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In the oppressive noonday heat, only the faint breezes of the Narrow Sea offer consolation from the hammering blows of the sun. Sailors clamber over the decks and rigging shirtless, and bare of foot, but the noble passengers are less likely to shed their modesty so easily.
One among these is Ser Jaesin Lannister, whose only concession to the weather is the lack of his heavy surcoat; otherwise he wears his customary gold-and-crimson silks. Leaning against the westward rail, he watches the rocky shoreline of the Stormlands passing by—silent, solitary, and content to remain so.
“Have a good morning, Ser Jaesin” Lanei says as she leaves the ladder leading below deck, to the cabins, and spots the Lannister knight. The Sevens blessed them, indeed, and for the last days they have enjoyed the sun, being the former rains forgotten and left behind them.
The landscape has changed as well, now that they have passed Massey’s Hook. “Soon we shall arrive to King’s Landing, they say. Is that true? I don’t know the shoreline, I am afraid.” She grins. “Even if it would be more accurate to say that I know nothing, beyond Dorne’s boundaries.”
Liane has grown quieter as the ships come closer to King’s Landing, her usual restless pacing settling into anxious stillness. Even the welcome warmth of the sun doesn’t seem enough to draw her out of whatever throughts occupy a worried mind as she perches inelegantly on a barrell near one rail, chewing on her lower lip and rolling the hem of her sleeve between her fingers.
With a cool and distant polity—but a polity it is, nevertheless—the Lannister knight turns aside from his railing to regard Lanei Fowler and her Uller companion. The faintest of smiles alights on his face; it is a well-mannered kindness, and no more, but kinder than most of the looks this pair’s received on the Falcon.
“My lady,” Jaesin says. “I know these shores little better than you, I fear—but as for the morning, it goes well enough. I am awaiting my drunkard brother; when the sun drifts past its zenith he may finally stir from his benighted slumber.”
“I see” the dornish lady comments, succinctly, yet keeping her eyes locked on the not-so-distant shores in front of them. After a while, she turns her head to survey the deck, looking for others she might known, and her gaze falls upon the lonely figure of the Uller lady that, indeed, looks lost in her thoughts. Wondering if Liane would welcome some company or not, Lane decides to wave a hand to her, as if greeting.
“Then, perhaps… it would be better to leave this place, my good ser. I would not like to cause more troubles than I already did. Yes” she nods, “I do know that you would not let him—But, still…”
Liane flickers a faint, distracted smile towards Lanei, attention drawn by the wave, though she still hangs back a bit. Though she tries to stay still, her fingers tap on the top of the barrel with anxious energy, betraying whatever emotion lies beneath. And yet, the burgeoning conversation draws her attention, the rhthym of tapping fingers slowing as she’s distracted from darker thoughts.
Ser Jaesin laughs a dry little laugh, shaking his head twice. “Nay, you needn’t worry for Jonn’s sake. More like he won’t bestir himself until the afternoon, at least.”
Turning back to the distant vista of land, he adds—almost begrudgingly—“You may stay, if you like. I do not disdain your company, though have no illusions, my lady—I do not welcome it either. I am no more removed from the days of this war than you are. Less, I should think. This dream of Daeron’s may be a long time in coming.”
Pity. Liane doesn’t look eager to get some company. Or is it Jaesin’s presence, that will stop the Uller’s woman to join her companion?. Lanei does not know and, although she guesses that this might be the reason, this is neither the place nor the moment to ask Liane about.
As the Lannister’s man speaks to her, Lanei’s attention is drawn to him, again. With her head inclined to the right side, she listens to his words and eventually offers the ser a nod. For, truly, the Fowler’s young lady does not wish to leave. “You don’t, because I come from Dorne. This, I can understand, ser. But… I fought not in the battlefield, nor I harmed your people. Why, then, your… resentment?”.
“Do not call it resentment,” Jaesin says frankly, and quickly at that—still facing the shore, addressing almost the distant horizon and not the lady with whom he shares the deck. “Call it a warrior’s reluctance.” He pauses, momentarily, then turns his head slightly toward Lanei, over his shoulder.
“Would you not think it odd to find friends among men who’ve spent the better part of this past year killing your kinsmen? Because I find it unthinkable.” Jaesin’s smile loses all its mirth, though it remains a smile. “Honor and glory are wondrous things, and I delight in them—but the earning of them is a bastard’s toil, and none but a madman enjoys it.”
Lanei leans a bit on the railing, so that she would look better at Jaesin’s face. Even if sidelong, of course; it is convenient to show some… discretion, if possible. What does his face transpire? Hard to say, she knows nothing of him, after all; only that he is Jonn Lannister’s brother.
“I do certainly pride my family’s deeds” she says to Liane, turning to her as soon as the woman ends her words. “Not to mention how much would I have welcomed our Prince’s victory. But, still, and since we all will be forced to… coexist, wouldn’t it be better to try… to show some courtesy? Their King mustered them to war us. And I am pretty sure that not all of them joined the troops happy. Some of them are regretting, already, their deeds. But I appreciate your sincerity, Ser Jaesin.”
“Most men regret killing, I think,” Jaesin says, in affirmation of the Fowler woman’s thoughts. “No dreams are less haunted than the dreams of a soldier. And so I do not call myself a soldier—but my dreams are more troubled than theirs, I think. I have no love for war. Only the honor one gains by it.”
“There are many men—my rivals and critics to be sure, but I’ve friends in their number as well—who call Ser Jaesin Lannister a ‘tourney knight’, and heap the words with scorn,” Jaesin says, chuckling. “As if it is a sign of weakness to think that swordsmanship, mastery of a weapon and your peers in turn is no end in itself. But a tourney is a wonderful thing. Good men rarely die in tourneys.”
“But in war, good men die by the hundreds.”
“And bad men, too,” Liane observes quietly, a note of dryness in the words. “And both survive.” She glances towards the ladder leading below, a grimace crossing her features before she turns back to the other pair. “A little discomfort is to be expected as this all begins, on both sides. No doubt your women will be as discomfited by the constant presence of our kinsman as we have been here on occasion. And in time, perhaps we will all be less caricatures, and more human.”
Once again Lanei nods to him. “You do not need to explain us, ser, how quickly, and bloody, men die at the battlefield. We have lost some number of our men and friends because this war. I, personally, helped the septons, and this for long months, to tend our wounded, and their number grew and grew… as Lord Tyrell’s troops advanced further and approached the shores of Dorne. I grew tired of blood and pain and grief, and to see my kinsmen sliced, and their wives and children weeping.”
The Fowler lady swallows. Nay, those are times she does not like to recall. “But, what is wrong with tourneys? You see, this I cannot understand. Why would your people despise them? I thought Westerosi knights liked them as dornish do. Is it because men don’t die there, as you mentioned?.”
Now Jaesin Lannister laughs again, another wry chuckle that falls somewhere south of true mirth. “Our women, I suspect, will be entranced and intrigued by your Dornish men,” he says to Liane, sardonically. “Forgive my saying so, but I find that women often are. The new—the mysterious, especially—are impossible to ignore.”
“I have little patience for such,” the knight remarks. “I am quite certain our landfall will mark only the -beginning- of my troubles—” but he cuts himself short at Lanei’s query; whatever words he had left remain known to him only.
“My people love tourneys,” Jaesin explains. “But prowess in battle is held in higher esteem. Rightly so, I suppose, but—save for Aemon—I’ve yet to meet a war hero whom I cannot best. On a battlefield -or- a tourney ground. So I see no true point to the difference.”
“Another reason to look forward to arrival in King’s Landing,” Liane drawls at Jaesin’s words, wrinkling her nose slightly and looking towards the hold. Time to have a chat with little brother, no doubt. Her eyes narrow slightly at the talk of besting in battle and tournament, half a breath drawn to reply before she stops herself, looking away instead.
Jaesin’s first words are met with a helpless shrug. “Well, I am the same curious concerning your ladies, Ser Jaesin. I have heard that your customs, and ours, are… different, so, my curiosity has been aroused. Little wonder there.” As if expecting to be asked about, she hurries to add, “Starting by our garments, for example; I take they do not dress as we do” and then changes the topic.
“Of course: it is not the same to fight to test your skills and prowess in a tourney that to fight four land and independence, my good ser. As for someone besting you… Who knows. You have not met, in the battlefield, all our knights.”
For the first time, Ser Jaesin’s interest seems vaguely piqued; a flicker of challenge crosses his sharp blue eyes—and for an instant, a window on what drives this renowned champion is visible. But only for that instant, and not nearly for long enough to discern it in truth.
“You have the right of it, my lady,” he says to Lanei, “in that I haven’t yet met all your knights. But I have met your late cousin, said to be Dorne’s finest champion. I saw him fall to Dark Sister.”
“I have faced Dark Sister many times, myself,” Ser Jaesin muses aloud. “I would not have feared to face Garyn Uller if His Highness had been elsewhere. If Dorne has a better, send him to me.”
Liane tenses, quiet for a long moment as she looks to Jaesin. “You do not seem a man to know fear, Ser Jaesin,” she finally says, voice tight. “And it is something of a moot point now. But perhaps some day you will have a chance to meet Garyn on his own ground, without the Dragonknight at your side. They say the fires of hell are always burning,” she says with a small, forced smile.
“If the Hell-knight meets me below the earth, he’ll have to get in line,” quips Ser Jaesin to that, sounding for once like a man who’s matched wits with Jonn Lannister all his life, after all.
“Indeed… Ser Garyn, the Hell-Knight, was one of our best knights, if not the best. And his brother, Ser Utheryn Uller, was no knight which spear was taken lightly, and, still, they were killed. As other men of our land met their end, and by the hand of other men less skilled that they were, or thus they say. Still, as lady Liane says” Lanei Fowler nods to her, “You might find him… sooner or later, only the Gods know about. Let us hope you will do late, though.”
“Not much else to do in hell but burn and wait,” Liane replies with a soft snort, taking a pointed look around the ship before looking out over the water with a grimace.
“Then I daresay this vessel’s your hell, Lady Uller,” rejoins Ser Jaesin, a sad smile returning to his face. “We burn in the sun and we wait for King’s Landing.”
“King’s Landing,” he laughs! “At least the hell of the septons has no promise of a worse place at its end. Fare you well, the pair of you,” he says, taking a step toward the hatch belowdecks. “And see you don’t forget our first meeting. My words then may ring doubly true in the Red Keep.”
“It is indeed unfortunate, my good ser, that your coming to Dorne was because War, and not free-willed and during peace times. You would surely have enjoyed to test your skills against our knights. And, perhaps, you would have find out that they matched your own skills. This at least.” Lanei curtsies. “Have a good day, my lord of Lannister.”
“Thankfully, I’m an Uller, Ser Jaesin. They keep a special fire burning for us,” Liane says with an echoing smile, turning to offer a nod of farewell. “Fare well, Ser Jaesin.”
And so without further ado, Ser Jaesin Lannister is off belowdecks—away from the sun and the shoreline. To find his brother, or speak with those few he calls friend—who can say? All that matters is this: he is gone.
“I cannot help but wonder myself if he, truly, would have bested Garyn, had they met in a tournament—or even at the battlefield” Lanei ponders and speaks her thoughts for Liane’s sake, “I have heard some men on board and they say that he is one of the best knights of the Seven Kingdoms and, certainly, for what I know of him, he could be. Yet… I am not sure. Garyn was… Garyn, and earned the name our people gave him.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Liane murmurs, bitterly quiet. “Garyn is dead, Utheryn is dead, Berec is dead, and some day, Ser Jaesin Lannister will be dead.” She lets out a slow breath, dragging a hand over her hair. “This is hell, though,” she agrees.
“Hell was the siege of Hellholt, my dear” Lanei sighs, “And the battles I witnessed from the battlements, down, not so far from your mother’s seat. As I suppose” she concedes, “that Sunspear’s falling was. I wish hell was like this, though, if the Judge dooms us to the place, once we face him.”
With a new sigh, her eyes wander from the shorelines and back to the ship. “Yet… we are about to arrive to King’s Landing, you know. In no more than one or two days we will be there and… who knows what awaits us there, and if the place will be like hell. But, for now, I will try not to think on this - too much”.
“Another sort of hell, no doubt,” Liane murmurs grimly, reaching up to rub a hand at the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, this isn’t constructive of me,” she sighs after a moment. “It’s just…been frustrating lately, and I’ve allowed it to get to me. I should go below if I’m going to be miserable,” she sighs.
“Who would expect of us being constructive, considering our situation? I am no less depressed than you are, than any of us are, I do guess, but we should not give them the satisfaction of knowing of our grief.” A bell rings, up at the forecastle, making Lanei to move her eyes, unwillingly, to the place.
“Lunch time” she announces. “Will you take your meal with me? Or would you prefer to stay around—?” as usually, she is about to say, but bites her tongue on time. Despite all the troubling meetings she had, Liane’s wish to stay away the cabins, and around the deck, puzzles Marcia’s daughter.
Liane watches the crowds of people heading towards the forecastle at the sound of the lunch bell, paling slightly. “I- I’m not really hungry,” she says after a moment with a flicker of a smile, apologetic. “But if you’d care to take your lunch out here, I wouldn’t mind some familiar company for a bit.”
“...Here?” By her wide eyes, it is not hard to read surprise on Lanei’s face. “It is fine, I will, my dear. Why not? Let’s take our meal beneath the sun, instead beneath a wooden ceiling”. Whatever the reasons Liane Uller may have to be dodging the other’s company at the eating room, well, they are her reasons, but, just in case, she looks, really, as if needing some company.
And Lanei won’t leave her kinswoman alone, especially since she asked for her to take her meal here, together. She smiles. “It will only take me some minutes. Wait here, or search for a good corner for us. I will come back very soon”. Keeping her smile, the Fowler lady heads down to the corridor.
“Thank you,” Liane says quietly, letting the words carry a deeper gratitude for the understanding. “I’ll set up something,” she adds with a small smile, starting to look around the deck before turning to start finding something for seats, looking glad to be active and have some purpose.
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