(124-05-08) Demons
Summary: Visitors are on their way to the Hightower, the kind which always mean some manner of changes and truths for both Marsei and Camillo who seem inextricably tied to them. A window into the past and present.
Date: May 8, 2017 and once upon a long time ago
Related: Fossoway Folly

Level 7 - The Hightower - Battle Island

Even a single tier of the great white stone tower is grand enough for any palace. This seventh level has many suites of private rooms, as well as shared parlours whose open walls and large windows light the tower's interior. The grand gracious staircases are accessible from near the center of the tower.

Marsei was meant to be in her chamber: that is where she said she'd be, when she told a servant to ask Camillo to fetch a soothing tisane for a cough. The fall chill in the air has a way of clinging to one's bones, even those young and healthy, and a small bout of seasonal illness has been making its way up the Hightower, bit by bit.

She was meant to be in her chamber, but it seems she has veered off course shortly after stepping off the grand staircase. She stands at one of the enormous windows at the edge of a parlor with Siva at her arm; it is the loyal handmaiden who is looking slightly ashen while her lady looks as healthy as ever. She is wearing Marsei's fine cloak, though probably against her will; she's well enough to keep up with her duties just fine, not one to be kept down by a sniffle. A group of ladies who first drew their attention to the window move on, losing interest while Marsei, who holds a rather ancient-looking rolled-up parchment in her hands, remains invested in watching a small contingent of wagons arriving across the bridge. They're far out yet. Only distant shimmers of red and gold betray their house colours. It could be surprise Lannisters in for the festivities. Or…

Camillo is mounting the stairs with a tray with the requested cough remedy, but he slows when he realizes that people are in the corridor, especially when they turn out to be Marsei and Siva. "Ah," he says, but doesn't follow that up right away.

Marsei presses one hand against the white stone wall framing the window, leaning ever-so-slightly forward as if that scant inch will give her a better vantage point. Thusly distracted, it is Siva who turns to politely smile and alert Marsei to Camillo's presence with a touch to her arm. The lady turns and smiles gratitude toward Camillo, though her thoughts are still out the window, even if her gaze isn't. "Oh, thank you, Camillo. Siva isn't feeling well," she explains.

"I am fine, my lady," Siva responds, reaching to take the remedy from Camillo with something of a begrudging bashfulness contained in her subtle little expressions.

Marsei beckons Camillo closer with a wave of her hand, looking back out the window: down beyond the clouds, down to the choppy Whispering Sound and the long bridge stretched boldly across it. To the people and carts and wagons and horses. To the red and gold. "We used to play a game, the children in the Hightower." The whimsy of nostalgia in her voice is tempered by some deeper concern. "When we were so high up, we could not always tell who comes calling. And so we would guess, and bet, based on what clues we could see from up here. From higher, sometimes, from the upper stairs. I suppose our septas encouraged such gambling," she says with faint humour, "since it taught us house colours."

Camillo hands over the tray. "I can bring some herbs a little later," he says softly, but he's already moving towards the window. Once he is near enough to see, he has all the wide-eyed stiffness of a cat who spots an unfamiliar creature in his territory. "If the younger servants had the time, that would be a good game for them to learn, my lady," he says. But no one wants their corridors clogged with gawping maids.

"I should teach it to them," Marsei declares, fond of this notion, albeit distracted even in that; her fingertips press into the stone surface. It is a small party that travels the bridge; there are only a few enclosed wagons likely carrying ladies or perhaps older men. A few men, to match, travel on horseback, their distant forms bulky enough to be wearing armour, and various men in their service trail beside and behind them. "They do not travel grandly enough to be Lannisters." Marsei almost sounds disappointed. "What other houses carry red and gold?"

It is Siva who answers, teacherly. "House Bracken is a red stallion upon a gold shield, on a brown field." But she knows it is not the Brackens.

"My lady…" Camillo says softly. "I think…we can imagine who it might be." Though he can't see any more clearly than shy, and he certainly doesn't step so close as to crowd her.

Marsei's sigh is silent, only revealed in the rise and fall of her narrow shoulders. She glances aside to Siva after a moment. "Go on ahead," she encourages. "I'll be in after awhile." With a bow of her head — and a worried look for her lady's troubles — Siva departs with the tray. "I used to look so forward to seeing them," Marsei admits to Camillo then, slow, quiet. "They were part of my family."

Camillo looks down thoughtfully at the stones underfoot, perhaps trying to imagine something comforting to say. "Perhaps for you, some of them might yet be," he suggests gently, lifting his eyes to look out the window again, though they can hardly have gotten much nearer in just a few seconds.

Marsei nods, agreeing, smiling a little to think on the smiling faces of the Fossoways she doesn't doubt will greet her soon, although it's hard to say whether the thought gives her any true comfort. "After I visited Cider Hall the last time, I felt as though I had put it all behind me. In order to move on. Now … I cannot help but feel that such distance has created a rift."

"Perhaps it will be more in your mind, my lady, than theirs. If you receive them kindly, they may not see anything as amiss. Do you…know which of them are coming?"

Marsei gives her head a little shake. "I thought perhaps you'd heard," she replies softly. "I only presume Jana will be here. She enjoys the festivities. Then again…" She frowns at the very corners of her mouth and narrows her eyes, trying to dicern the details of tiny faces crossing the bridge. Someone from the Hightower rides out to meet them.

"I don't know for sure," Camillo says. "I'd heard that Roberd was thinking not to come at all, in which case… Well, in which case we shall see if it is better for me to take a trip."

"If he is not with them, then … perhaps that means we truly do not have anything to worry about, after all, and you needn't bother," Marsei says, erring on the side of optimism rather than caution, even though she can't shake the concern with which she stares out that window. The man from the Hightower seems to be addressing the man in charge of the casual envoy. "If one of the Lords of the Orchards has decided to visit, however… I— am sorry if it is Lord Haemon," she tells Camillo, actually pulling her gaze away from the window to regard him. "He… I mean, at least I imagine that he would be hard to be around." For Camillo, is implied, all things considered.

Camillo swallows while he watches out of the window. "If he is here then…my lady, I should…take pains not to be visible. He will know me, my lady. I have…done him a bad turn in the past. One that he will not have forgotten."

As she glances, this time only briefly, out the window, Marsei lifts her dimpled chin up to nod in understanding — or, at least, empathy for Camillo's predicament. If only they could tell from here who it is: is it Lord Owen or is it Lord Haemon? Perhaps it's neither, simply one of their trusted men, here to join the festivities and protect the family on their journey from Cider Hall. "Is…" she begins hesitantly, rerouting her words as a result. "Do you think his anger would be so grave as to surpass our family's protection of you— our loyal servant?"

"Not…openly," Camillo allows, bobbing his head once. "I do not think he would be so foolish as to incur the anger of your house."

"Was it over Istor?" Marsei's prying is spoken so gently it might as well be encouragement.

"Over…" Camillo repeats thoughtfully, considering the implication of the word, his eyes scanning back and forth once before he confirms, "Yes."

Marsei dips her head, thoughtful — over what was not a wealth of information from Camillo. "When I met Istor, he spoke of his brother's temper. That he was a demon. I confess it … chilled me to hear."

Camillo narrows his eyes a little as he watches out the window, maybe squinting to try better to make out a face. "Yes," he says at last. "I knew him as a man with a temper. He quarreled especially with his wife, who was smarter than he is. He drank to excess, which rarely helped matters. And he hated to be embarrassed."

"Yes." A short, hushed syllable. Their conversation is summoning another one in memory: the night Camillo came to see her after he returned from his trip. After her wedding. After Istor died. She recalled Haemon in those terms that time, too: a demon. And then Camillo asked her a question.

She looks starkly out the window, her neck tense with delicate cords. She squeezes her hand around the scroll, remembering it's there just in time to stop from crushing the precious record. "Well," she says, discomfited through a dimunitive smile, "the Hightower is the best hiding place in the realm."

Camillo presses his lips together. "That is true," he acknowledges. "And I know it as well as most. None of this will cause me to abandon you in what may be a trying time," he assures softly. "Even if I stay out of his sight, I will help you."

"Hopefully, my only challenge will be dinner conversation with the man who is to be Jana's husband," Marsei replies. Given her sturdier smile, it is meant to be a joke, but the expression firms more seriously, grateful for Camillo's loyalty. The party is closer now, though it is partially an illusion: closer in distance, just as lofty in height from their bird's eye perspective. Things like build and hair colour come into stronger relief, at least. Only one stands out, a tall, armoured man with light hair who doesn't match these generations of brown-haired Fossoways — nor does he match the girth of Roberd Flowers. "Must they all look the same," she complains and squares her shoulders, taking a step back from the window. It could be Haemon as easily as it could be Owen; it could be Jarvas, back from the grave, if she didn't know better. "I will go meet them," she says. "You will know soon who is among us."

Camillo nods faintly. "I'm…sorry in a way not to be of more help, but…we'll sort matters out, my lady," he promises in a soft tone.

"You are a help, Camillo, even just now. Who else would understand the ins and outs of the Fossoways?" Even with gaps in each of their understandings of one another's time at Cider Hall. "Would you drop this off with Siva in my chambers while I go downstairs— ?" She holds out the old, bound scroll.

Camillo wraps a hand around the scroll and nods. "Yes, my lady," he confirms, dipping his head. He pauses as though he might say more, but in the end does not, slipping instead off toward Marsei's chambers.

Marsei descends, floor after floor, into the grand receiving hall, where she will be indeed met with met with mostly smiling faces, including that of Lady Jana and a man introduced as Ser Jesper with a black stripe on his white shield; and Lord Haemon Fossoway, among them all.

* * *

Some time ago — December 23rd, 122 — in Marsei's suite

It's been a long two weeks or so without Camillo around the Hightower. Not that Camillo necessarily makes the time pass any faster with a fascinating presence, just that he has never been away for so long. Nor has he even been seen at work, yet, when he knocks on Marsei's door.

While Marsei does often spend time in the rooms of Dhraegon, adjacent, since their marriage, she is alone in her own when Camillo knocks at her door. She is settled for the night, just shy of changing clothes, and uncertain about visitors, she looks from the small table at which she sits, next to her dove's hanging cage — which is half-draped in a tasseled, red silk cover — with the Seven-Pointed Star in front of her. The knock does not sound like Dhraegon's; it does not sound like any of her family's, for it has a different sort of familiar quality.

Siva is the one to open the door, a few moments later, after appearing from deeper in Marsei's rooms and exchanging silent communication. Similarly, she vanishes from whence she came when the door is opened, leaving Marsei standing several paces back from the threshold to greet Camillo. She holds the holy book in her arms the way one might hug a stuffed toy for comfort.

Camillo slips in and looks at the book in Marsei's arms. "My lady," he says. "I have come to tell you I am returned from my time away." He's lacking most of his beard, though a shorter one is in place, now. He finds his eyes linger on the book. "Are you finding comfort and beauty in the Words, my lady?"

"It is good to see you back, Camillo." Marsei's surge of cheer peaks and falls, unsustainable as she studies Camillo with worry in her eyes: clear, but held back. She hangs her head, her hair all loose in waves, to the book in her arms. She holds it tighter. "Yes," she says, but sounds unconvinced by in her own answer.

Camillo looks a bit tired and drawn, it must be said. He lifts his eyes to Marsei's face, looking at it for some time with a solemn expression. "Are we alone, my lady?"

Marsei considers through a long pause without word before she presses her lips together and holds a hand up off the book in a small, staying gesture. She turns away, moving toward the inner chamber, the bedroom. Siva emerges and heads for the door a moment later, trailed by a younger handmaiden. As they skirt around Camillo and dutifully depart, Marsei makes her way to the table near the window. She sets the Seven-Pointed Star down without lifting her hands from its precious cover.

"Have you been happy since your wedding, my lady?" Camillo asks next. He remains on his feet, of course.

"Yes," she answers. While the word holds true sincerity, it is not complete. Marsei keeps her head down toward the book a moment longer before turning to face Camillo. "But I…" Her soft voice cracks with uncertainty and distress. "…I have heard— such u-unfortunate news from Cider Hall…"

"Have you, my lady?" Camillo responds. It is still hard to read his expression. "What have you heard?"

Marsei's features slowly cinch together, pulling and unsettled; her eyes dance with worry and glints of sadness. "Have you not heard?" she asks in a distinct manner: bad news to be delivered. She does not want to be the deliverer, and her gaze on Camillo seems to search, wondering if she has to be. She sits down at the very edge of one of the table's two chairs.

"I was told that…there was a death, my lady," Camillo says after looking at her face for a moment. "But I do not know what is true. It is hard to trust news that travels any distance."

"I was not certain either; I hoped against it," Marsei admits, "… but I received word this morning from Cider Hall," she reveals somberly. Rather than lower in graveness, as some voices might, hers only quiets and slows. "I suspect it was his mother who wrote it…" Her gaze jumps aside, following the patterns her hand has begun to idly make around the stamped symbol on the front of the book. "… his father being so ill."

Camillo looks at the book. "I hope you are not too much saddened, my lady," he says with a certain heaviness. "I am sure that…your kindness to Lord Istor was…was the finest thing to happen to him for many years." He tightens the corners of his mouth lest it betray any emotion.

Marsei bites one side of her lower lip before looking again to Camillo, searching for his reaction. When she finds little, she looks deeper, that animated, seawater gaze of hers seeming to reach out toward him. "He must have barely returned to the dungeon before he— I cannot help but think that… somehow, if… he had not come to my wedding, he would still be alive," she says, sorrowful and wondering.

Camillo lowers his gaze to the floor, perhaps to evade Marsei's. "Alive to sit in a dungeon cell," he replies, "And watch his strength and his faculties wane year by year while dreaming of nothing but escape and revenge. It is…it is perhaps not to be wished, my lady." His voice is quiet and a bit thick, nevertheless.

Marsei tips her chin down as though she means to nod, but cannot quite bring herself to follow through, for it would mean agreement. "I kept remembering— what you said… when that girl was a prisoner, and you told me you knew what it was to be told you must die and then have to wait. I suppose it…" Her forehead tenses, and she looks down, "… it was different for him. He had nothing in his future, not even that, and perhaps that was worse, but…" Her own mouth tenses at the corners. Again, her gaze fits on Camillo's face. "Are you well, Camillo…? He was … your lord."

Camillo takes a breath and blinks slowly. "I am very sad to hear it confirmed," he says. "I am…I am very sad that he is gone." And indeed he does sound sad. His expression is a good candidate to represent the definition of 'hang-dog.' "People… There are many people who did not understand him. But he…was better than they realized."

Marsei seems to frown and smile at once — a sympathetic, wistful expression. A kind of hope fills her eyes for a fleeting moment — wanting Camillo's assessment to be true — then grows distant. "It was difficult to… know him, when I spoke with him. He had such… rage, toward his brother," she says thoughtfully, her expression unsteady as it shifts from thought to thought. "When the rumour first came to me, it was suggested that such a death was not by his own hand." She looks closely at the hang-dog servant all over again. "I do not know what to think."

Camillo rolls his lips together. "He was not always quite so vehement, but…so much happened, my lady. And the years in the cell…" He trails off, then looks back to her face when she says it was rumored that it was not a suicide. "Why, what do they think happened?" he asks. "Why should they kill him now after years?"

Marsei shakes her head slowly, having no answers. Only, "Perhaps he was too vehement. Perhaps … someone saw a chance." A pause. "Perhaps… it is only supposition."

Camillo nods faintly at these suppositions. "It is possible," he acknowledges. "I only hope…he is at peace now. If he was killed, then he died in innocence. Surely the Seven will have mercy on him."

"Yes, let us pray they have mercy on him," Marsei agrees quietly, albeit with slight distraction, flattening her hand upon the Seven-Pointed Star in silent beseeching to the gods and wisdom outlined within.

Camillo is quiet a long moment, gaze wandering. But then he looks to Marsei's face once more. "My lady, he said something to me when he was here. I…wish to ask one question. I hope you will not…misunderstand my intent. I ask only…only /ever/ between the two of us."

Concern instantly rushes to the face Camillo watches, although truly it had never left; it simply becomes more urgent. Curiosity runs brightly alongside it, heightening the more Marsei imagines what he could possibly ask — yet she is hesitant, her mouth parting without words at first. She nods in acknowledgment, however, and her head remains slightly tipped toward him, tips her head slightly toward him, "What is it, Camillo…?"

"I know it is cruel to ask, but I must know," Camillo acknowledges. He's quiet for just that moment longer on the approach to a question from which there is no return: "Did you kill your husband, my lady?" Rather than accusatory, his tone is gentle, almost sympathetic.

The question is posed as gentle as that question can be, but the lady's face seems to go hollow, as if there is no life left in it. Her eyes are wide and empty. The question, frank and honest with that hint of possible sympathy, it fills the room like an echo — and it seems to assault her ears; she comes to her senses all at once, in a rush, but she is changed. She instantly turns away from Camillo, fully facing the table, her hand departing from the book of their god and brushing under the point of her nose only to hang unsteadily in the air afterward. "Why did— " Her voice is half breath, high and dazed and anxious, " — what did he say to you that would … why would you ask me," she implores.

"I am sorry, my lady," Camillo says rather regretfully as she turns away. "Perhaps he stated wrongly. Or perhaps I misunderstood. But he said…as he told you of Haemon's personality, the reasons he had to be done away with… That you said he sounded similar to your husband. And I thought, if it was that awful…" He trails off and shakes his head. "Many women do what they must, when they cannot meet a man on the field of battle."

"O-oh," Marsei utters under her breath in realization, her head cast down. "I… should not have said such a thing," she says with somber regret. Her hand curls into her hair at the back of her neck, disappearing. "He was not … so bad as that. He was not a bad man at all, except when he drank, and then he was only angry and thoughtless. He was certainly not… a… a demon, as Lord Istor thought of Haemon. But Jarvas… he— well, perhaps he was more like Istor." She chances a glance over at Camillo without quite lifting her lids, her eyes watery and, maybe, a bit rueful. "He wished to push his brother from his chair, but Owen … he did not deserve it. "

Camillo bows his head in order to acknowledge that the question he has asked is difficult and disrespectful. "I see," he replies. "Would he have killed Lord Owen?"

"I will never know for certain, now," Marsei answers, quieter still. "He was so blind with arrogance that night," she says, the sadness in her voice mingled with frustration with her deceased former husband.

Camillo uncharacteristically moves to sit down beside Marsei. "I hadn't understood," he says quietly. "Did you love him?"

Marsei does not stir when Camillo sits down; she only slides her hands to her lap and holds them, her eyes leveled at the table. "No," she states candidly. The answer, so new, so rare, resonates boldly in the air, for how quiet she spoke; she pauses for a long moment before, her voice cracking softly, she adds, "But I did not hate him."

"I understand," Camillo claims quietly. "It must have been very hard, to be married to such a person. Is your new marriage happier to you, my lady? Do you love Prince Dhraegon?"

"The two are … so different, it is— almost beyond compare," Marsei says, her voice lightening ever-so-slightly. "It is. It is happier." She finally lifts her head and smiles, small but fond. "Prince Dhraegon is a good friend to me, and as such I love him dearly."

Camillo nods faintly at that bit of good news, at least. "My lady?" he ventures delicately, "I think perhaps he would like to hear it in those terms. I heard the prince once say something…like that he could not be loved. I think he would be very honored."

"You are probably very right." Marsei says on that note, smiling a bit of gratitude. Although she sounds as though she already knows this to be true, she looks down as if with nerves again. It is, however, shorter-lived, and she goes on, "It is kind of you to be concerned for Prince Dhraegon. You are so good to him."

Camillo shakes his head a little. "He is kind to me, too, my lady, and speaks to me sometimes."

She nods, easing into another smile. "We are both grateful for you, Camillo."

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