cryptic remark, as though he spoke in plain words. She rises to see him off. "It was very good of you to look out for her, cousin. I'm certain Lady Miranda will be proud of your good deed, and the Seven too." As the knight departs, she sits back down with Micaella. "I'm sure you've learned much about the business from your father," she says; encouraging, in a way. She sips her mulled wine carefully, though it is far from piping. "Stay as long as you like," she offers. "Do you like books? When you decide to return to the inn, I will have a guard sent with you, just to be safe," she decides.
Micaella takes another sip of her red wine before saying "I do my lady, very much so. Although I like the practical aspect of the trade a bit more. Actually going out and seeing the world trading exotic wares, meeting people with cultures and ideas and even powers one would never get to see in King's Landing. And thank you for the guard my Lady, You're most kind"
The lady's eyes sparkle, imagining far-off places and exotic wares. She seems on the verge of response — rosy lips poised to speak — when she finds herself caught on one of Micaella's words. "… Powers?" she asks, curiously — and slightly uncertainly — instead.
Micaella nods and continues talking passionately "Yes my lady, beyond the narrow sea, in the free cities you get to see all sort of things. Strange priests dressed in red doing all kind of fire magic, guilds of illusionists that play with reality, men who changes their faces like they change their clothes. Is really wonderful what's out there"
Such wonders leave the noblewoman appearing more worried than anything, but curiosity yet flashes in her gaze, and Micaella's passion on the subject warms her further. "As wondrous as it is frightful, I think," she says with a small smile. "There is a red temple here in Oldtown … and— once I hired a man for a party who could do such grand illusions and tricks! I wonder what ever happened to him…" She becomes distracted only momentarily, brightening quick. "You are lucky to be so well-travelled!"
Micaella smiles warmly as her passion keeps growing with each word she says or hears which in turns makes her speak even more "I know my Lady, I'm really thankful to the seven for having allowed me to travel so far in so such short amount of time. But you mentioned a red temple in the city. I didn't know foreign religions were taking root in the continent. For all I know their practices are a step beyond heretical"
Marsei lights up when Micaella thanks the Seven. "The red priests certainly live far from the Seven's path. The temple is only there for foreigners and travellers, I think; for sailors from across the Narrow Sea who come into our harbour," she answers, glancing down ever-so-slightly regretfully, as though she wishes the strange temple didn't exist, marring Oldtown. "But I am glad to hear you are on the path of the Seven."
Micaella takes another sip of her red wine, the glass cup half empty by now " Thank you my Lady. There's not much I can hold to in this moment other than faith and hope that the Mother will shed her mercy upon me." She looks around the library just now noticing the impressive book collection surrounding her. A little in awe she continues "I see you have acquired quite an impressive collection my Lady"
"Oh— I have added nothing myself to these shelves, unless you count taking a book from a shelf only to put it back in the wrong place," the lady says modestly with a faint, good-humoured laugh drifting through her voice. Glancing to the nearest shelves — everything from religious tomes to historical texts in sight — her chin does tip up, however, with Hightower pride. "My family has collected many books over many years," she says. "Though of course our library is small, I'm told, compared to the Citadel. It is hard to imagine, isn't it?" She smiles warmly once again to Micaella. "That you are sitting here is proof that you have already been granted the Mother's mercy. Now we must pray she has enough room in Her arms for your family." She closes her eyes as though she might pray this very moment; perhaps she does. She stands soon after, however, setting her cup of wine on the table. "I am going to see if Ormund is out of the council chamber," she says. "Please, look at any book you like."
Micaella stands as you do making the proper show of respect as she says goodbye "Thank you my Lady. You've been most kind."