(121-03-25) A Dornishwoman, a Spinster and an Ironborn Walk Into a Hall
A Dornishwoman, a Spinster and an Ironborn Walk Into a Hall
Summary: Valerity seeks out Mariya. Sylas enters and they discuss rights and bowing. Yes, bowing.
Date: 03/25/2014
Related: Wickham's Nest

The Hightower - Battle Island

It is a summer morning. The weather is hot and fair.

The great tower is all of white stone, ancient and beautiful. This lowest tier is quite wide and grand enough for any palace. There are two stories of this widest and lowest one. The tower has a narrower 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 white stone walls and makes the space airy and bright. 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.

A curious girl, though Mariya has spent much of her time looking after her niece and nephew, she has also taken it upon herself to peek about here and there. It's one thing to visit the Hightower during the day for court and another to be a guest/prisoner of the Hightowers and given the (sort of) freedom to explore during the day. The last time she was in the grand hall, it was filled with people who were already starting rumors against Dorne. She had to be a proper princess and not gawk. Now, however, there is no one to judge. Her dress still reflects their captivity - dark and plain - and she is currently hoping no one will mind if she takes a closer look at the carvings of the large chair reserved for the Lord of Hightower.

"There you are." The voice of Lady Valerity Redwyne, clear and carrying, cuts across the hall. Just in case there's any question whether the 'you' of which she's speaking is the Dornish princess, she walks briskly to the dais and up the shallow steps to drop into her uncle's chair. "I heard you and yours had been trundled over here in the dark of night, or some dramatic nonsense like that. Was there really an angry mob?"

The clear voice of Valerity causes Mariya to straighten. The expressions on her face change from guilty, then confused, then curious. "Yes, here I am." She remembers the woman from the marketplace, but clearly did not think that they would speak again. After taking a step back from the chair, she tilts her head just slightly. "We were escorted by Ser Olyvar. We are apparently under arrest by Lord Ormund, for they feared that the town would burn down our Manse in retaliation." She glances behind her, then focuses back on Valerity. "Am I not supposed to be in here? Is that what this is about?"

"It's a polite and genteel sort of arrest, though, isn't it?" asks Valerity, resting her elbow on the arm of the throne and propping her chin in her hand. "I mean, no one's in the dungeon or on the rack." She pauses. "That I know of. Are they?" As for where Mariya should be, the Redwyne shrugs. "It hardly bothers me where you are — though I do agree the Tower's the best place for you." A beat. "Oh, and you were right, after all. About Visenya. Mad as a bag of cats, but definitely still alive."

"It did not seem like it at the time. It was a--" Mariya pauses and pales slightly at the remembrance. "—harrowing ride to the Tower." Realizing that she is not in trouble and not getting kicked out of the hall, she relaxes slightly. The girl has been on edge basically since arriving. "No, they're not. Though my goodbrother refused to come with us and be put under arrest for a crime we did not commit." There's clear admiration in her voice for Ser Osric's intentions, but she does worry. Then, despite herself, she smiles slightly. "Yes, that's true. Not about her being mad, I don't know her, but about her wellbeing. I merely trusted Ser Daevon. He is a wise and good knight."

"I'm not so certain how wise he is — compulsively virtuous, yes. That doesn't tend to lend itself to wise decision making, I'm afraid." Valerity lifts her eyebrows at Mariya. "Did I introduce myself, when we didn't actually meet in the square?"

"I'm worried," Mariya allows, but - much like before - she won't concede that what Osric is doing is wrong. "But, he must live by his convictions and I cannot fault him for that." After a pause, she blinks. "Oh! No, I don't believe you did. Forgive me. Are you a Hightower? I'm Mariya Martell." Her last name may be obvious.

Valerity smiles, dimples flashing on her cheeks, though the expression is a shade or so wry. "I think everyone knows who you are, princess. I'm Valerity." She stands to dip a curtsy — proper enough, but not obseqiously low. "Redwyne, not Hightower. Though Lord Ormund is my uncle. Married my mother's sister. So." A nod. "I can understand how your good brother stands on principle, but — aye. There's cause to worry, there. My uncle is only offering you — and him — the best protection he can, while keeping the peace with his own people."

"For the most part, I believe most people just know that I am Dornish. They may know that I am a Martell, however, the mob outside seems to have mistaken me for a Blackmont." Mariya curtseys as well, as is proper - she forgot to do as she said her name. "I am thankful to your uncle for his protection, however I doubt it is so much for me as it is to ensure that my mother does not declare war due to the death of a daughter or cousin." She sighs. "I knew that there were people who would not be friendly toward the Dornish, however I did not expect a whole town to immediately rise up and demand our blood."

"We all derrive our worth from something," Valerity notes, simply, when Mariya explains her political value. Then, for the last bit, she shrugs. "No one expected the slaughter at Wickham's Nest, either, I think. So we're all a bit thrown." She lowers her lashes a moment, unneessarily smoothing her gown, then offers, "Small people have small minds, and limited imagination, however high or low they're born. They like simple outlets for their simple passions. That you and yours are Dornish is about as simple as it gets."

"Yes, I doubt my mother would have consented to my adventure here if she knew that was on the horizon." They tend to be quite protective of Mariya. She gives a small laugh, as all she can think to say is, "There's no arguing the fact that we are Dornish. I guess to some all Dornish are the same." Then, she glances at Valerity. "You are being much more accommodating than before." When they were in the marketplace, she seemed adamant in disagreeing. "Many in Hightower, even, are quick to believe my family had something to do with Wickham's Nest."

"That Visenya Targaryen might be alive didn't make sense — it still doesn't. What idiocy is faking your own death, when no one's looking for you in the first place? It wasn't until she pretended to die that her brother sent out the cavalry." Valerity seems more than a little disdainful of the whole affair. "I'm a pragmatist, princess, and a champion of reason. When you're talking silliness like assuming someone's alive because their brother says they have to be — well, I'm not going to accomodate that, certainly. But…" She shrugs again, brushing a dark lock of hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. "But. There's certainly nothing silly about your present predicament. It's no fault of yours." Her lips quirk to one side, another wry smile. "And it happens that I have a soft spot for exiles." She offers her hand. "So we should be friends."

Valerity gives the Dornish princess's hand a brief squeeze. It's almost shy in its brevity, but seems no less sincere. "Well. Neither have I. And I'll wager my time here exceeds your own by quite a bit." She bites the inside of her cheek, as though attempting to refrain, but finally can't help but counterpoint (arguing still), "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

"If she anticipated being gone long, perhaps she was attempting to stave off further inquiry. I don't believe it silly to trust in someone's judgement, especially when they have been proven right before." It's as if Mariya is gearing up for another argument, but that drifts off at the end of her explanation. It's the Dornishwoman's turn to smooth down her dark dress in surprise, but she's smiling after only a moment. She takes Valerity's hand with warmth. "Thank you. I would like that. I haven't yet had the opportunity to befriend many in my time here."

Valerity gives the Dornish princess's hand a brief squeeze. It's almost shy in its brevity, but seems no less sincere. "Well. Neither have I. And I'll wager my time here exceeds your own by quite a bit." She bites the inside of her cheek, as though attempting to refrain, but finally can't help but counterpoint (arguing still), "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day."

"Then, at least there was something good out of our coming to Hightower." Mariya tends to be the optimistic type. "What brings you to Oldtown? Visiting your uncle?" If it is a sore subject, it can be avoided as she a raised eyebrow when Valerity continues the argument. If would seem she doesn't mind, though, as the smile returns. "True, but I find Ser Daevon tends to run on time." Her faith in Ser Daevon is unshakeable.

The Redwyne laughs with a faint wince, rueful but not unkind. "Alas, princess, when you put men up on pedestals that high, they cannot help but fall." Valerity flicks her hand dismissively at the past, explaining, "I was banished here when I was younger. It happens in Westeros — disgraced children are shifted between geographically disparate branches of families in hopes that the scandal won't follow." She takes the Dornish girl's arm and begins to lead a genteel, aimless stroll — as chatting ladies do. "I'd worry for your reputation, associating with me, but since everyone thinks you're a bloodthirsty savage I might even help matters."

Three men stride over from the direction of the council chamber. They wear haughty frowns on their close, dark, bearded countenances, swords and dirks at their girdles - unlike most male visitors to the Hightower, even noblemen - and a motley assemblage of practical garb and booty all over their lean, wiry persons. Ironmen, anyone with a passing experience of the breed might determine at a glance, but one makes the other twain look soft and blunt.

Not the tallest, nor the brawniest, he holds a steadfast gaze about him, not to be casually gainsaid. The ornaments he has allowed himself are of a more costly calibre, if not exactly fair to marvel at; especially silver vambraces formed of interlocking scythes. A black leviathan writhes against a granite-grey field on his breast. He comes to a halt that looks curious and spontaneous, regarding the highborn ladies with boldness…and coldness, too.

"I would not give such great praise to someone I think unworthy," Mariya replies earnestly. Of course, she would say that. Easily, she snakes her arm into Valerity's and wanders aimlessly about the grand hall with her as they talk. Though she is certainly listening, it's hard for her not to gaze about and take in the craftsmanship. "I'm sorry," she tells Valerity with sincerity when told of her banishment, then, she adds with a bit of a smile, "Perhaps we should worry for your reputation being seen with me, then. They may start to say that you have taken up drinking blood or whatever foolishness they think we Dornish do in our free time." As she is taking in the sights, it's hard not to notice the arrival of the three men. She slows her walk - and possibly Valerity's due to their linked arms. Both the boldness and the coldness of Sylas' gaze are noted, so the automatic smile of greeting she gives is wary. Softly, she asks Valerity, "Do you know them?"

Valerity, a pale and waifish thing beside the Dornish princess — though there's something rather worldly about her mein that marks her as the elder — pauses to stare right back at the leviathan, dark blue eyes aflash with curiosity. "Well. I think I heard a joke that started something like this, once: A Dornishwoman, a spinster, and an Ironborn walk into a bar…" She holds Mariya's arm somewhat protectively, even subtly angling herself to stand forward, between pirate and princess. "I think there was also something about a crocodile a whore with a bad tooth, but I never remember these things right." She purses her lips and considers each man carefully. No. No. Annnd — "No. Do you?"

As the leader of the Ironmen saunters a step or two nearer, twinkling sun brooches attached to one of his sashes, and a charming little cockatrice decorating one of his pauldrons, may be spotted by a keen-eyed observer. His bow, though, is, though curt and formal, readily given enough. He soon breaks the silence too, his Islander accent noticeable but slight, his tone not confrontational, but not exactly emollient either.

"My ladies. I am Sylas, Lord of Volmark, presently in accord with the Hightower and sailing under Oldtown's marque. I fear my errands at sea have hindered our ready acquaintance." His smile is a splendid but not a comforting thing. He's still a young man, but those teeth are studded with more gold than he carries on the rest of him. "I suspect I have the honour to be meeting a Princess of Dorne. I happen to have some acquaintance with your country; are your present…lodgings…to your satisfaction, I wonder?"

There's a surprised blink from Mariya at the second part of Valerity's joke involving whores and bad teeth, but she doesn't do much other than tinge slightly pink. "An Ironborn," she says softly just about the time that her eyes are drawn to the glinting gold sun brooches on one of Sylas' sash. There is a flash of recognition in her eyes, however it is not for the man, but for his decorations. Her own dress is dark - an attempt to not stand out among those of the Reach. "He has—" But, by then, Sylas has approached them and she quiets.

As the princess straightens, it's not hard to notice her gaze drawn from the Ironmen's sash to his face. The bow she returns with a curtsey - difficult but manageable while she still keeps her arm twined with Valerity's. "Your suspicion is correct," she replies. "As well as the Lady Valerity Redwyne. I find the Hightower quite beautiful, thank you. Though, I would most likely enjoy it more were I free to leave it." With a slight tilt of her chin toward the cockatrice on his pauldrons, she adds, "It would seem you were acquainted with House Gargalen."

Valerity glances between the princess and the Ironborn, one slender eyebrow lifting. How interesting. But she lets them speak without interruption. For the moment.

One of the Volmark's men risks a chuckle, but his comrade shuts him up with a nudge, and he just looks (even more) surly. For his part, Sylas appears to pay his subordinates little mind, concentrating on his fine company. "Ah, a daughter of the Arbor. Well acquainted with the second greatest fleet in Westeros. And walking with a Dornish princess. A sight to delight vintners and drinkers all over the city," he teases, but the light jest hardly becomes his innately gloomy bearing. "As to my visit to Salty Shore, it was long ago, and all too fleeting. I only had the pleasure of meeting an old castellan past his best, who could not detain my men and myself for long, for all his elegant armour…"

Mariya glances at the chuckling Ironman, but her eyes move back to Sylas as he speaks. The grip she has on Valerity tightens a tad. His explanation of how he came by his armor is met with a tight smile. However, instead of continuing in that vein, she decides on a new topic. "What brought you to Oldtown, my lord? From what I've heard, there are not many of the Iron Islands who would sail for someone else."

Valerity shifts a hand to Mariya's shoulder, a gesture of comfort and solidarity. She's observant, the stormy blue-eyed daughter of the Arbor. Observant she remains, and silent.

"Your friend is very quiet, princess," Sylas observes, amused, "or is she just showing proper respect for rank? In any case, someone has given you the wrong notion of my folk. We like an adventure…though not all ports are willing to receive us, for some reason. I'm a little unusual among our people at present; I get more trouble from the harbourmaster at Pyke than the one over here. A family misunderstanding, you could call it. I intend to settle it one day soon, with a fleet at my back. Who knows, might be our silent mutual friend here could assist me. Do you have some father or brother or uncle who fancies plundering the plunderers, my lady of Redwyne?"

Valerity snorts at the Ironborn's observation of her silence. "You've caught me on an tide," she notes, smirking. Her head cants as she listens to his pitch, but by the end she's shaking her head, chuckling. "Alas, milord, I've no such influence at the Arbor. My family sent me here to be rid of me. You'll have to find your fleet elsewhere. But good luck to you. It sounds rather epic."

"I doubt it is the respect for rank that keeps Lady Valerity quiet," Mariya replies with a glance toward the woman in question. "She has no issues arguing with telling a princess she has silly notions." There's a smile, not reproach, in her voice. "I see. It would seem we are a trio of displaced people, then." The quip is quickly not elaborated on, though, since as soon as it is out of her mouth, she realizes she should probably not talk of other people's pasts like that. It might be considered rude. Instead, she let's it lie and studies Sylas more closely. A pirate outcast from a family of pirates. Already, the stories are being assembled in her head. "Dorne is more known for the deserts than their prowess at sea," she adds.

The Lady Valerity's mirth would appear to be infectious, even if the Volmark's brand of laughter is still unavoidably more than a little ominous in timbre. But it is cut short by the Princess's gesture towards common ground, which hardens Sylas back to his first proud frown. "No man…nor woman, neither, …has displaced me, princess," though he does sound slightly as if he protests too much, especially over the aside about a woman. "I have the freedom of the deck of my own Mourning Maw, of all the wide seas, and none bar me and live to outlast such folly. I fail to see the resemblance between my existence and that of some lorn princess locked up in a tower…"

Valerity looks all the more amused as Sylas bristles, though it only flashes in her eyes. And there's the shadow of a dimple on her cheek, perhaps. "Now, now. Let's not be testy. Princess Mariya is a guest, and any locks are more to keep others out than she, in. Your life at sea sounds splendid, of course…" She seems rather in earnest about that, poignantly sincere. "However, is it a life you chose or a life you made from the ashes of an old one? Sometimes, the Stranger smiles and the lives we make are better than the ones we clung to."

Mariya glances between Valerity and Sylas, realizing that she has somehow dampened the levity of where the conversation was heading despite her attempts. "Forgive me, I misunderstood you, then, my Lord. I believed that you did not return to your home due to reasons not entirely of your own making." With a smile, she adds, "And say whatever you will of me, but I will certainly not be called lorn without taking some offense." To Valerity, "I don't believe myself lorn, would you call me so?"

As the lesser Ironborn warriors exchange an uncertain look, their captain, lord and, some would have it, would-be king refuses to be mollified. "Ashes lie in my future, not my past, and have a care where I shall leave them," Sylas declares. "I am of the black line, and not two hundred years past the Arbor paid homage to my forefathers. Next time, might be mere homage won't be enough to stay a high king's wrath." The Ironmen reavers are grinning at this show of spirit; this is what they've endured exile for, boasting, fighting, drinking, and farflung, perfumed women. "For aye, my roving has been of my own making in this, princess - the Volmark, the Harrenson, born of kraken and leviathan, bows to no man. Lord Hightower I shall aid, as long as he proves a sure friend. But mark you both, ladies fair, I mean to have my rights!"

"Not a bit lorn," Valerity assures the princess, then is caught up in Sylas's great declaration. She blinks mildly in the silence that follows. "Well," she says, after a beat. "Won't that be nice?" Tiny smile.

As Mariya listens in silence to Sylas' impassioned speech, she glances at both the Ironmen in his company as well as Valerity. In the silence, she smiles at her companion before looking more seriously at Sylas. "Your words are well marked. I certainly hope you return to the Iron Islands and reclaim your rights. It would be made a song I would gladly learn. But, I must ask, which of us was asking you to bow, my Lord?"

Tension settles again like mist…till it is rent asunder again by Sylas's black chuckle. "I said no man. I bow to maidens and high ladies willingly, and they to me, especially when the wine both your lands abound in flows about. And I shall much look forward to bowing often over our acquaintance, fair damsels, however brief it may be ere I weigh anchor on a voyage for a crown…"

"Do ladies bow to you, indeed, milord?" asks Valerity, dimples merrily salacious. "One's given to wonder, then, whether they're facing toward you or away."

"I see. So, your weakness is women, then." It's easy enough to tell. It seems to be the weakness of quite a few. Mariya smiles along with Valerity, though it may be obvious that she does not quite get her joke. Despite the tales of Dornishwomen, that does not seem to apply to the young princess. As an aside to Valerity, asks softly, "Why would you bow away from someone? That seems rude."

"High and low," Sylas ripostes at speed, "dark and fair, they bend the knee, my lady." His smile looks fit to linger now, jagged and overgilt as it may be through the surprisingly well-groomed luxuriance of his beard. "I see, at least, that the Arbor is still willing to render me and mine a tribute of wit. It seems you have plenty to spare, lady, which is more than might be said for many in this port, ladies and gentlemen both. And none more flitterskulled than those blood-damned dragonspawn."

As to the princess, he first sighs as if she has somehow illustrated his point, but then subsides into what seems to pass, in him, for geniality. "You may have to learn how to bow every way there is, princess. It seems your homeland may experience a great number of sudden visitors…and not just us Ironborn, this time. Rarely have I known an hour so ripe for our warrior people's trade." Such is the Ironborn lord's notion of a jovial and well-meaning conversational gambit.

"It is rude, princess," Valerity agrees, dimples deep. "All of it terribly, terribly rude." She snorts at Sylas. "She'll learn nothing of the sort." As though the slip of a Redwyne would have any say in the matter, if it came to it. Nevertheless, she seems rather protective.

"For a man who has boasted of travel to Dorne, you seem to have forgotten the Martell's prized words. I believe they begin with 'Unbowed.'" Mariya smiles at Sylas, despite their words. It certainly does not seem to be that she's taken offense. "If we can withstand dragons, I have little doubt that the flowers will do much better in the desert. Nor would those of the sea, but I am merely a princess with not much wit about her." Valerity receives a smile, though she does not contradict her.

The Volmark looks surprised, baulked, and despite himself somewhat impressed. "Might be so, princess, might not be. Either way, I'll be sure to see for myself. For the present, I have that deck and that rolling sea to be getting back to. Farewell, fair ladies of the tower. Hrald, Germund, with me." And he leads off his two reavers, who drag their feet just a little as they leave, perforce, the charms of highborn and feminine company.

For her part, Valerity looks smug. Yeah! What she said. Her sidelong grin for Mariya is wholly, deeply approving. "Farewell, gentlemen! Parting is such sweet something-or-other!" She waves.

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