The marriage of Ser Mavros Uller to Delicia Blackmont has had a curious air about it: one of modesty, so rare in Dorne. The Planky Town itself has been a most unusual setting, and there are those who say it is because Quinlan Qorgyle refused permission for the marriage to take place in Sunspear; others deny it, and claim it was Ser Mavros who insisted on it (over the objection of the soon-to-be Blackmont good-kin, some say; others disagree there, too.) Regardless of the matter, there has been little enough pomp and circumstance, although there have been graceful notes as well: a procession through the crooked streets to the town’s chief sept by the waterside, a troupe of orphan musicians playing a festive air when the vows were exchanged and the couple left in an open litter, trailed by guests; children strewing rose petals before the entry into the guildhall, where the masters and members of the guild waited in their finery among other, nobler guests to welcome one and all to the feast.
There are many notable men and women of the court quite absent from the festivity, and that is surely do to Ser Mavros’s fall from Keeper of the Tower of the Sun and the ascension of Ser Quinlan Qorgyle, once and forever his rival at court. But then, Prince Rhodry is present with the bastard daughter Samara Sand, and the Blackmont kinsmen are present in force, and there are others besides—knights great and small, to be sure, but a number of notable merchants and tradesmen from the Free Cities who have made the Planky Town a chief port for their business.
While there are Blackmonth kinsmen present, the Ullers are rather more lacking, with the groom’s family represented through his bastard daughter. Who, if rumors are to be believed, have been less than eager to see this union take place. Hardly unusual for a bastard, admittedly, and the bride being of an age with her is unlikely to have improved Samara’s disposition towards Delicia as her step-mother. But so far, at least, she has put on a polite façade, carrying herself without fault.
The differences between Mavros Uller’s bastard and his new wife could not be greater, for all they are of an age. Delicia Blackmont has nothing of over-boldness about her as she sits quietly beside Mavros. Her mother and sister are on her right, with her grandfather in her father’s place. The rest of the Blackmont kin at court—and they are indeed numerous—are scattered about the room. Delicia does not comment to a muttered complaint from Caitrin; indeed, she looks in mute appeal to their mother, who sighs and whispers something that at least stops Caitrin from complaining (loudly) about the mean environment.
Mean it may be—it’s no comparison to the Sandship or the Tower of the Sun, to be sure—but many of those present make merry. Already a number of toasts have been made to bride and groom both, by guildsmen—some in the low Valyrian of the Free Cities, and one in High Valyrian no less—and by friends of the knight. The troupe plays xto one side, flutes trilling and drums rumbling. The wine flows freely, summerwines and strongwine and even rare wines of the east, and whole roasted kids are delivered by servants, strewn with dates and flavored with exotic spices.
Ser Mavros bows his head graciously to the latest toast, and offers a few words in thanks—in Valyrian as well, to the Pentoshi merchant who lifted his cup to him—before he turns then to his bride and her family. “We have had gracious guests. I hope it is pleasing?” That question is, clearly, as much for the bride’s family as for the bride—he’s a canny one.
“It’s lovely,” Lucinda Blackmont says firmly, forestalling any other response. Delicia looks startled, then hazards a smile. “As my mother says, it is lovely. I had hoped… but this is more memorable, isn’t it?” Her eyes are a bit bright with the many toasts, and she has taken to only wetting her lips, but her expression is sincere enough. “That was Valyrian. You speak it well, my lord.”
Words in low Valyrian are also exchanged between Samara Sand and another Free Cities merchant, her familiarity with the language apparently not lessened by her years in Dorne and she even switches between two of the dialects at need, as a second merchant interjects something. It seems to appeal to her, holding her conversations with the guests who are not from Dorne.
Rhodry does not seem to mind the lower-than-usual company, not when so much wine is on hand. And if the class of guest is not what it would have been if Ser Mavros’s star still shone at court, that doesn’t seem to bother him either—he smirks equally for all and sundry. Seated to Mavros’s other side with Samara, perhaps he hears the noises of discontent from a certain Blackmont. Or perhaps it’s truly coincidence when he leans back to look toward Caitrin Blackmont and asks loudly, “What’s become of the Sand Dog? Not like him to miss a chance to drink himself into a stupor when someone else is paying.”
“Years in the Free Cities, my lady,” Ser Mavros tells his much younger bride, offering a brief smile. “One learns the language. Perhaps we shall visit some of them, when the season turns.” Whenever that will be, of course. He swallows from a cup of wine… and then turns his attention to the unspoken part of her remarks. “It is rare that the Planky Town hosts such guests on such an occasion, my lady,” he goes on to say, and with a gesture draws attention to the proud guildsmen at their tables, dining and drinking, gossiping and wassailing. “I have good friends here in this hall who’ll tell their children and grandchildren of the day a beautiful Blackmont maid wed old Ser Mavros in their own guildhall. They’ll be proud as peacocks.”
“Oh, something about doing his duty,” Caitrin says in airy dismissal of her absent husband. “He’s little love for Planky Town, didn’t fancy riding across the desert in good silk, had to go count spears. Take your pick.” The sour look on her face says she would prefer counting spears herself, had she the choice.
Down the table, Delicia blushes. “I’m not such a beauty, my lord,” she says, shaking her head and smiling nonetheless. “I should like to learn Valyrian and see the Free Cities. Would… would Samara tell me of them, do you think? I would be ashamed to know nothing of them.”
Samara would appear to be paying as little attention as possible to her father and his new bride, yet the mention of her name does draw her from her current conversation. Her tilted eyes fall upon Delicia for a moment, then shift to Mavros. She seems to consider whether to leave it up to him to answer the question or not, but in the end settles for interjecting, “My father would undoubtedly make a far better teacher, lady Delicia, and I am sure he would also find it a most enjoyable task. My own perspective is more…limited.”
“That sounds like Dalt,” Rhodry admits with a laugh. “More wine for us, however, so I’ll shed no tears.” And so he drinks some more of his wine, draining the cup, to emphasize the point. With that, he turns to Delicia and follows Samara’s words by saying, “Do not mind her, Lady Delicia—Samara is being modest. She knows Pentos like the back of her hand, and is familar enough with Braavos as well.” And before Mavros interjects, the prince adds, “Though I expect your lord husband knows some of the rest rather better. Myr? Tyrosh? How many of the cities did you sell your sword to, ser?”
“A perspective with which I am not unaccustomed,” Delicia says, lowering her voice and darting a pointed glance toward her sister. “I would be glad of what—” She does not finish. Rhodry’s response makes her go much redder, and she looks down at her plate and the barely touched slice of tender goat there.
Caitrin, loyal if not especially tactful, takes a look at her sister and interjects her own remarks. “Come, my prince, do not tease her so. It’s bad form to be mean to the bride on her wedding day, especially when so many of the rest of us are more capable of parrying my prince’s wit.”
Mavros does not speak for his daughter, and lets her voice her own views. That, of course, means he has to hear Rhodry’s as well. The prince’s question leaves an airy smile on his lips as he says, “Of the nine Free Cities? Beside the ones you named, Pentos—” That’s where he got Samara, after all “—and Lys, for a brief time. That would make four, my lord.” He shows no shame in having been a sellsword. What else is a man to do, when exiled from Dorne?
“You make too much of it, Lady Caitrin, by naming it ‘wit’”, is Samara’s response to both Rhodry and Caitrin, the former having first received a sharp look for his contribution to the conversation with Delicia. Then her father speaks up, offering his own response to the prince, and leaving her to consider any further words. In the end, she reaches for her goblet and takes a swallow wine, then pushes red hair back from her face and adds, “Perhaps I should consider familiarising myself with more of the Free Cities. They all have their charms, I am sure.”
“Princes must be flattered, Mistress Samara,” Caitrin replies smoothly, waving for more wine. “Unfortunate sometimes, but true just the same.” Supplied with a full cup, she drinks deeply, watching Rhodry over the rim with bright eyes.
“When you’ve never left Dorne,” Delicia says, emboldened to speak again now the Prince is diverted, “it all sounds very exotic. It would make a nice change to do something before Caitrin,” she adds, lowering her voice just a little.
“It was all meant in jest,” Rhodry replies with sharp-edged smile to Caitrin’s admonishment, though the glint in his black eyes suggests it wasn’t entirely jesting—he seems to have an uneasy relation to Ser Mavros (and everyone else). But he laughs, just the same, when Samara twists the verbal knife. “That was said in jest as well, I’m sure,” he offers up with a smirk. “And the other Free Cities? Who’ll want to see them? Goat-buggery in Qohor, rocks in a cold sea for Lorath, women bald from head to toe in Norvos—” He stops, considering. “Well, that last might be something worth seeing,” he muses aloud.
“Too much flattery is like too many sweets for a horse. Eventually, it will bite your hand,” replies Samara to Caitrin with an edged smile of her own before looking back to Rhodry. “Norvos is rather cold, is it not? I doubt the women walk around undressed,” she dryly points out, then adds, “Volantis would be quite a sight, I imagine.”
“We shall have to arrange it then, my lady wife,” Ser Mavros says gallantly. “When the season turns, however. The winter seas can be treacherous.” It is a question, of course, when the season will turn—even now the maesters squint at the stars and make marks in their books, attempting to divine when winter has come to an end and spring has begun. The interplay between Samara and her royal lover? He leaves that quite untouched, other than to confirm to Samara, “It is, daughter. The Long Bridge and the Black Wall are not to be forgotten. Nor the heat—wet, rather than dry, as it is here in Dorne. I thought it oppressive.”
“Bald everywhere?” asks Caitrin, sitting up a little. “Even their—” She stops herself, glances at her mother, and coughs. Lucinda’s face is pinched in disapproval, and she stabs a piece of meat with her belt knife rather viciously.
Delicia, meanwhile, is listening in a sort of fascination. “Oh, Volantis. Where they make the glass, yes?” She turns her smile on Mavros. “When the weather is better, yes. It only means we’ve time to plan it.”
“I found the climate in Braavos more to my tastes, admittedly.” Samara shakes her hair back again and reaches for a piece of flatbread to soak up some of the kid juices with. To Caitrin’s interrupted query…well, what can one say in polite company? A touch of colour does mark her cheeks for some reason, only faintly visible against her coppery skin.
“Glass is made in Myr as well,” Ser Mavros tells his bride, leaving the interplay between Rhodry, Samara, and Caitrin well alone. “They make the finest lenses in the world. But Volantene glass often has finer colors, it’s true. There’s a guildsman here—he dabbles in more than just cloth, and has contacts who bring him Volantene glassware quite often.” His eyes are searching the crowd as he asks, “Shall we speak to him, and see if there’s anything you’d like for your new home?”
“Oh, so I’ve heard somewhere or other,” Rhodry replies to Caitrin, ignoring Lucinda’s disapproval—what can she say to a prince, after all? “Though one need not go so far as Norvos to find such odd customs.” His cup, refilled by a dutiful servant, is lifted as he looks into it and he inspects its contents; he seems to approve. “Or so I’ve heard,” the prince remarks, before swallowing a good mouthful of summerwine. A grin follows, and he starts to say, “For example… Tyroshi men dye their beards, we all know that. But I’ve been _told_ the women have found use for the stuff as well. At least the whores among them, in any case. Can’t say I’ve witnessed it for myself.”
Delicia colors again, and nods. “I’d not given it any thought, but yes. I would like that. Maybe after we’ve sorted all the gifts…” She glances toward the table where things are beginning to look mountainous.
Caitrin looks as if she is biting through her tongue when she nods at Rhodry. “One does hear things,” she says stiffly, not even looking toward Lucinda now. She lifts her goblet and mutters something into it that sounds like ‘lucrative’ before drinking it all off in a single long draught.
Samara appears to have taken a rather intense interest in her food for the moment, leaving Rhodry and Caitrin to their superficially cryptic conversation as she finishes off the remainder of the meat on her plate and washes it down with more wine. “It would seem the Free Cities have something for everyone, would it not?” she remarks after a while and, as one of the merchants she previously spoke to interjects something, she happily takes the opportunity to switch to Valyrian once more.
“Lets attend to the gifts then, my lady,” says Ser Mavros, gallantly. “Lady Lucinda, will you join us? You can help bring some order to the chaos. Our friends have been most generous.”
Rhodry envinces little interest in the gifts and the sorting of them, so he shows no interest in joining the newlywed pair in oggling over them. He seems happy enough drinking and discussing wholly inappropriate topics. “Oh, I suppose,” he replies to Samara, thin lips smirking. “Braavos still smells of a sewer, however.”
Lucinda rises and gives a clap of her hands to summon a servant. “A moment only, Ser Mavros, to sort the noble gifts from the rest. It would hardly be fitting to bury something from a prince, would it?” she remarks smoothly. “Delicia, look here a moment…”
Caitrin, meanwhile, has begun to look sulky. “I don’t think I shall -ever- see the Free Cities,” she grouses, looking into her empty goblet and giving a dispirited wave for more.
“By all means, if the smell bothers your delicate senses, set your course for Norvos instead,” Samara airily tells the prince as she turns her attention back to him for a moment. And then, to Caitrin, she adds, “Why not have Rhodry tell Ser Laurent about these Norvoshi women or something other that would strike him as exotic. Then he will surely start considering a journey before long.” She does not make the point—which might have been natural, all considered—that Lys and its pleasure houses are by far the closest of the Free Cities to Dorne.
“I expect he’ll find the goats of Qohor more amusing,” the prince tells Samara, before giving Caitrin his cruel smile; an absent… well, not-quite-friend does not seem to be protected by that absence from the prince’s crude tongue. “But I think Caitrin sounds as if she’s curious about Tyroshi dyes and washes, eh? Go without the Sand Dog, I say. Let him chase after you, if he so desires. Or go bugger goats, if not.”
“Oh, he promises we will go, but he’s enamored of his position at the moment,” Caitrin replies dryly. She glances toward Lucinda and, finding her involved, adds, “In the meantime, I shall look into acquiring a Norvoshi whore for the Black Cat. If I cannot go to the Free Cities, I will simply bring them to me.”
“Perhaps you should acquire a goat as well, Lady Caitrin. Rhodry seems inordinately interested in them,” Samara says with a sweet smile and a glance at the prince. “I am starting to think he would have preferred not to eat the dinner.”
“Oh, the kid was quite delicious. But what do I need a goat for, Samara?” the prince asks with a sort of simulation of innocence (it’s not a very convincing one.) And then he turns to Caitrin and says, “Ambition’s the ruin of many a man. An ambition to see a Norvoshi woman in her very naked glory… well, that might be ruinous too.” Not that that stops him from considering a visit to the Black Cat, should such a prodigy present herself…
The brief absence of the groom, his bride and the bride’s mother would appear to have allowed the conversation to quickly deteriorate to a tone better reserved for—at the very least—after the dinner. But now the matter of viewing the gifts seems settled and the newlyweds set to return to their places for the continuation of the feast, perhaps curbing at least some of the more adventurous tongues (if not the prince’s).