The crowded ballroom swarms with knots and gatherings of the nobles of the court, both high and low. A space at one end has been kept clear, with the high table clearly awaiting the arrival of the royal kin, who have not yet arrived. Though the occasion is festive, the nervous energy of the crowd is apparent—rumors buzz and sound, flitting from one end of the room to another, though they’re careful to bypass Lord Preston of the small council as he sips a cup of hippocras from a seat at one corner of the room so as to give his lame leg a rest. Other members of the small council, however, seem as involved in the gossiping as even the most notorious rumormongers.
One of the knots of the gathered people are marked by the distance between them and the other groupings, and by the bright hues of their robes and the shine of copper and gilt on their persons. The Dornish hostages have appeared, though just a handful of them, and they keep to themselves. Ser Aidan Dayne is deep in conversation with his Toland cousins, who seem to have marked the mood of the crowd and take turns trading quips.
A small group of younger ladies are gathered near to where Lord Ryger stands, and at the center of the group is his niece, Sylvina. The other ladies listen closely to whatever it is she has to tell them. One of them gasps a little at something that is said, and a couple of them laugh a bit nervously. Also listening in, though with a rather aloof expression on her face, is Sylvina’s step-sister, Aisling Ryswell. She stands near to the group of younger women, though remains clearly outside of it, but it appears that whatever is being talked about is still enough to draw her attention. Given what has been heard around court of late, it is perhaps not hard to guess what the topic might be.
“No, I’m sure it was the Tyrell woman…”
“... three bastards, or four, that’s what one of the captains of the gates claimed; sent one of his lads about asking questions ...
“... Well, she’s only done it to try and put the lie to what the prince has said, but given her past…”
These and more are the kind of thoughts being shared in the crowds, as they all seem to have their gossip turn around the most recent royal scandals. Preston Wayn sits quietly drinking his hippocras, and the fact that most are not afraid to gossip in front of him—although not quite in earshot—says something about the weight of the rumors.
Just then, a herald in the royal livery passes through the double doors. With a staff of office in hand, he knocks it thrice against the stone floor. “Make way, make way! His grace, King Daeron the First of His Name, now enters with the scions of House Targaryen! Make way, make way!”
There is one group, however, that seems unaffected by the general air of watchfulness and morbid curiosity; the laughter there is merry and the wine flows freely. It is not only young lordlings and ladies clustered around the slim, fair-haired man in their midst, however, but more seasoned courtiers as well.
And they, like the man himself—Conrad Arryn, easily enough marked—may seem to ignore the buzz of rumours but are far from unaware, sharp eyes missing little.
The Valeknight cuts short his jape at the herald’s announcement and turns expectantly to the doors, as do the others.
The crowd quickly shuffles from the door, though the room feels quite close when the space is made from doorway to the high table. Still, they wait, stifling only a little. Thus enters the glorious Young Dragon, and upon his arm is the youngest of his siblings, Elaena. With her platinum hair with its streak of gold and her rich garments of silk and velvet all in black, she looks almost pretty, but she has never had the beauty of her sister’s. She smiles, though, pleased at all the attention as she walks with her brother. Behind them trail her sisters and brother Baelor, who seems ill at ease to have Daena on his arm. And then Prince Viserys follows, and Naerys, and the knights of the Kingsguard coming last of all with Aemon at their head this day. Behind them then enter the companions of the royal kin, all making their way towards the high table.
At the announcement from the herald, the group of ladies disperse enough to allow them to line up near to where the King and his kin will pass by, and when the royalty does enter there’s a flurry of silk and samite as they sink down in graceful curtseys. Still a little apart from the rest, and not one to push herself to the front of the line, Aisling follows their example. But though she does not seek to draw attention to herself, she does follow the procession closely as it enters the hall. It is not, however, on the king that her attention lingers, but rather further back in the train of people.
And among those companions, the aforementioned Tyrell woman, Reyna Saltcliffe. She is splendidly clad in black and silver, glittering with jet and strands fine as moonlight in her hair. She bears in her hands a flat box on a silken pillow—a gift for the Princess, perhaps?
Rumors may swirl about her, but there is no shame in Reyna’s bearing. She wears no thorns of penitence, nor does she bow her head to avoid the searching eyes of the court. She bears herself as one with nothing to be ashamed of—or possessing no shame to feel.
Daeron assists slender little Elaena up the steps, as the gathered nobility bow as they sweep past. She stumbles only a little in her heavy skirt, but her jaw tightens all the same while a faint flush creeps up her neck. Still, she turns to look on the crowd, and the smile slowly returns. Then she looks to Daeron, who with his easy smile whispers something to her. “You may rise,” she announces to the court, her reedy voice piping a little too loudly. “I thank you all, lords and ladies, for celebrating my nameday. You are very kind.” It’s not rehearsed, clearly, yet she doesn’t seem at all taken aback by the attention. And with that, the royal family take their seats, while their companions range themselves behind their seats or off the sides.
Standing near the high table in the front rank of those who line the path, the Arryn knight bows with every measure of courtly grace as the Young Dragon and his sister pass by.
And as he straightens at Elaena’s pronouncement, he catches the Saltcliffe woman’s eye by chance. There is the briefest of pauses as whispers continue to fly through the crowd around him—and then he nods with a pleasant smile.
Due to her low curtsey, Soranna would be barely discernible to anyone taking a casual glance about the crowd. Truthfully, no one could say when she entered and who with, though she is dressed in her finest and currently alone. A glance before the procession would have caught her nervous glances among the many nobles, among whom she is still somewhat uncomfortable, but now she smiles widely, having recognized her friend Lady Reyna. The rumors have found even Soranna’s sheltered ears, but her eager, innocent smile shows no sign of it.
At the command of Princess Elaena, she rises gracefully and waits to see where she might place herself for the feast.
After the passage of the Targaryens, it becomes clear that the initial impressions were not quite correct—Prince Aegon, subject and party to so many of the rumors that have infected the court these last days, has not appeared, nor any of his boon companions. The other royalty seem to take no note of it, but the empty seat at the high table stands out. A few glances might be given, here and there, about that; but rather more seek not for the Targaryens, but for one of the companions to the princesses. Lady Reyna is furtively scrutinized.
“This is a celebration, and so we shall celebrate. Let the wine flow and the food be filling!” the Young Dragon announces then, clapping his hands together. With this signal, a small army of serving men appear from the hall outside, bearing trays laden with pewter cups filled with wine and various sweetmeats and other morsels. Two men together come last, bearing a great covered tray between them. They move directly to the high table, while the other men begin to find their way through the crowd, disappearing as soon as their trays are emptied only to be replaced by someone else with more drink and food.
And with that, even under the eye of the king, the nobles of the court return to the gossip—of Lady Reyna, who is here, and Prince Aegon, who is not. It makes for much to talk about, though some now look over their shoulders quite often.
When the wine does make its way to the Dornish hostages—not first, but not last, either—Tanyth is quick to grab herself a cup and down a healthy swallow. “It appears the King has had a new shipment of wine from home,” she dryly remarks upon that. “How kind of him to share with us.” She casts a brief glance over at the high table, dark eyes giving the royal family seated there a rather dark look, even though a wry smile still quirks her lips.
Reyna flashes a smile at Conrad when her eye catches his, but it fades back to her serenely indifferent mask as she places Naerys’s gift on a table laden with others, and takes a goblet from a passing tray. She moves carefully through the throng, greeting all she knows whether they greet her in return or not. And so she comes up beside Soranna, smiling a greeting.
With license to now move and talk freely granted, Ser Aidan joins others in looking to the empty seat at the high table, and then to Lady Reyna. Unlike most, though, he excuses himself from his present companions. “I hope there’ll be some left,” he says, looking after a servant disappearing with an empty tray. “If you might get a hold of one, cousins, I should be grateful. But if you will excuse me…” And so he begins to make his careful, exquisitely polite way towards Reyna Saltcliffe. He adjusts his course when she moves from the knot of Naerys’s companions to share her greetings with those familiar to her, while eyes follow in her wake.
Comforted by the appearance of her friend, Soranna greets Lady Reyna warmly. “Isn’t the Princess a vision to warm the coldest heart?” she asks sincerely. “She will grow into an exquisite lady, I am sure of it.”
She looks about the room at all the beautiful things to see, whether the finery of the ladies or the noble knights who share their company. At the sight of Ser Aidan approaching, she gives a small, respectful curtesy.
One among the many who leave their gifts for the young princess, Conrad lays a slim box painted blue and inlaid with seed pearls on the table before returning to his companions, snagging a goblet on the way.
“One of the dragons is missing,” he remarks as he rejoins his companions. “Entertaining himself elsewhere, perhaps. I hear he enjoys mummers’ shows.”
There is a moment of silence, a glance or two towards the nearby Preston Wayn, then a burst of laughter. The Arryn knight raises his goblet to one of the solemn, white-clad Sworn Brothers—Jaesin Lannister—and drinks, sighing appreciatively.
The serving men place the great covered tray before Elaena and Daeron, and remove the lid. Within is a splendid roasted swan, contrived to look nearly alive with feathers seemingly still in place, wings upraised, and beak open to sing the swan’s dying song. Elaena claps her hands together, which others near the high table take up, even Viserys. Daeron grins and makes some remark to the elder of the servants, who bows deeply before taking up knives to begin to carve up the swan. The first piece he begins to put on Daeron’s plate, but the king stops him ... and directs him to Elaena; for today, she’ll have the royal portion before any other. She accepts it as graciously as she can, before she begins to eat with a child’s passionate hunger.
Once again amidst her small group of ladies, Sylvina is holding court, so to speak. There’s much lightly hushed talking and coy laughter, with glances that speak volumes direct at various people. The royalty, of course, and the Lady Reyna, too. At one point, there’s also a glance from Sylvina at her step-sister, Aisling, and it is followed by some half-whispered words that elicit more laughter from the other ladies.
Aisling herself, meanwhile, at least appears oblivious to this. Though, the way she has turned her back to Sylvina and her companions is unlikely to be coincidental. A cup of wine has found its way into her hand, though after sipping it once she makes a slight face and then simply holds onto it while she looks out over the crowd. Her dark eyes seem to search for something, or someone, and in doing so happen to take notices of Ser Aidan as he approaches Lady Reyna. Her brows arch quizzically then.
“I don’t know her well, but she looks very pretty today, and she is said to be a sweet child,” Reyna says, touching Soranna’s arm lightly. Then she follows the girl’s gaze and smiles. “Ser Aidan, greetings. Will you meet Lady Soranna Hawick?” She gestures to her young companion. “Soranna, please meet Ser Aidan Dayne. They call him the Knight of the Twilight, and he’s got one of the best swords in all Westeros.”
She pauses to watch the presentation of the roast swan, smiling. “You do know the swan sings only once, before it dies,” she says to her companions. “Still, it is a lovely image, that.”
The Dornishman bows deeply as he is introduced, or as deeply as the crowding allows. “It is an honor, Lady Soranna, though Lady Reyna is kind to introduce me with such words.” Grave and serious, he straightens, and his attention is on Dagur Saltcliffe’s wife. “How are you, my lady? You are well?” His voice is conspicious for its measured softness, as if there are other words going unsaid.
Making her entrance into the hall is Rosalind Hill, bastard daughter of the lions, yet betrothed to a cousin of the Princess. She enters with little fanfare, taking a moment to sweep the hall with her leonine gaze before stepping further inside.
As she does so, the reason for her hesitation becomes apparent. At her side walks a graceful white fawn. A collar of black velvet studded with blood rubies encircles the slender neck, with the bastard girl holding the lead. The young doe’s liquid black eyes take in the scenery and her large velvety ears swivel to take in the sounds of revelry. As the creature moves, it becomes apparent that she was injured sometime in the recent past. The left hind leg has been carefully bandaged, with obvious skill and attention. Though the fawn has a slight limp, she appears to be recovering from injury.
The bastard girl murmurs soft encouragement to the fawn, running a hand down the white neck for comfort.
As the feasting begins in earnest, a few stragglers enter the ballroom later than others. Some hope to sneak in, others do not care, and a few could not go unnoticed even if they wished. Such a one is Ser Sarmion Baratheon, the royal warden of the Kingswood. He makes no great show or pretence when he enters the room, and leaves it to his companions to do so as Rosalind Hill leads the fawn beside her. Though the two are well overtopped by the huge and fearsome knight, they can hardly go unnoticed. For a moment, at least, the gossip stills and attention turns to them. And with an excited whisper from Elaena, so does Daeron.
“What’s this?” the Young Dragon asks. “The Stormbreaker anticipates us all. Shall we begin the gift giving, your grace?” he asks, turning to Elaena. “Oh, yes!” she says, almost lifting herself bodily from seat to table as she leans forward to try and get a better look. Rhaena looks pained at her younger sibling’s manners, while beautiful Daena whispers something to a companion that carries laughter in it.
“Well then, so be it,” Daeron says with a grin, and gestures. “Come forward, ser, with your companions. What is this marvel you have for us?”
“Very well in body, if a bit aggravated in mind, thank you,” Reyna says to Aidan, her mouth twisting wryly. “But well enough to send a pair of ravens.” She seems about to say more when the Stormbreaker enters, and she pales. But he passes by without seeing her, and she sighs with relief.
Instead, she focuses on the Hill girl and her fawn. “Oooh, how sweet!” she croons girlishly, directing Soranna’s attention toward the little deer.
“Well met, Ser Aidan.” Soranna murmurs so as not to interrupt the conversation between the knight and lady. She takes a concealed interest in the question and its answer, having decided earlier to ask after her friend in a more private setting.
At the momentary pause in the shameless sharing of rumors, she turns to see what could cause it. Seeing another friend, she waves to the Lannister woman, smiling eagerly with Lady Reyna at the sight of the precious gift.
As the first gift is presented, with much of the crowd—at least the female half—seeming rather taken with it, a different sentiment is dryly voiced by Tanyth, now almost done with her first cup of Dornish wine. “How adorable. I suppose we should be glad, given who appears to have procured the gift, that it was not one of our kin being presented to Eleana as a new pet.”
Half-turning to steady a companion as she is jostled, Conrad finds himself off-balance and shoved into the Stormbreaker’s path by an impatient elbow. Nodding to the giant knight, he begins to draw aside, then pauses, staring at the apparition before him.
“Hells, my lady,” he says to Rosalind as she comes abreast, bemusement and laughter mingling in his eyes, “do you mean to start a hunt here? A fine gift that would be.”
Rising smoothly from her curtsey, Ammena Piper steps through the crowded ballroom. The delicate silver clasp in her hair catches a glint of the streaming sunlight as she gently greets a Septon in passing. Her eyes scan the room, briefly rising to the gallery above. A lanky guard follows her carrying a small delicate silver birdcage fashioned to resemble a country cottage. Within the cage sits a shining jeweled songbird on a swinging perch.
Though Aidan seems to want to frown, Reyna’s last words to him force relief and ... gratitude, perhaps, across his face. “Thank you, lady. And if there is anything I may do…” The rest drifts away, as the Stormbreaker passes by with Rosalind and the fawn in tow.
Ser Sarmion bows before the high table, and declares that the white fawn is indeed a gift for the princess. Found injured in the kingswood, it required careful tending it seems. And with that said, he looks to Rosalind and leaves the rest of the tale to her.
Looking fragile and childlike beside the massive Stormbreaker, Rosalind comes forward with Ser Sarmion, bringing the young doe beside her. Though the bastard girl is clearly intimidated at being scrutinized by the royals, the fawn appears unafraid and curious, eyeing the garnish of the roasted swan with interest.
She does break a tentative smile as the Stormbreaker finishes his tale, “This sweetling is not a thing to be hunted, but a treasure to be enjoyed, good Ser.” She replies to the Arryn knight. “She had some damage to the muscles and tendons in her leg, but is healing well, Your Grace. She still drinks milk… I’ve been using three parts mare’s milk and one part goat’s milk and she has put on weight.” The fawn stretches her nose toward the garnish, unafraid. “... but she has begun showing an interest in grasses. We hope you will enjoy her, as much as I enjoyed caring for her.” A deep curtsey and she offers the lead to the Princess.
“Oh, how wonderful! Thank you!” Elaena announces, clapping her little hands together. “Brother, may we keep her in the godswood? Then I could visit her every day.” Daeron responds indulgently, “Of course. We’ll just have to post men at the door and gate, to make sure that they’re not left open.” Prince Viserys, a pair of seats down, says nothing regarding the king’s quick decision .. but his dark violet eyes narrow a little, and his mouth tightens slightly.
“We thank you both for the gift of the fawn,” the king announces at last, and with that they are dismissed. And so the tide of gifts begin, with Lord Ryger clearing his throat loudly and indicating that his niece Lady Sylvina will present a gift to the princess.
Rosalind dips another low curtsey and steps back when dismissed. She still appears a bit pale from the scrutiny of the dragons and appears relieved that their attention is now elsewhere.
“And I thought a lion would eat a fawn, not nurse it back to health,” the Valeknight laughs.
“Or a dragon, for that matter,” he adds, managing, somehow, to be both wry and gallant as he inclines his head to Elaena. “But she is a fair one, your grace. Much like her new mistress.”
It may have been noted by some that, from within her group of companions, Lady Sylvina cast a few not entirely pleased glances in the direction of Rosalind as she presented her gift. Now, however, she is all smiles and grace a she steps forward and takes over the gift held by her uncle until now. It is a rather large, leather-bound tome, with gold-leaf patterning on the front and with gilt edges. Bearing this, she steps forward to the high table, and curtseys deeply. “Princess Eleana, please accept this humble gift on the occasion of your nameday,” she says as she presents the book. “It is the work of a skilled illuminator from the Starry Sept in Oldtown, who has a marvellous hand for illustrating the word of the Faith.”
“A tender gift from the Stormbreaker,” Reyna remarks, watching the great man a moment before returning her attention to Aidan and Soranna. “Wonders never cease, it seems. We must look to sky for flying swine next.”
The fawn receives an appreciative reception, and a few courtiers go out of their way to express their approval to the Stormbreaker; his companion, Rosalind, earns rather less of their praise, but a few do compliment her on the gift. One young unwed lady of the court seeks her out, in fact, and with a pleasant smiles says, “That was a lovely gift, mistress. Did your betrothed, brave Ser Endros, have a hand in catching it? How marvellous if he did.” But her eyes are on the Stormbreaker, well out of earshot; they’re calculating. “Who would have thought such a man could have such a gentle heart, to think of such a gift. But they do say big men are often sweeter and gentler than they seem. Do you find him so?” she asks Rosalind, with a winsome smile and cool eyes.
“It was House Hawick, was it not? I am afraid I don’t recognize it,” Aidan asks Soranna, sounding aplogetic. He is still without a glass of wine to hand while the gifts are being presented. “Are they vassals to House Tyrell?”
Elaena finds this gift less exciting, by far. She forces a smile and bows her head gently. “Thank you, Lady Sylvina and Lord Ryger. I will treasure it.” Her hand it still on the leash of the fawn, which hides frightened under the table, shivering slightly; but it’s a serving man in Targaryen livery who takes the book from Sylvina’s hands and carries it away. Daeron murmurs his appreciation, thanking them both for their kindness. Baelor and Rhaena both seem much more impressed by the gift than Elaena is, and can be seen speaking approvingly to one another concerning it. And then it’s on to the next gift, and the royal steward gestures with a hand towards Ammena Piper.
Ammena makes her way to the gathering line of gift givers and well wishers. Spotting the illuminated tome, her eyes glow with appreciation. She gestures to the lanky guard trailing her and softly gestures to the head table.
Gracefully curtseying she says, “May the Princess have the merriest of namedays and many more to follow. From House Piper, may I offer a song for companionship.”
Leaning her face close to the gilded cage, Ammena instructs, “Tis a curious bird really… Came from a long way away and difficult to catch. See the talons there… curved in a ring. You can wear him on your finger. And the tail there… that little hole… if you blow through it, well, it does the most curious thing.” With that she smoothly stands and smiles glowingly at the Princess.
“To House Tully, good ser.” Soranna replies. “House Hawick of Saltpans where the Trident meets the sea. I have served the Lady of my house, quite gladly I might add, these past three years, though my mother is Lysene and my family is there.” She watches the exchange of gifts as she speaks quietly to her new acquaintance, not wanting to seem disrespectful.
With a glass of wine in one hand, Reyna manages to snag another from a passing servitor and hold it out to Aidan. “I’ve a Lyseni maid,” she says conversationally to Soranna. “Look, I do believe that bird will sing. I have heard of such things, jeweled trinkets that sound real. What a lovely gift.”
Rosalind accepts the few allocades that come her way with grace, she does have lion’s blood after all. When she is sought out by the young lady, Rosalind’s retains that lion’s grace, but her words are quiet as she responds, “Ser Sarmion and my betrothed came upon the fawn in the Kingswood. She was gravely injured and it was less of a capture, than a rescue. I’ve always found that a gentle approach, sincere in without pretense, goes far in building trust with even the most untamed of creatures.”
Elaena’s interest rises as Ammena is coy as to just what the bird does. “Let me see,” she says, half a request, half a command, and a servant takes the bird in its cage and takes it to Elaena. With a little work of her slender fingers, she reaches in to take out the bird and examines it from all angles, turning it over in her hands while still gripping the fawn’s leash; the tiny pellets its left on her heavy skirt are unnoticed for the moment. Elaena slips it onto a finger—it’s every so slightly loose, but she doesn’t mind. She tentatively puts her mouth to it and blows—and giggles as it gives an awkward note. Then she gives it a second, more sustained and forceful try, and by the marvel of a cunning silversmith’s work the beak opens, a tiny tongue slips out, and it warbles a brief song. Elaena laughs, and says, “It is a lovely gift. Thank you very kindly!” And then she makes it whistle again, turning to Daeron so that he can see the bird’s actions as she does so.
As the various gifts are presented, Aisling follows the proceedings with at most mild interest. She does watch as her step-sister presents the gift arranged by her uncle, however, and seems vaguely amused at the lack of an enthusiastic response on the Princess’s part. It is unlikely that she offered any objections to Sylvina being the sole giver of the gift, given the slight smirk that briefly touches her lips. Then her attention wanders again. In her hand, she still has that same goblet of wine as before.
“Lys? Truly?” Ser Aidan asks, intrigued by that. “That’s an unusual thing, if I may say so, Lady Soranna. And you were raised there, or at Saltpans? The tale of it must be quite interesting.” At last, he manages to get a hold of a cup of wine as a servant passes by with a half-empty tray, and takes a quick swallow. The room is growing warmer as time goes by, thanks to the press of nobles filling it.
“‘A gentle approach’...” the lady repeats, thoughtfully. “Yes, I will keep that in mind, Mistress Rosalind.” But her eyes are still on the tall figure of the Stormbreaker at the time. They do shift back to Rosalind though, and another overly-winsome smile touches her lips. “Surely, Ser Endros is fortunate to have found such a gentle betrothed. Shall the wedding be soon? I imagine it will be here in the city.”
Left with an unnecessary cup of wine, Reyna looks round toward Aisling. It is perhaps perversity that carries her toward the Ryswell, for they have certainly never been friends. “You look rather… unimpressed, Lady Aisling.” She leaves the extra goblet on another passing tray.
And with that, more gifts are presented, with great lords and magnates of the court beginning first for the most part. There are silks, of course, and a few jewels, and these are duly received with pleasure. Preston Wayn rises clumsily from his seat while a servant brings forth his gift, two puppets on strings artfully painted to look like a knight in armor and a fair-haired princess; Elaena is quite impressed with that one, it must be said. And then more gifts pile on, some richer, some poorer, but it’s always the ones that would appeal to a child that win the princesses must effusive praise.
“I rather think that I am the fortunate one, my lady, to be so loved and cherished by my betrothed. We are still attending to the details of the wedding.” Rosalind replies sweetly, “But that is a unique gift Lady Ammena presented. I’ve not seen such a thing like that.” She smiles in the direction of the Piper lady.
Soranna smiles good-naturedly at Ser Aidan’s words. “You may say whatever you like, so long as its true. If /I/ may say so, good ser, a true knight would never lie to a young lady.” Her tone is friendly and playful. She notices Lady Reyna leave, but her attention remains with the Dornishman.
“My upbringing was hardly interesting,” she continues. “Most of my time was spent in our library in Lys. My three older brothers were sure to quell any adventuresome whims that took me, though they were few and far between to be sure. I came to Westeros three years past to serve Lady Hawick and only recently came to King’s Landing with my Lady. I’m sure your story is far more interesting than mine, Knight of the Twilight.” Her eyes twinkle with interest as she finishes.
Hearing her name spoken, Aisling turns around towards Reyna, whom she then comes to study thoughtfully for a moment or two before replying. “It is a grand feast, I suppose,” she says, which doesn’t quite answer the question. “How are you finding it, Lady Reyna?” One brow arches slightly above those dark eyes, though it is not clear if there are any ulterior motives to her question. Unlike Sylvina, she is a poor gossip, unless one counts her talking to her horses as her step-sister alleges that she does with some frequency.
So the gift-giving goes, and the court eats and drinks while the Targaryens dine, and occasionally they talk of the presents, of who has done well or poorly, who has spent much or a trifle too little .... but endlessly, they go back to eyeing Reyna and that empty seat, and trade whispers speculating on what the future will bring.
That becomes clear enough, when Prince Aegon arrives with his noble companions in tow. Swaggering in, it’s clear they’ve kept Aegon company as he drank, for they and the handsome Targaryen prince have somewhat flushed faces and overly-easy manners. Aegon’s appearance certainly causes a stir, drawing eyes and bringing silence as he moves through the ballroom, quickly grabbing a goblet of wine and taking a swallow.
“A grand feast, true, but much as any…” The fallen silence stills Reyna’s tongue, and she looks round for the source. She is a court creature, however, and her face gives nothing away, though it looks a trifle paler than a moment ago. “But it will perhaps give us some amusement yet.”
Then she turns to listen to an attendant who has brought the box back to her, that which she carried in. Reyna drinks deeply from her cup, then puts down the goblet and takes the enamelled box with a nod.
Smiling brightly as the songbird sings, Ammena cannot help but lightly chuckle at the Princess’s enthusiasm. “The Princess is most welcome. May he fill you days with song and laughter.” At that, she once again curtseys and backs away from the Royal table. She intakes a soft breath and slowly exhales. Straightening her posture and smoothing the edge of her gown, she catches the eye of a passing servant and plucks a tendril of yellow grapes and a goblet of golden wine from his tray. Her eyes wandering across the crowd, she spots Rosalind’s smile and gently weaves her way towards her. She does not make it far and is abruptly stopped in her tracks and performs a soft curtsey at the entrance of Prince Aegon.
The less-than-discreet arrival of Prince Aegon draws Aisling’s attention too, and from the glance she then directs at Reyna it is apparent that she is oblivious to what has been gossiped about of late, even if she’s not one to be at the centre of everyone’s attention like her step-sister. “What is amusement for some may be less entertaining for others, no?” she asks, though the shrug that follows upon her words seem to suggest it was not really a question meant to be answered.
The arrival of the prince is received in various ways. Some make efforts to greet him warmly, but he’s overly intent on taking his place at the high table. Others still just bow in silence, and hope to go unnoticed. His kin are similarly variable in their reception, from Daena’s roll of the eyes to Aemon’s tightened jaw. Aemon eventually makes his way to the seat beside Naerys, and smacks a kiss on her cheek. Her return kiss is dry and dutiful, and she returns to her meal in silence. The court is ... uneasy, to say the least. Half of them stop their gossiping, uncomfortable, while others continue on if more quietly.
The gifts continue.
A blush touches Aidan’s cheeks at Soranna’s remarks, and he shakes his head slightly. “It’s the singers, my lady. They’ll use any excuse to make up songs if they think someone’ll pay them well for it,” he tells her, self-effacing. After an uncomfortable pause, he takes a swallow of wine, and it’s then that Aegon’s arrival catches his attention. Like some, he grows quiet as the prince passes, but Aegon barely gives him a drunken glance.
Rosalind is one of those that makes her submission in silence, dipping a respectful curtsey. She acquires a goblet of sweet wine from a passing servant and sips it.
“If you cannot be amused by yourself, Lady Aisling, of whom or what -can- you be amused by?” Reyna asks, moving away and toward the high table with her box. Before the table she curtsies low, her black and silver skirts belling around her before she rises, opening the box as she does so.
Inside is a glittering necklace—a chain of daisies, with petals of milky moonstone and centers of buttery-yellow tourmaline, all set in silver enameled green in the shape of leaves. “From the ladies of your grace’s aunt, Princess Naerys,” Reyna says, presenting the box to the little princess. “A necklace now, and when you are a lady grown, a pretty ornament for your grace’s hair.”
Soranna looks as if about to pursue the knight’s tale, but sees the entering Prince and dips a respectful curtesy with the rest. She looks, as well, to the Lady Reyna, but a note of concern rather than interest touches her eyes. “A clever and beautiful gift,” she remarks to her companion. “Lady Reyna is never anything short of impressive.” Though she has heard something of the rumors saturating the city as of late, Soranna’s fierce admiration of the Tyrell beauty would need a much stronger blow to tame it.
“I suppose it would make for easily available entertainment, at least,” says Aisling a moment or two too late, for Reyna has already moved away to present her gift to the princess. The Northern lady follows the other woman with a dark glance, but once at the high table her gaze does not linger upon Princess Eleana. A little further away, her step-sister casts one of her occasional glances at Aisling, then shares another joke with her coterie of friends.
Elaena smiles and looks on the gift with obvious pleasure, though likely more because it’s from her gentle cousin and her ladies than because jewels entice her. “My thanks, sweet cousin Naerys. And to Ladies Reyna, Nessa, and all the rest,” she says, while a serving man brings it nearer for her inspection. Aegon cranes his neck to take a look, and smirks over his wine. “Daises, are they? Better than roses, at least. ” he announces loud enough for some of the courtiers near the high table to hear. Viserys looks over to his son and frowns. Daeron merely ignores it, and with a gesture has the gift taken away to join most of the rest.
The Dragonknight’s expression grows stonier still at his brother’s outburst, annoyance in his purple eyes. His father is perceptive, however, and with a gesture calls Aemon over. A whisper, and another gesture to the nobles below the high table, and Prince Aemon dutifully leaves his station so near to his brother and mingles with the crowd. He’s unhappy, clearly, but unfailingly courteous.
Rosalind quietly excuses herself and skirts the bulk of the crowd to join Ammena Piper. “How wonderful to see you, Lady Ammena,” The bastard girl murmurs, casting occasional glances at the head table.
If her cheeks flame, if her dark eyes gleam suspiciously, Reyna clings to her grace as she bends into a curtsy and withdraws without looking toward Aegon. She seems grateful to turn away from the high table, however, and looks about her for a friendly face—discomfited, if only for this moment.
The Dragonknight’s departure from the table certainly does not go unnoticed. He is followed by more than a few glances as he moves in among the guests. Among those taking an interest in this turn of events is Aisling. She taps her fingers against the still mostly full goblet that she holds in her hands, and seems vaguely unsettled as Prince Aemon passes by not far from where she stands. Then her grip about the goblet grows firmer and a slight frown touches her pale features. Sylvina has stepped out from her group of ladies to intercept the Prince’s path, offering a graceful curtsey before addressing him.
Intercepted by a short balding man and his young (too young) ladywife, Ammena politely converses with the couple. A gentle nod and soft smile are enough to hold the conversation—dull as it might be. As Rosalind greets her, Ammena politely says to the couple, “...Twas so nice to see you again. If you will excuse me…” With a light curtseyed nod to the ageing man and his young (too young) ladywife, Ammena briskly moves towards Rosalind and says, “A lovely gift was the fawn. Tis a wonder it is so calm in this crowd.” And at the moment, a poxmarked hedge knight accidentally jostles against her, dropping a greasy slab of roast goose on the hem of her gown before stumbling off without so much as noticing.
Other gifts arrive after that awkward moment, but Aegon seems to find fault with a number of them, and says so. Strangely, it always comes back to roses, or untrustworthy women in books of romance, or the penalties the gods will visit on liars and shrews. As a case in point:
Ser Aidan Dayne himself is drawn from the company of the nobles to present a gift, on behalf of himself and his cousins of House Toland. “It is a book of tales told by the orphans of the Greenblood, your grace,” the elegant young knight announces, passing the small leather-bound book to a liveried servant, who in turns to presents it to the princess. “It contains many amusing stories, such as they tell on their painted boats while poling up and down the waterways. And there are wonders, too, tales of the Crab King and the Old Man of the River and Mother Rhoyne.”
“Wonders, ser?” Prince Aegon offers up. “Lies and foolishness, much as you’d expect from Dornishmen .... Pardon, was it the orphans, you said? Them as well.”
Daeron has enough of that. Elaena is left glowering at her cousin Aegon, and when Daeron notes it he remarks dryly, “Thank you, cousin, for sharing your opinions on the matter. And do you have some gift for my sweet sister?”
“Once she understood that people would not harm her, the fawn settled down. It was a matter of accustoming her to more people… but I heard that wealthy nobles in the Free Cities and beyond kept tame gazelles for pets. We didn’t think she would be much differen…oh!” Rosalind takes hold of Ammena’s elbow, to steady her from the jostling hedge knight. “Are you unhurt, lady?” She inquires, concerned, then noticing the unfortunate consequences of the greasy gooseflesh, “Oh, but your gown!”
There is little comfort to be found in such a crowd, but a group of Reyna’s Reach kin and kind and wave her toward them. So she is able to pass Rosalind and Ammena with her head held high, and if she flinches with each of Aegon’s barbs, loud enough to hear still so near the high table, she smiles at that pair of women. “Exquisite gifts, both of you,” she says to them, pausing.
Given the circumstances, the Dragonknight is likely not too enthused by Sylvina’s insistence on striking up a conversation with him. Sometimes, however, chivalry can be used effectively to a knight’s disadvantage, especially when the knight is as true as the Prince in question. He finds himself caught up in a conversation with the young lady, who appears to possess considerable skill in these matters. Those nearby can overhear how they—or rather, mostly Sylvina, with dutiful pauses interspersed to give the Prince a chance to respond—discuss the gifts given to the Princess Eleana, the success of the feast and other such trivial matters.
Far enough away from her step-sister that the nature of the conversation is hidden from her, but near enough to observe the exchange well enough, stands Aisling. There’s more than a hint of colour on her pale cheeks, and her lips are thinned by a frown. The wine that previously did not seem to appeal to her is now been disappearing from the goblet in her hand at a rather impressive rate.
Ammena grimaces at the greasy stain and softly sighs to Rosalind, “Ack, the fatal outcome of a grand party it would seem.” Upon hearing a familiar voice, she glances to her right and smiles brightly towards Reyna. “Thank you. And your gift as well was truly lovely. I’ve not seen such delicacy fashioned with such care.”
Ser Aidan withdraws, his face a mask after Prince Aegon’s interruption. Instead of returning to his previous companions in conversation, he returns to his fellow hostages. He says little to them, distracted.
Aegon, on the other hand, seems caught in a trap by Daeron’s question. He looks at him dumbly for a moment, and then blusters, “I shared the expense of my sweet sister’s gift, your grace.” Naerys’s still expression, and the pinched looks of some of her ladies, give the lie to that, but they hold their tongues. “But I’ll add…. I’ll add, dear Elaena, a word of advice.” His eyes turn towards the crowd, seeking, seeking ... and finding Reyna Tyrell. “Never trust a lady who smells of roses,” the prince drawls, words slightly slurred. “It usually covers a stench.” Elaena doesn’t even bother to thank him for that, and gives him a haughty snort such as only a wilful nine year old princess can do. There’s a mutter in the crowd then, touched with shock, as eyes turn from Aegon towards Reyna and back again.
Daeron’s eyes are hard, then, as he stares at Aegon. A long moment passes, and it’s Viserys who finally speaks up. “Prince Aegon, now that you’ve given your gift, it’s time to allow King Daeron to give the final gift to his sister; you will attend, I am sure, with as much bated breath as the rest of the court.” There is a warning in his voice.
This last makes Reyna stiffen, and it seems even courtesy is hard to strive for. “Thank you,” she says to Ammena without turning. “Her grace as access to the very best jewelers and silversmiths, of course.” But her lip trembles as she turns dutifully toward the high table.
This time, however, she does not avoid Aegon. No, now she raises her eyes to him boldly, and mouths two words silently—and he will recognize them easily.
“Thank you, Lady Reyna.” Rosalind murmurs in response to the Tyrell, “The jewels were exquisite and most unique. Where…” The bastard trails off as the last exchange at the head table is heard. Her delicate brows arch and although she says nothing, the girl reaches out a hand to the Tyrell lady.
Aegon quells at first, holding his tongue. He takes a long drink from his goblet, and shoves it a servant to refill it. The court whispers and murmurs, but the promise of a last kingly gift seems to catch their fancy and they wait. A servant arrives in the ballroom, bearing a silk cushion on which ... something large and rounded is placed, covered by a red silk edged in red. The servant bows as he places it on the high table before Elaena.
“What is it?” she asks, wonderingly, eager to uncover it but uncertain. She looks to her brother, large-eyed. “Why are you asking, sister? It’s yours to find out.” And so Elaena does, eagerly, whipping the silk cloth off .... and gasping aloud; so, too, do a number of those in the ballroom. Before Elaena of the platinum hair with its golden streak is a dragon’s egg, one of the last of its kind. Cream in color, it is slashed with ripples of shining gold that very nearly match Elaena’s hair. “It’s mine?” Elaena whispers, and Daeron’s generous nod leads her to try and heft it ... and then bite at the tip of her tongue as she makes a mightier effort. “It’s so _heavy_,” she says, cradling it to her chest. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Her happiness is palpable. Aegon, however, doesn’t seem to care. Indeed, his color rises as if he’s seen something to displease him. He glances towards Viserys and Daeron, and shifts in his seat before starting to quietly harangue Naerys about ... something.
Ammena’s attention is drawn to the Royal table as the last gift arrives into the ballroom. Her eyes widen as the Princess unveils the gift. Unable to clearly make out the conversation between the King and his sister, she turns towards Rosalind and Reyna, softly murmuring, “Is that what I think it is? This day is full of wonders indeed.”
The gasps that are elicited by the unveiling of the King’s gift to his sister draw Aisling’s attention away from step-sister. As she lays eyes on what has just been presented to Princess Eleana she cannot help be to stare at the dragon’s egg along with so many others. But there are perhaps few others who look quite so fascinated by this gift.
Sylvina, on the other hand, gives the egg only a passing glance before she turns back to Prince Aemon. However, the Dragonknight now begins to make his excuses, and that does not seem to sit well with her. She manages to get a few more words in, keeping him from stepping away, and as she once more has his attention she lowers her voice to share something further with the Prince. Her expression as she speaks is one of concern, or so it would appear at least, and then suddenly one of surprise as the Prince’s reaction seems different than what she had expected. The anger roused earlier by his brother’s behaviour now returns in full force, and there’s simply not enough chivalry to mask it entirely. Stiffly, he makes his excuses and turns about to stride back to the high table, leaving Sylvina looking rather perplexed.
Rosalind ohs softly, looking with directed interest at the dragon’s egg. “I think so… How marvelous….” It is with a scholar’s eye that she regards the treasure, undoubtedly considering it’s size, weight, texture… all of those minute details to record and study. “I wonder…” She muses to herself, thinking.
The egg does distract Reyna for a moment, and gives her the chance to leave Aegon be. She gapes at it, then looks to Rosalind and Ammena. “I didn’t, you know,” she says, almost as if having an amiable conversation. “Can you believe… is it really a dragon’s egg, d’you think?” This last is asked of Rosalind.
As Aemon mounts the steps, dark eyes indecipherable, Viserys motions to him. He hesitates, glancing towards the ever-paler Naerys and the ever-redder Aegon, before moving to stand at his father’s shoulder. Viserys gives him some command, which Daeron nods briskly to, and Aemon bows slightly before moving to interrupt Aegon. He taps his shoulder and then addresses him ... and when Aegon seems resistant, he actually grabs him by the elbow and pulls him from his seat. His brother shakes him off, but at least he keeps his mouth shut. The two brothers then depart from the ballroom, as many watch them go and a new round of rumors and gossip begins.
Though left in a slightly awkward position by Prince Aemon’s sudden departure from their conversation, Sylvina is fortunately rescued from having to answer any prying questions from her friends as the events that follow stir up a whole new flurry of gossiping. Much of the court seem to have Prince Aegon’s name on their lips, though more than a few nervous glances are cast over at the high table. It wouldn’t do to annoy either Prince Viserys or King Daeron, after all.
“I know.” Rosalind says gently to Reyna. “We talked about it before once, if you remember.” She tears her gaze away from the egg long enough to share a glance with her companions. “The egg… it could be, certain…” She pauses at the renewed activity at the head table, alarmed at the altercation between the princes. Pale with shock, the bastard falls silent, her train of thought abandoned.
Oblivious to Aegon’s doings, Elaena now refuses to part with the egg when a servant comes to collect it and place it with the rest of her gifts; even her fawn was eventually led away to receive more tending, but the dragon egg seems to be inseparable from her. Daeron’s smile is forced in the wake of Aegon’s departure, but he accepts an ecstatic kiss from Elaena, and lets her prattle on. And then with a gesture, he indicates a new round of food and drink should be served. Taking their cue from the king, courtiers try to look entertained by the gift giving and the company of their fellows ... but in truth they’re thinking of Prince Aegon’s place at court.
“That man is a disgrace,” a Dornish knight confides to his fellow hostages, careful to keep his voice down; it’s none other than Ser Aidan. Shaking his head with obvious disgust, he turns his attention to his cousins Tanyth and Tamlyn, and tries to turn the conversation to the dragon’s egg as a distraction. “There must be no hope of hatching it, if the king would give it as a gift, don’t you think?” But his speculation is half-hearted at best.
“We did, yes,” Reyna says, a little color coming to her cheeks as she smiles at Rosalind. “I -had- forgotten.” She follows the woman’s eyes to the table in time to see Aegon gone, and sighs. “Poor Naerys. I am sorriest for her in all this mess.” And so if everyone else ponders Aegon, Reyna Saltcliffe sends his wife a faint smile, full of apology.
“That is your problem, Aidan. You expect better from people. I, on the other hand, expect that sort of behaviour to be the norm around here,” says Tanyth, never one to easily let an uncomfortable subject be dropped. Especially not when Aidan wishes it so. However, the dragon’s egg does interest her too. “No, I do not imagine it could hatch. Surely someone would have sat on it along time ago, if so.”
Those nearest the doorway of the ballroom might hear sounds from without, first the buzz of an over-louad conversation, and then it grows louder and more distinct over the noise of the feasting and gossiping. A few might wonder and frown, and others still consider the recent departure of the two brothers and decide to ignore it as the proper thing to do. But then . . .
“MURDER! MURDER!” a man bursts through the door, a serving man looking pale as a ghost. “Prince Aegon’s trying to kill the Dragonknight!” There’s a moment shocked silence ... and then mayhem breaks loose. There are gasps, there are screams, there are cries of outrage. Daeron himself vaults over the high table and from the dais, but the Sworn Brothers are ahead of them and they clear a path, knocking men and women aside recklessly. Viserys turns pale as a ghost. Naerys rises, and then collapses in a faint. There are more screams and shouts after this, and a great deal of confusion.
Any number of Naerys’s ladies are scattered through the throng, and those nearest the high table must fight through the chaos. Reyna is closest, she and Nessa Donniger, and they meet over their fallen lady without speaking. Reyna lifts the princess’s head into her lap while Nessa chafes her hands, the two of them shielding her from the stampede for the doors until someone can be summoned to bear her to her chambers.
Ammena quietly listens to the exchange between Rosalind and Reyna. At the mention of Princess Naerys’s name, she follows Reyna’s gaze towards the head table. As a shout erupts through the entryway, she is quickly overwhelmed by the sudden rise in activity. The crowded ballroom seems to take on a life of its own. Wild, chaotic and untameable. She is jostled away from Rosalind by the urgent crowd as Reyna too disappears from her sight.
Being near to the Tyrell rose, Rosalind also moves to aid the fallen Princess Naerys. In the absence of a nearby maester, the bastard healer does a quick and competent assessment of the fallen dragon, first searching for a life threatening condition, then working to revive her.
In the ensuing chaos, it is unlikely that Aisling’s reaction—strong though it is—is taken much notice of. She grows even paler than normal, and the hectic colour on her cheeks almost comes to match the colour of her lips. She seems frozen by indecision, or perhaps rather a lack of options for any action to take, until her dark eyes fall upon her step-sister and stare at her with sudden, unveiled anger. Sylvina, catching sight of it, visibly shrinks away and is only all too relieved to be whisked away by her uncle to some safer corner of the room.
Shouts and curses from without, and a few men having followed in the king’s wake disappear from the ballroom to try and help. Eventually one returns, looking shaken. “It’s done, no one’s harmed for good!” he says aloud, pushing through towards where Viserys seems almost paralyzed. Yet a sleeve from his doublet is gone, and there’s blood staining his shoulder. Viserys musters a question, shaken, and the nobleman answers, “There was a quarrel, my lord. About ...” He looks away, towards Naerys, or perhaps towards Reyna. “There was a quarrel,” he repeats, “and the prince ... He was not in his right mind. He went for Prince Aemon’s sword and got hold of it. He laid open Prince Aemon’s face from ear to chin, but it’s a clean cut, my lord; his grace has already summoned the maesters to tend to him. The Dragonknight ... he disarmed Prince Aegon, my lord, despite the wound and not having a sword. Then the king arrived, and the other Kingsguard, and separated them.”
Viserys nods at that, and rises. “Call for a maester to tend to Princess Naerys,” he says aloud, gaining strength as he gets his mental footing again. He moves to stand near her and her ladies.
Rosalind glances up, from where she was examining the Princess’s fingernails for some reason. She bows her head as the Hand approaches and moves away, taking his words as a dismissal. At a respectful distance, she regains her footing and smoothes her skirts. A thoughtful glance, not unlike the girl’s expression when she regarded the dragon’s egg, is directed at Naerys for a moment, before the bastard looks around for Lady Ammena.
At the high table, there are gasps from the Princesses—except for Daena, who was prevented from taking off after King Daeron by the Kingsguard who remain with them—and poor Eleana bursts into tears and hugs her dragon egg close to her. Baelor has been praying since the first shouts reached the hall, and he continues to do so now, barely even looking up as word comes of what has happened.
In the rhe rest of the room, meanwhile, there is a mixture of shocked silence and agitated talking, but no one seems to know quite what to do next.
Elaena’s ladies swarm about her, trying to comfort her, and she clings all the harder. Viserys, distracted, can only spare a few moments thought to her and sends them away to her chambers with one of the White Swords as escort to carry her (egg and all, for she refuses to let go of it) there. At the same time, servants are running to and fro, calling for maesters and guards and more servants to tend to the problem.
Against a far wall, a lanky guard in Piper blue steadies Ammena on her feet as she groggily shakes her head and touches her temple. A discarded tray of fruit and smashed pastries litter the floor at her feet. She gently murmurs, “...am well. Am well. I just need some air…” With that, she moves towards the entrance and departs into the growing twilight.
The man who made the initial report to Viserys has a cup of wine pressed into his hand, and takes a long drink as courtiers start to pepper him with questions. When he’s asked how Aemon disarmed Aegon, the man shakes his head, “He didn’t do it with his bare hands. Aegon had chased his brother half way through the Holdfast. There was a servant cowering in a corner, come from cleaning a royal chamber, and the Dragonknight got a…” The rest of what he says is lost, in murmurs and more queries, until they slow to a stop. Someone asks with increduility, “He disarmed him with _what_?”
It doesn’t take long for the rest to spill out, as it travels the length and breadth of the room:
“... near broke his wrist with a chamberpot.”
“A used chamberpot, by the gods, some poor devil’ll have to clean it up…”
“. . . duel of shit and steel! That’ll give the singers something to sing about… “