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The common room does not look, certainly, as a place Lanei would willingly join, if only she had been asked about. The place was built to host the sailors and, thus, it has little to do with the rooms nobles are used to dwell within. At least, the dornish lady is not used, that is. And, surely, the men that were sent to another side of the ship would agree there.
No wonder, then, the frown upon her brow. This, and the fact that she has been attempting to do some needlework and, as always, with little success- angers her. For the third time the needle pricks one of her fingers and, with a tired ֖and frustrated- hmpf, Lanei throws the embroidery frame upon the large table.
The frame lands on the wooden surface with a soft thud, and for a long while the young woman eyes it as if it were the enemy himself. Then, wish a resigned sigh, she reaches out for the grey silky cloth… and resumes the embroidery.
“I see you have the same issue as my sister, Carmella, my lady.” Doran’s voice seems to cut through the stiffening creak of wood that accommodates every inch of the bowels of this great sea-faring vessel. He comes much as he was dressed the day before, save this time he has favored a thick black cloak, to match the ensemble of the night that so always seems to compliment his mood.
A weak smile is offered as Doran moves into the common room, stopping only a few feet the table which the lady so diligently works her needle. “She was always more interested in dreaming than her needlework.” He says softly, turning his eyes to the ladder that ascends to the upper deck.
“Ah, Ser Doran”, Lanei greets the incoming westerosi knight and inclines her head. “Have a good day. I have been searching for you…” she starts. But she realizes than a little drop of blood is forming on her thumb and, without to think it twice, the lady brings it to her lips. “Well, I asked for you to a couple of squires I saw around, but they did not know where you would be…” she continues, once she verifies that the blood won’t soil the cloth.
“The cloak. I wanted to return it to you” the lady explain, and then chuckles. “So, am I not the only lady hating needlework? For long I thought I were. Alas, it is expected of us to perform these arts, although I use to be skilled enough… to dodge it.”
The Blackbolt of Blackhaven will keep his weak smile on his face as he dismisses thoughts of returning above deck, his brilliant emerald eyes return once to the fair face of the Fowler. “The cloak was a gift, my lady, but I understand if you do not wish to wear Dondarrion colors.” Doran’s voice is soft and respectful, yet at the same time every word spoken seems forced as if the man lived with a pain no other man had ever felt. “I apologize if you could not find me when you sought me out, at times a knight must seek solitude in order for him to clear his head for events that are to come.”
“You are radiant as always, Lady Fowler.” the Blackbolt offers his courtesy, and this does not seem to be forced, but something that comes with an ease that is not unlike breathing, “It does me good to see you again.” Doran’s eyes glance to the needlework, and a look of mirth will abolish the sadness in his eyes for a brief moment. “Not all are masters of all they pursue, my lady. I am certain there are activities that you perform that no man could label as amateur.”
“A… gift?” She looks more than surprised and, certainly, her features betray her, for the lady cannot hide that Doran’s words were the last thing she would have expected to listen to. Dropping her eyes to the cloth, as if all her attention were focused on the embroidery, Lanei nods in acceptance. “That is more than kind, my good ser. But now I am in your debt, and I cannot figure out how would I thank you, and what might you offer in retribution.”
She slips on the bench, as if making room. “Won’t you sit with me? I would welcome some company. If you can stay, and even wish to stay, that is.” A couple of blue stitches on the grey cloth, before to add, “Colors are just colors. No lady would dress, only, her House’s. That would be boring”. A mischievous smile here. “Now, will you tell me of those coming events, that keep your interest and make you seek for solitude? Perhaps a tournament? In King’s Landing?”.
At the mention of a tournament, Doran’s green eyes blaze to life with some ancient inner fire that until now has been nothing but smoldering embers. “A tournament?” the Blackbolt inquires, his eyes searching the face of the lady as if to discern whispers she may have heard that he had not. Yet he sees nothing that is easily read, and instead shakes his head and moves to sit beside her on the bench.
“No, my lady. I believe that my sister, the one I spoke of prior, is in King’s Landing. She has always been fascinated by my cousins the Yronwoods, and I fear she may have heard of my dark success along the Boneway.” Doran’s voice seems to trail off, as if his voice was caught in his throat. A gloved fist moves up to his lips, and he coughs gently into it, “I miss tournaments.” Doran will state as he drops his hand from his mouth, changing the subject as best as he can. “They remind me of days when I dreamt battle was noble and honorable.”
Lanei tilts her head, pondering, and the cloth gets a few more stitches. “I suppose that war heroes will get their prize as they arrive back to King’s Landing, will you not? All your ladies will be there, waiting for you. Festivals will be hosted… balls and tournaments. It is the usual stuff. And tournaments, unlike war, are noble and honorable. At least in Dorne.”
Looking up at the knight, for a moment the needlework forgotten, Doran’s next words catch all her attention. “You dark success? Along the Boneway? There you fought where, with the King?. I know but little of what happened there. My interest lied elsewhere… around the Prince’s Pass, mainly. And, of course” she smiles sadly, “Around Hellholt, since my family sent me there. But why do you worry for your sister, should she learn of your deeds? Most likely she will pride you, as any sister would. I do pride the Fowlers… and my friends’ deeds.”
Doran turns his eyes to Lanei, once again examining her face intently, but this time to see if she is mocking him. When it seems he discerns she is actually ignorant to what he speaks of, a comforting smile is taken up by his lips. “I am not one to seek renown from the death of others, Lady Lanei. If you have not heard of the Blackbolt of Blackhaven during the Young Dragon’s march, than perhaps there is still hope that I may reach King’s Landing before word of my deeds.”
“You have lost family in the war?” The Blackbolt questions, his emerald eyes still gazing intently at the Dornish woman’s face. His right hand slips down underneath the table, adjusting the hilt of the ornate sword that had apparently been bothering him.
Right after to have launched her questions, Lanei gasps under her breath. The Boneway, he said. Doran claimed to have fought there and… What if he had something to do with Utheryn’s death. But she was told of another man, Dagur Saltcliffe, killing him… Returning to her needlework, even if for the sake to hide her eyes to him, she listens to the knight and what he has to say about.
“That… says a lot of you, Ser Doran” the dornish lady offers, eventually. “Indeed, I heard of you, despite my thoughts were elsewhere, as said. But, I am afraid that I recall very little about you and your deeds. So many unknown names, so many well-known places falling, one after another… As for your question…”
She sighs, truly distressed, no feign there. “Gerald, my Lord uncle, the former Lord of Skyreach. Landon, the Falconhelm, which I loved as a father. Astin, his son, who was my cousin and betrothed.” Lanei bites her low lips. “And Franklyn, my little brother, who was but thirteen, and even being but a squire was killed while defending, valiantly, Sunspear. I have another brother, and last I heard, he was brought to Skyreach, gravely wounded. I don’t know, even, if he lives or has passed away.” A new sigh leaves her lips. “And a good number of dear friends, as were Ser Garvyn and, especially, his brother, Ser Utheryn Uller. Perhaps you would have heard of them.”
“And what of you, Ser Doran? Have you lost family in this… war?”.
“Ser Pearse Dondarrion.” Doran replies, his eyes glazing over and appearing distant as he turns his eyes to watch the lady’s hands and her work on the embroidery. “I watched as my own cousin cut him down.” Doran’s tone sounds far off, as if he were reliving the moment in his mind. The sadness that always accompanies his eyes seems to appear heavier, until the brilliant green dulls from their usual deep intensity. “I was lucky though to have my brother, Ser Anders, ride with me. I love him beyond question, but his temperament I fear will be the end of him, as he strives to prove himself to me and himself. There will come a time when he commits to a fight he can not win, and I only pray the Seven are kind enough to make certain I am there to protect him from his own anger.”
The Blackbolt once again has a uncomfortable silence take hold of him, and his lips press tightly together as he gathers his thoughts at what to say next. “You know of my mother’s house, and I consider them as much blood as I consider my own. If you do not know which of them fell, you will hear not their names from my lips. For me, the pain is still to near.” Doran’s tone seems to take on a droning, his eyes still distant as if remembering a past that has haunted him. Yet his face is clearly guarded, and if it were not for his eyes no emotion would betray his mood.
All turns suddenly blurry around her, and Lanei blinks several times, quickly, to regain her vision. She successes, yet at the price of a couple of tears leaving the eyes, running down her cheeks. Embarrassed at her own weakness, the young woman fumbles, searching for her handkerchief. Mildly alleviated as she wipes her face, removing those betrayer tears, and cursing herself, Lanei swallows and gathers her strength to regain her voice back. Still, and for now, she will dodge to meet the Blackbolt’s eyes.
“I am sorry for your losses, ser” Lanei whispers, her voice touched, “May the Judge be kind to them all, and the Mother protect your brother, so that you will have him at your side for unnumbered years. “Your lady mother’s house, the Yronwoods… I know that they have lost all their men but Ser Kay, who is on board too. What—?” She cuts her words off, suddenly realizing of what transpires there, lifting her head to ask, “You… Did you meet them on the battlefield? Ah! Of course, you are the Kinsl—!”. Once again the lady does not finish what she would attempted to say.
The cursed name that has so oft been whispered behind Doran’s back may not have been finished, but it still deals a blow of equal weight. His brow furrows, and water seeps into the bottom of the knight’s emerald eyes. A large exhale is heard as if the Blackbolt were recovering from a smite of an unseen hammer that took from him the wind required to breathe. Still, Doran tries hard to maintain his composure, and his hands drop down to the table to slowly lift himself up from his perch upon the bench.
“Please beg my pardon, Lady Lanei.” Doran’s voice is a near whisper, and each word spoken catches in his throat. The handsome knight seems to shrink as he begins to walk towards the ladder that allows access to the upper deck, and he loses all presence as the fearless Blackbolt of Blackhaven, favored knight of the Stormlands.
For one second or two, the Fowler lady just stares at him in disbelief. “You killed one of your uncles, they said” she says, but as the woman realizes, fully, that he looks nearly broken and devastated, Lanei rises to her feet as well and hurries after him, arriving to Doran’s side right in the moment that he is about to join the ladder. Taking him by a sleeve, she tries to stop him, standing before the man, so that he would need to push her off him way to reach the ladder.
“Those things… happen, when men wage war upon men, Ser Doran” she says is hurry. “It is unfortunate, ill-fated… and pitiable, to have been brought to the Boneway where you knew you would risk yourself to meet you mother’s kin. Surely… it would have been better for you to join Garvys Tyrell’s forces at the Prince’s Pass, although you were with that Baratheon, Sarmion—but then, I am sure, I would not be here, speaking to you this way.”
Lanei does not wish even to figure out how this man will feel about his deeds. It is said that God will doom those spilling his own blood. But did God even suspect that Daeron would desire to conquer Dorne?. “What now, my good ser? Won’t you speak to me anymore?”.
As the memories of his crimes flood back to the Blackbolt, they become too intense for his body to handle. His eyes lose the salted water that had built up within them, and slowly tears begin their descent down his face. Ser Doran’s gait halts as the lady’s hand takes hold of his sleeve, but he refuses to gaze upon her face, instead favoring a knot in the wood on the deck not far from where he stands. “Your voice is sweet, Lady Lanei, and you have been naught but kind to me. Yet sweet words spoken from a beautiful face do not give me absolution in the eyes of the gods. It is the Seven’s understanding I seek, not yours.” His voice is cracked, and the soft-spoken knight struggles for every word from within himself.
“I wish to speak no more of the Boneway, nor the Conquest. Let men such as Ser Jonn and the Stormbreaker cling to their deeds as if it makes them wealthy in the eyes of men. They are vultures in the land of the dead, nothing more.” Ser Doran brings his free arm up to his face, roughly wiping the tears that fell unbidden.
“Now… I fully understand what you said about your sister…” Lanei mutters, almost for herself, “and they were not empty words. Aye, it is not on my hand to forgive you or to punish the one that… But it is a start, I do suppose. You might seek for the Gods absolution, but you will need to seek, too, for us the mortals’, as long as you dwell among us. Don’t disdain in your rush the forgiveness that you might find here.”
Looking down at her hand grasping his sleeve, the lady releases it. “I did not intend to… offend you. I do apologize. And… if you do not wish to speak of the War, we will not. But, in retribution, I will demand of you to speak not of those men you mentioned.” Her hand roams within her pocket, and draws the handkerchief that wiped her eyes a while ago, offering it to Doran in silence.
Doran waves his hand away, dismissing the handkerchief, “The air from the sea is filled with salt, and it is a terror on the eyes.” the Blackbolt states, making reference to the tears he wished had fallen unseen. The knight turns from the knot he took interest when avoiding the Fowler’s gaze, and now allows his eyes, that bare scars from his tormented soul, to look upon Lanei’s face once again. “You are a wonder, my lady. I have not felt such kindness in many years, and I beg you to believe me, that I wish we had met on better terms.”
Doran allows a weak smile to cross his face, and for once the knight appears to look his age, a man in his mid-twenties and still young to the world, “There is no doubt in my mind had it been at one of the tournaments I was declared champion, you would wear a crown of roses.” A flush comes over his face as he speaks the words, apparently the honest aspects of the Blackbolt having caught the best of him, and his dull golden tint of his skin turns a crimson that would make an apple envious.
A faint yet comforting smile reaches Lanei’s lips, as she nods and puts the handkerchief back on the pocket. “The air from the sea is salty enough to irritate the eyes beyond understanding, aye, as is the sand from the desert when windstorm shakes the wastelands. We the dornishmen are aware.” She chuckles. “But I was not aware the wonder I do, ser; alas, I missed it. But do not tease me, mercilessly, for I am pretty sure that more than one woman has spoken to you, in the last years, and kinder than I do.”
Slipping her arm upon his, the lady leads the Blackbolt back to the room. “So, we are on the tournaments topic again.” Aren’t men as children? Give them a toy to play with or a blade to a ser- and they will forget, even if for a while, their former grief. “Twice the knights I favored were proclaimed the champions and I was crowned; I must to confess I liked it. Both” she grins, “to see their triumphs and to know that, of all the ladies around, and despite they were prettier than I will ever be, I was their Queen. But they were dornish. To have a westerosi knight championing me would be, certainly, interesting to see, this at least.”
Doran’s smile remains on his face, as he allows the lady to lead him back into hold. “The tournament is a place where all men are equal, regardless of their heritage.” The smile has lit up most of his face, even the sadness in his eyes seem to dim, and so to fades the flush spawned from compliment. “Twice a Queen? May I ask which two noble knights crowned you?”
“Oh, that’s true, I should suppose, for neither heritage nor family’s influence will help a knight there. Well” Lanei tilts her head, “Gold can buy better armors and weapons, aye” And perhaps something more? “But, basically, aren’t tournaments established to test the knights’ skills?”.
Arriving back to the bench, the lady rejoins her place and sits down, her hands going for the embroidery frame to resume her needlework. “Why do you want to know, ser?” she asks, mischievously. “Are you trying to know if you would have bested them?”.
A small flush rushes over Doran’s face, and once again his tanned Dornish skin is shed in favor of a crimson one. “I am curious if I heard their names, I admit. Very few Dornish ever participated in the Reach or anywhere else in the Kingdom, but rumors were often heard.” The Blackbolt slowly lowers himself on the bench beside the lady, and a smile creeps across his face as he drops his eyes down to examine the Fowler’s work.
“Admittedly, I will tell you that the embroidery is not worth to look at. Ay.” Lanei shakes her head. “I always hated these womanly arts, but… it is a way to pass the time.” Besides, she has the feeling, wrong or not, that this must be the ladies of Daeron’s Court favourite entertainment.
“Ser Astin Fowler, and Ser Utheryn Uller, the Knight of the Flame” she states, and drops her gaze to the stitches, checking them. “There were not important tournaments, as those hosted by the Prince, though, but minors. Yet, they meant a lot to me.”
Doran nods, removing his gaze from the embroidery and focusing on Lanei’s visage, “All tournaments are important. As you said before, it is designed to keep a knight’s skill honed in wartime.” Doran smiles softly, setting his hands on the table. “Have you seen Lady Liane yet this morning?” the Blackbolt inquires, his eyes glancing to the ladder that leads above.
“Last evening I noticed she was in the company of others, and had looked for her to see if there has been no trouble.” The knight allows his eyes to drop from the ladder and find themselves once again gazing at the Lady Lanei. “I will be thankful when we arrive at King’s Landing, and we can finally get away from all this madness.” A strong sigh takes the Blackbolt, and he’ll finally collapse into silence.
“Liane?”. Lanei lifts her eyes, casting upon Doran a questioning gaze. “Nay” she shakes her head. “I have not seen her today. So, since you did it, was she doing well? I do hope she is not getting into problems, due… some sers she might find while roaming the decks. The Gods know that she has had enough of that.”
The lady nods in agreement and continues her needlework. “Indeed, it will be relieving to arrive to King’s Landing, even if for the sake to leave this ship. There is not a lot of space here, and this is a risk.”
“Yes, when too many men share the same space, tempers often flare with ease.” Doran replies, his hand going to his belt again to adjust the scabbard that is beside him. “As for Liane, I have not spoken to her. I was on my way to find her when I came upon you here in the hold.”
“I know Ser Almer was with her, which troubles me. I have yet to discern his sort, and he is renown for deeds amongst those in the Stormlands.” Doran’s voice lowers considerably, and his gloved hand begins to pick at the table’s wood.
“I heard of him, back in Dorne” she states, plainly. For sure she did; Almer Connington, the one raiding here and there in full wrath, and with his men, her land. Definitely, not a man the lady would like to meet.
“Then, I shall not distract you more, my good ser, for I did for long and, who knows: the lady might need you.” Lanei’s face saddens as she speaks these words; however, it is unclear to know if she did because Doran will take his leave, or at the thought of Liane facing, alone, Jonn or Sarmion or both of them at the same time.
The Blackbolt drops his gloved hands to the table, pushing himself up off the bench near the Fowler, “I would be honored if you would join me for a breath of the morning air?” Doran extends his hand to the Lady Lanei, “Besides, I don’t believe the Lady has any love for me, and perhaps you may spare me harsh words.”
“Ay, that will not be possible, Ser Doran” Lanei says, shaking her head. “I am afraid I must decline your kind offer, but lunchtime draws near and I should join Princess Ariana, which I serve as lady-in-waiting. But, should you renew you offer this evening, or tomorrow, and I would happily accept it ֖ if you don’t mind to wander the deck with me.”
She puts the embroidery frame on the table and stretches her finger, raising to her feet. Taking the frame, again, she offers, “But I will accompany you, at least for a little while, until I reach the Princess’ cabin”. Lanei walks to the narrow corridor, not before to wave a hand, inviting him to go with her.
A small smile crosses Doran’s face, and eagerly he follows in the wake of the Fowler. “It would be my absolute pleasure, Lady Lanei.” his eyes lose the sadness that so often plagues them, and his visage presents the feeling of contentment.
“Have a good day, Ser Doran” the lady wishes him, and entering the cabin, Lanei closes the door to the world outside.
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