(124-05-09) Awakening
Summary: An unexpected dinner guest at the Hightower prompts an unexpected reaction when Marsei becomes the subject — or rather, the target — of conversation.
Date: May 9, 2017
Related: Safeguard, Behind Hidden Walls, Demons, [http://gobmush.wikidot.com/log:124-05-20-rotten-apples-at-the-lizard-lion-tourney, Fossoway scenes

Haemon & Elaine NPCed by Camillo!

Grand Dining Hall - The Hightower - Battle Island

This enormous dining hall is made to feast hundreds. There are wide double doors in the back which lead to the kitchens and the servants quarters beyond.

The walls here are decorated with huge tapestries depicting the Hightower, the acts of famous members of the Hightower family, the house sigil, famous parts of Oldtown, and the wildlife and flora of The Reach. Large oil lamps light the room, some from wall sconces and others from several massive chandeliers.

There are five long tables, each long enough to serve any ordinary grand feast. Their legs are carved in the shape of the Hightower itself, with the flame at the top leafed in gold. While they are narrow enough to allow people to pass things across them, they are so long that fifty might sit at each side. The great Head Table where the Lord and his family sit near the head is a little wider and a little taller, and is inlaid with blue and white and grey stone along its top. Carved chairs to match surround the tables.

It is a cool, blustery evening outside, the Whispering Sound crashing against the steep edges of Battle Island, spurred on by a whipping wind; the great tower is, thus, even more of a welcome refuge, evident in the constant din of conversation, laughter, and the clink of bowls and knives. Oil lamps gleam cheerfully through the grand dining hall and down upon the dinner guests from larger-than-life chandeliers, while the tables' many candles bring the gold leaf on the table legs to fiery relief. The glow makes a friendly, intimate setting out of an enormous space with black stone walls as people sit elbow-to-elbow and back-to-back. As dinners at the Hightower go, it is informal, with the Hightower family clustered near the head of the highest table and others filling out the rest of the nearby seats plus the tables on either side. Many rows remain empty.

Only a few out-of-town guests from far and away are present, and none of them are particularly surprising. Even without the influx of festival and tournament-goers just yet, there is no shortage of people in the dining hall: the Hightowers themselves and many of their many Reachlander cousins and friends; of course at least one Targaryen, namely Prince Dhraegon, who is naturally seated next to his Hightower ladywife; a few nobly born knights who are in service to or comrades of those present; a Beesbury here, a Redwyne there and so on, including a number of recently arrived Fossoways, the family Marsei was once a part of herself.

The meal has been in progress for a good spell, tables lined with now half-eaten stuffed seasoned poultry, long boats of bread and gravy, and an array of root vegetables, all on silver platters. To most of the tower's guests, it is neither celebration nor gluttony; it is simply another meal. Dinner, conversation, and drinks are at their height. Much of the crowd leans toward a travelling northern member of House Reed, who is presently overwhelmed by many pressing questions about lizard-lions.

The Fossoways are among those not far from the sitting family: among the spattering of Fossoways and their kin, Haemon Fossoway, Lord of Cider Hall's Red Orchard, is the prime authority. A white-haired uncle of the Golden Orchard half is present and so is Lord Owen's sister Lady Jana, with her new betrothed, Ser Jesper Blackbar of Bandallon. He is the opposite of the small, round-faced, sweet-looking Fossoway in appearance, with his lanky height and short light hair, long face, square — or, really, rather rectangular — jaw and a perpetually concerned, bewildered expression. He appears to be Jana's junior, putting him at about nine-and-ten or scarcely past.

Former goodsisters Jana and Marsei appear to share one thing in common this eve, which is that neither of them wish to talk about lizard-lions; nor, however, do they seem to speak much to each other. Marsei is in the midst of trying to turn everybody's attention away from the frightening creatures to a much more palatable topic: the flowers decorating the table. "Isn't a wonder they survived in this weather?" she marvels enthusiastically everyone at once, directing an admiring look to Dhraegon. She and her prince are seated next to the head of the table, where Ormund would sit were he not drawn away by matters of importance.

Prince Draegon is dressed in silks chosen to match his beloved Lady Wife's, in the long sleeved flowinf style he is known to prefer. he is merry cheeked from the wine and more than a year on clearly still smitten with her, pushing the best tidbits to her side of the trenched and always offering her the cup first before he drinks. He is all big goofy smiles for the visiting Fossaways, and at his wife's hinting is soon babbling excitedly about the sturdier perennials and the new children's Garden that is in it's first flower.

Haemon Fossoway has not hesitated much on the drink, either. He's here without his wife, who at least claims to be nursing their son's cold. But the topic of flowers is hardly his. Elaine Fossoway, on the other hand, presumably a younger cousing of Haemon's, looks at the arrangements with more interest. She is plump, with lighter hair, and she beams at Marsei and Dhraegon. "Your season is a little later than ours," she says. "And most of our flowers being apple blossoms, we've been starved for blooms since they all turned into apples!"

Ser Jesper stares blankly at Dhraegon, only turning his attention to the prince talk because his wife-to-be has. Jana indeed listens to the gardening talk, but her soft features are one of a polite mask; it's this or listening to disgusting queries about lizard-lions. (Regardless, somewhere down the table, an overeager Beesbury child can be heard asking the Reed if he's ever seen a lizard-lion eat a man.)

"There is nothing like your apple blossoms," Marsei replies to Elaine, smiling warmly, and with a hint of nostalgia. "But it was always nice to look upon a full orchard of apples, all red and gold and green." She diverts a small but questioning look to Jana; her smile for her former goodsister is softer, a peace offering. "I know how you love flowers, Jana." And yet she looks so unenthused by this conversation. "We ought to show you the new varieties in the chil— "

"Children's garden?" Jana fills in, copying Dhraegon's words from a moment ago, perking her chin up as she looks between the Hightower and Targaryen. "Does that mean there will be a baby, at last?"

Dhraegon beams at Lady Elaine, "Oh, but those do smell lovely, both te flowers and the fruit!" He helpfully pounts out which of the flowers in the arrangements have which names and which might be eaten and which are not if one is sensible, popping a flowe into his mouth in illustration, luckily of the former rather than the later, and actually leans across to offer Lady Jana another. Petals dripping from his mouth he giggles, "They are nice! Try one!" Then he is blushing all the way to his ears and trying to hide his face behind his wife's hair.

Somwhere after the eating began, Kelinyx slipped in and began hoarding all the sweet things she could on to a selfishly full plate, her eyes scanning the crowd for familiar faces while eating, soon gravitating toward the familiar sound of the prince's voice.

"We're already brewing ciders and apple wines," Elaine tells Marsei. Of course when she says 'we,' she does not mean that she had any part in the process. She presses her plump hands together at Jana's suggestion. "Ooh, a baby!" she coos excitedly. "When?" She herself is fairly young and yet unmarried, but surely has plans to marry soon.

Marsei reaches for her glass of wine to drink as the question is asked. She has been going much more slowly with the drink, only partaking enough to wash down her food and no more. "Oh— " Her quiet little response is more for Dhraegon's hideaway in her hair. It happens to be down today in lovely cascading waves, but is still perhaps not the most successful camouflage. She ducks her head modestly, smiling, and lays her hand over Dhraegon's. "Not us— we have not been so blessed by the Mother yet, but I do pray."

Jana is not so cooing as Elaine. She levels a steady stare at Marsei. "I suspect you do a lot of praying," she states as though her meaning is plain.

Marsei gives Jana a peculiar look, querying, and quite frankly a bit off-put by the other woman's strange inflection, but she is saved from replying when she notices a figure approaching Dhraegon. "Keli— ?" She blinks, looking from the girl to her husband as if to say 'is it all right that she's here?'

Dhraegon mumbles, "For Ormund's children and the others in the Castle, and… and visitors. I like gardens…." His own hair is loose, the fine white strands mingling with her bright hair, like frost over Autumn leaves. the unworldly Prince must have caught something of Jana's tone and peers at her, wide eyed and obviously not understanding at all what is implied in his innocence. In response to the mention of Keli, he murmurs something to his lady Wife.

Dhraegon whispers: It's all right. She is a sort of foster daughter.

Haemon eyes the Targaryen hiding in his wife's hair, but he doesn't say anything about the matter. He drinks. Elaine squeezes her shoulders toward one another. "Oh, you must be blessed soon enough, mustn't you? Why, the last time we were down here was for your wedding, and that was…"

Marsei whispers something in response to Dhraegon; it is quick, so as not to be rude while they're being spoken to. Keli is allowed to roam and eat, and Marsei is ready with a smile for Elaine, but once again her head bows. "The Mother's blessing is a gift," she says, true to her gentle piety. "We can only ask to be blessed, but cannot rush Her will."

Jana has something to say about that; it's on the very tip of her tongue, but at the last moment, with a haughty expression, she clenches her jaw and follows in Haemon's footsteps, taking a long drink.

"Delightful!" The old Fossoway uncle, Matthias, happily oblivious, slaps his hand on the table. "We should start a children's orchard, with the new saplings, don't you think? Hmm? We could grow rosehips."

Marsei takes in the sight of Haemon, drinking, and Jana, drinking, and changes the subject. "Lord Haemon, Ser Jesper," she beams at each, "Will you take part in the tournament?"

"I'm more than ready," Haemon replies. "Be a shame to travel anywhere without a bit of sport in it, eh? Who are your best men in Oldtown?" he inquires of Marsei, gaze drifting briefly to Dhraegon but not lingering, as the man may not be competent to answer such a question. "On the field, I mean." For her part, Elaine only goes quiet and looks at Jana with a slight anticipatory wiggle of gossip that may be yet to come.

Dhraegon murmurs, "A year and a half." He too thinks now might be a good time for more drink and signals the cup bearer. "We put statues in for the older ones to climb, and all the plants are safe if a little one eats them….. young Loryn is good in a joust and he gave us the puppets…. and that tall woman, from the North? She's very good with the sword in the melee."

"Maera Mormont?" Marsei does not quite agree or disagree, simply saying the Northwoman's name as an interesting curiosity. "Ser Loryn is very good," she agrees, although she leaves out the puppets. "And of course my cousin Ser Brynden," she says with a hint of Hightower pride. The men are spoken about as one might speak of well-showing horses; she isn't invested in the sport, just the family pride. "There is also a knight named Malcolm Storm who usually seems to do very well. But everyone will have a contest in front of them if they face off against you, Lord Haemon," she goes on, complimentary, watching the Fossoway lord with vested interest."

Jana shuffles her elbows about a bit, mumbling — in as much as her erudite voice can mumble — to Elaine, reading her expression, "You would explode, Elaine, if you knew the things I do. I'm doing you a service."

Jesper speaks up. "I'll do my best," states the young knight, a bit dopey and out of his element, not like a dog looking for approval. He gains it from Jana, who smiles encouragingly up at him.

Every so often, the lights flicker one by one as a gust of damp air travels through the long room from the receiving hall. It is such that hardly a soul looks up when the oil lamps shudder from an especially strong draft.

Haemon laughs. "Must I really cross swords and lances with a woman?" he questions through a grin. "I get enough of that from my wife." Is it a sexual double-entendre, or is he saying that he and his wife fight a lot? Haemon shows white teeth in a grin. "But I look forward to meeting the rest." He nods to Marsei's compliment.

Elaine looks at Jana with her eyes bugging out a little from the force of her desire to know what Jana knows.

Dhraegon nods, "Wasn't it storm named you Queen of love and Beauty last year, and young Visenya the year before that?" To Jesper he affirms, "I'm sure you will young Ser." He gives Jana a particularly vacuous smile and offers her another flower from the arrangements to eat. Lord Haemon's innuendo seems to go quite over the Prince's head.

Dhraegon whispers: Why doesn't she like you, this Jana? How can anyone not adore you?

Listening to Haemon, Marsei's smile deepens at the corners, not in joy but tension; subtle, easily missed by those who do not know it. Jana notices it. She watches Marsei, and pretends to not notice Dhraegon and his flowers.

A Beesbury mother seated next to the cluster of Fossoways excuses herself from the table with a complaining child in tow to stop him from fussing; or, more likely, to hand the little lord off to a maid.

Marsei tips her head toward Dhraegon, the two sharing some quiet words; rather, Dhraegon does and she squeezes his hand, smiling fondly, yet with a hint of regret. "Please pass on my well wishes to Lady Adrienne," she goes on tell Haemon.

A new guest arrives in time to take the Beesbury's place. The man who stomps to the table his broader than he is tall, particularly across the mid-section, which could be described as quite round. His strides are remarkably long for someone who seems to struggle with each one, and with every huffing breath, his jowls — great long sacks of flesh straight from his drooping ears — shake. His pink cheeks and easy smile hint toward a friendly demeanour that's slightly at odds by the way his deep-set pale eyes study every single person and object in his line of sight. The Fossoways know this man well as Roberd Flowers, and those outside Cider Hall know him as their right hand. He grabs the back of the abandoned chair heavily, using it as a rest.

Marsei's hand goes suddenly tight on Dhraegon's; she slips it beneath the table.

"Oh! Oh, don't mind me," Roberd blusters, his voice deep, prone to bellowing. He screeches the chair out, inviting himself to sit, which he does in one big flop. He smooths out the front of his vestments, all finery so dull it nearly discounts their worth. "These old bones. They do act up. But at the last moment, I had such a surge of inspiration to make the trip after all, my lord," he addresses Haemon but looks directly at Marsei and Dhraegon.

Dhraegon looks quite hurt by Lady Jana's refusal of the delicacy, face falling like a rebuffed toddler. "Doesn't she like flowers?" He does seem reassured by the squeeze of his hand. He does seem biddable whatever other faults he has. He blinks up at the arriving stranger, but gamely offers the man the rejected posy, "Have one, they have a nice sweet but slightly peppery taste."

Haemon smiles tightly at Marsei. "I will, provided this tiny cold she's making such a fuss over doesn't carry off the whole household." Doesn't sound like there's much chance of that. He eyes Roberd as the man makes his entrance. "Well," he says. "We profit by your appearance, then. Take your seat, Roberd."

Sharp eyes might notice this flower is a different species than the one Dhraegon ate and it's twin offered to Lady Jana the first time, which was mostly yellow. This one is larger and rather red.

"Thank you, my lord," Roberd says dutifully to Haemon, even though he already helped himself to a seat. He's that kind of obnoxious: tolerated because he's useful. He reaches out to accept the purportedly peppery flower. He pinches it between two fingers, leaning back in his seat with a groan — of his body or the chair, it's frankly unclear — and examines it. "A flower for a Flowers? Should I be insulted?" He eyeballs Dhraegon under a heavily downturned brow, then erupts into a hearty laugh. He does not eat it, though; so far, he only gestures with it, waving at Marsei and Dhraegon with the crimson blossom. He examines them as well: a long, deep, crafty stare, taking in the couple as well as the tapestry illuminated above their heads, depicting a proud, distinguised member of House Hightower of old. "Lady Marsei, how … long it's been. Hm? How interesting to see you in your element. The two of you. A Targaryen… quite the step up from our modest family, some might say. Marrying a Targaryen. And yet here we are in the Hightower." A flick of his gaze from the Targaryen to the powerfully Hightower tapestry. He lays a hand on his belly and smiles, as if it's all a casual joke. "Ha, haha!"

Marsei's gaze flits between the dinner guests, beyond the tables, as though searching for a lifeline. She is quick, however, to smile at Roberd. She responds to nothing, and is only polite. "It has been a long time, Roberd. I heard you were unwell while you were away. I'm glad to see you've made such a strong recovery."

Haemon takes the opportunity of Roberd's unpleasant loquaciousness to eat some of the fine fare, largely seeming to ignore him. It's unclear whether he's letting the man's remarks play out as some sort of strategy or because he's always running on and Haemon simply pays him no mind.

Prince Dhraegon looks completely confused by Roberd's comment about Flowers and any implications of the stranger's speech, helping himself to another yellow and a pink from the flower arrangement and munching them happily. Then remembering his manners, offers the same to his Lady Wife, as one does. The clear insult to his wife and her family does not go over the Prince's head, however. Dhraegon straightens, and for a long moment he looks eerily like the Old King in gaze and bearing, and his tone is nigh courtly enough to suit Prince Rhaegor or the Maiden Knight, with just a hint of regal chill. "But you are mistaken, Stranger. It is I who am privileged to have won the hand of the Fairest Flower of Oldtown." The usually vague, mindless gaze is as threatening and sharp as any kings might be, a reminder his ancestors were kin to the likes of Maegor the Cruel and his family tree does not fork much.

Marsei looks up at Dhraegon with admiration that is wide-eyed almost to the point of shock, though her own posture — besides that hidden, tight hand — remains calm and poised.

A few of the lesser Hightowers eye Roberd sideways in warning all the while, not taking kindly to the not-so-veiled implications, but it is Dhraegon's transformation that catches his attention. He meets the Targaryen's eye, flinty, and looks down, cowed by the sight. Roberd Flowers, however, does not know when to shut up — or he knows precisely what he's doing. He lets the quiet sit in the moment after Dhraegon's words, and then he goes on. "Oh… indeed. Indeed, hm, hm. The fairest." He reaches for a drumstick from the roasted bird on the middle of the table, hauling it onto what used to be a lady's plate. He drops the flower in the pool of grease that drips from it after he tears a bite of meat off. "One does have to wonder, though, don't they? In theory. Who's privileged. I might be concerned, if I were you, your grace. Ha, ha!" He laughs, and it devolves into a throaty fit of coughing. "You know, I was away the year Lord Jarvas, rest his soul, departed this fine world." He waves his food about casually while talking about the dear departed, but there is a harsh line to his brow, a dark and grave sentiment behind his flippancy. "I certainly had a lot to catch up on, didn't I? I knew, of course, of course I knew, I wasn't separate from the world while I was held up in Lannisport."

"Yes," Marsei confirms softly, because what else is she meant to say? She bows her head, saddened, and sincerely so at that, upon mention of her departed husband, while she sits firm next to her new one.

"What I didn't know was all the questions left behind," Roberd says. "It would have been different if I'd been home. With respect, my lord," he adds with a look to Haemon. A lingering look: there is knowledge behind his eyes, suspicion, which he turns pointedly upon the red-haired Hightower woman.

Haemon narrows his eyes thoughtfully at Roberd's look, and all that he's saying, though he can read the atmosphere in the room, too. "You're dominating the conversation before you've even had time to meet all the fine people at the table, Roberd," he says in a tone of gentle reproach that is perhaps a suggestion that Roberd dial it back. Or at least a move for plausible deniability on his part.

Dhraegon is still doing that eerie impression of the Old King, and alas, Lord Haemon's attempt to soothe is not enough to curb the Prince's cold fury. He gestures to the musicians and his bass voice booms out, "I think it is time for dancing." His glare and his tone make it an order. Then pitching his voice to carry as far as the guards, but not the whole hall, "It seems this…" his voice drips with disgust and contempt worthy of a tongue even more acidic than the late Prince Jurian's, likely picked up from some courtier or another, "Guest has had too much to eat and drink and ought to be helped off to bed." He gives Lord Haemon a look worthy of a commander on the battlefield, then sweeps it across each of the guards in turn. This too is clearly an order, one best handled by lord Fossaway least it become rather more serious. Beneath the table he holds his lady Wife's hand, gentle and supportive. To the rest of the room, he lifts his chin, arrogant and regal and expecting to be obeyed.

When that familiar voice of the prince carries with facets of somber anger, Kelinyx instantly focuses on the source, her head rising up from behind some full sized people as she tiptoes up to observe, smirking.

Roberd listens to Haemon; he listens to Dhraegon. He takes it in, not an unintelligent man. Slowly, he nods agreeingly, and bursts into one of his frequent fits of laughter. "You know me, my lord! It's all talk. All I do is talk. I only thought I'd warn our good prince. He's clearly a wise man, but he is new to the trap of marriage! Hahaha! I kid, my good man. We all know Lady Marsei is the kindest woman there is. You know, I am feeling awfully tired," he concurs as though being escorted to bed was his idea. "From the road. It does make an old man ache."

Lady Jana, for all her quietly antagonistic behaviour through the evening, appears nervous now; she's stopped picking at her food and even abandoned her wine glass, folding clammy hands upon the table. Ser Jesper is gawping cluelessly at the conversation — such as it is — and looking to his betrothed for interpretation, but she doesn't even seem to register his confusion, and so he laughs uncertainly along with Roberd, and several others join in as though it's all just good fun, but the remainder are utterly quieted in the presence of Prince Dhraegon's stark turn to royal authority.

In silent support of Dhraegon, Marsei says nothing to the loud guest, though her gaze is not so chilly as her prince's; in fact, her gaze remains soft, her features pleasant, not enagaging Roberd. Were she to move even an inch, however, the trouble in her gaze might spill out. Suddenly, this dinner cannot be over soon enough.

Haemon gets to his feet and moves in to clasp Roberd by the arm in a friendly gesture so that he can gruffly say, "Go to bed and come talk to me in the morning," into the man's ear. Not that the man isn't already going. But he is an imposing enough physical presence that his standing may suggest additional pressure being applied. "Now, we were promised dancing?" he says, turning back to the table with a brisk clap of his hands.

Those Princely eyes, so pale as to be nearly colourless just stare, cold as the Wall in Mid-Winter, waiting for the offensive object to move or be removed. "There is no need to tell me that My Daffodil has grieved and still grieves a husband, and reminding her of that grief so pointedly is not suitable behavior at a welcming feast. When next I lay eyes on you, best your manners BE AMENDED." He gives the departing Lord Fossaway a look as if to warn him that he will be held responsible for Flowers' tongue. Then he turns to his wife all smiles and gigles, "Would you like to dance my sweetest Lily?"

Dancing! There's meant to be dancing. People start to rise from the table, half of them hurrying as though frightened they're going to be punished in some way if they don't follow Dhraegon's call to dance. Roberd makes no complaints about being ushered toward the … oh gods, the stairs … but he can be heard cracking (less accusatory) jokes to his escorts on the way.

Marsei lifts the bonded hands of she and Dhraegon, bowing her head gratefully. She is a bit unsteady as she rises, but holding tight to his hand disguises the fact that she feels as light as a wisp. As she steps away from the table, she says quietly to Dhraegon alone, "He has always been like this. But never so… I…" Her breath catches, releases. "Would it be terribly conspicuous if we danced straight out of the hall?"

Dhraegon lends support as subtly as possible, his normally carrying voice soft enough that only his wife might hear. "I fear we must dance the full first dance as it would be noticed, but I told them to do a less formal figure for the second in case of emergancy. Can you manage that long, my Love?"

"I can manage as long as it takes," Marsei says, smiling up at Dhraegon. As assuring as she is, she sounds tired, too — but no less capable of lasting the dance. She moves slowly toward the more open area away from the tables and into an elegant arrangement of dance steps. "You were so strong," she remarks quietly. "Like a king." A thoughtful pause. "I was warned. About Roberd. That he was back. I just didn't know why." She watches Jana and Jesper, sweeping into their own dance across the way. "I still don't."

Luckily it is not a Galliard, but one of those sedate dances that even older couples can enjoy, designed to include as many as possible in the figure. Dhraegon is surprisingly smoth at this for such a big man, likely all those decades spent at court. He beams at her, delighted at the praise, "I fear I can't sustain it, but in a pinch…" A flash of fury flickers in his eyes, "He was cruel and he made you SAD. I do not Approve of him." He gentles again, gazing at her, "My Asphodel, know that nothing he or you, or anyone can say will change how I feel about you and that there is no one in all the World I would rather have as a wife and the Mote of any children of mine. He is a fly to be shooed away, not a blemish on your petals."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License