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The weather outside is not fit for man nor beast and even though Carmella is neither of those she too finds the downpour to be unbearable. With a cloak around her shoulders and the hood pulled up over her raven locks, the Dondarrion girl nearly dives into the old keep to escape the downpour. The bottom quarter of her cloak is stained with mud and so too is the riding gown she’s wearing beneath the cloak. She doesn’t even stop to look around as she tosses back her hood, revealing hair heavy with rain and tangled with a few small twigs which Carmella works on removing straight away.
“Why couldn’t it have been Rhaena,” Carmella mutters as she tosses a leaf from her hair and leans gratefully back against the think stone wall, eyes closing with relief.
“My goodness, Lady Carmella…” a voice sounds from the stairs leading to the solar, “What have you been doing, my dear?” The voice is softly concerned.
“Took you a fall somewhere?” and the elegantly blue silk clad Elanna Penrose appears in the wavering light of the hall, candles and lanterns cast flickering by Carmella’s hasty entrance.
Carmella’s eyes snap open at the first sound of another voice, widening in shock and a bit of embarrassment as well, for she had thought she was alone. Indeed, she does seem to be on her own, for there is no sign of Ser Amond or her Septa anywhere. Carmella turns her head and quickly that shock melts into a smile of recognition when she spots Elanna.
“Lady Elanna,” she breathes as she pushes away from the wall. She realizes she looks a fright but a brief dusting of her hands across her mud-splattered cloak won’t do much good. “A fall? No, though I had feared I might,” she says. “Princess Daena had the desire to go riding this morning, even though the skies looked heavy with rain. We’ve just returned,” she adds unnecessarily with a gesture towards her garments.
“Ah,” Elanna replies easily, with a small smile, “Such are the duties of a lady in waiting. Particularly when they whom you wait on…are willful.” She looks around.
“I see not Ser Amond, though. Did he not accompany you on your ride, or was it as much he that you escaped as the fine weather?” a dark brow is quirked.
“Yes, the Princess is quite spirited,” Carmella says just before her brow furrows when her hand prods at something in her hair. She pulls out a rather large twig, this one with a couple of leaves still on it. She holds it up like a pitiful trophy before dropping it to the ground.
“The last I saw Ser Amond he was arguing with one of the grooms over the proper care of his horse,” she says as a slow smile begins to emerge across her lips. “He seems to think that the boy was neglecting his duties and I was able to slip out while he nearly had the boy cringing in the corner. I had thought this part of the keep was nearly deserted, however. What brings you here, Lady Elanna?”
A small chuckle from the Penrose widow, and she gestures upstairs.
“I came to escape the view,” her eyes twinkle briefly, “My home is so busy these days, I barely seat myself in the drawing room or the parlour before someone interrupts my quiet. But come, there is a fire up there, and you should dry off those skirts. I will order us some hot tea and we can chat.”
Carmella’s smile is one of relief and the offer is readily accepted. As she heads towards the stairs she starts to shrug out of the wet cloak, her riding dress being only slightly less soaked. “I do not think I could imagine anything better than something warm to drink and a roaring fire right now, including your company with the absence of those who would trouble us.” Carmella delivers the last with a quick wink.
“I’ve only visited here a couple times and that was when I was newly arrived to King’s Landing,” Carmella continues as they head the stairs. “But I believe this place might have many uses in the future. That is, until it is discovered that I’ve taken to hiding here.” No doubt Ser Amond is right now searching the keep for her and getting horribly drenched in the process.
Elanna opened the door of the solar, and surely it was warm in here. The rain beat against the balcony door, causing it to shudder every so often.
“Tea for two please,” she requests of the hovering maid, who dips a curtsey and departs. Elanna moves to one of the couches flanking the fireplace and gestures to the other. A waiting footman offers to take Carmella’s cloak.
“There, this should be much more pleasant, even your Ser Amond will not dare bother us here.”
Carmella offers over the cloak, briefly pointing out the still-damp mud, as if it wasn’t already obvious. The rattling of the door gives her a start, but she’s barely gotten her hand to her chest to still her heart by the time she realizes the source of the noise. She laughs a little at her own jumpiness and crosses over towards the fireplace to have a seat and warm her chilled hands.
“I shouldn’t stay overly long. I don’t want my septa worrying herself over my absence. I do not yet know if Ser Amond is the type to report my disappearance immediately, or remain quiet for a while to protect his own skin.” She ponders that for a moment, tucking it away for later when it might prove important. “But a short visit away from the rest of the Keep would be welcome indeed.”
A serious gaze regards the girl across from her, “Now, how are you doing, my dear. I know that your mind was not at peace in regard to family matters. Has anything…” Elanna gestures vaguely, “Has anything happened?”
Carmella holds her hands towards the fire but turns her head towards Elanna. Her skin almost glows from the firelight and touches of auburn can be seen among her dark locks. “I’ve sent word home to Blackhaven, explaining what has happened here as of late and to assure my lord father that there is no ill will held between our houses. I have no idea how much news he receives from King’s Landing, but I do not want rumors to confuse his judgment. They should have my explanation and concerns soon enough.” As to what will happen with those concerns, Carmella couldn’t say.
“And you?” Carmella pauses, as if considering whether she should speak or not. “I heard mention of some trouble in the Kitchen Keep the other day, is that true?”
Elanna’s hands clasp in her lap as she listens and nods, “Well it is best he hears it from an unbiased ear, I expect.” There is a few moments before she continues.
“Yes…the Keep,” her voice was very soft, “I received a rather cruel gift.” She shook her head.
“A small bag with rose petals and thorns,” she explains further, but falls silent as the maid returns with a tray with the makings of tea.
Noting the timing of the silence Carmella does likewise. She goes back to warming herself as the tea is poured and only when the maid departs again does she speak up, though her tone is kept hushed.
“An ill gift,” Carmella states as she drops a small amount of honey into her teacup. “In fact, is does not sound like a gift at all. Do you know who sent it to you and why?” The Dondarrion girl slides a little closer to the edge of her chair, fingers wrapping greedily around the teacup for its warmth.
“If only I did. The only other piece of the puzzle was a slip of paper with my husband’s coat of arms inscribed on it,” Elanna takes a sip from her tea, and the cup lightly rattles as she sets it back onto its saucer. She chews on her lower lips thoughtfully.
“The rose was named after a woman who killed her husband,” another sip.
The teacup is halfway to Carmella’s lips, but never reaches its destination, for Elanna’s last statement brings it back down towards her lap. “But I thought ... Did your husband not die in Dorne?” fearing she might spill it, Carmella sets the teacup on a nearby table. “How could anyone think what happened there was your responsibility? Many women lost husbands in the Conquest, are they too to be help responsible?”
Carmella shakes her head and sits back into her chair, but her face still wears her confusion. “It had to be someone playing a cruel joke on you, Elanna.”
“I…I just do not know what they are thinking. Jerion and I, we were both quite content. Neither of us strayed and I would never have done anything to hurt him,” Elanna sounds quite bewildered, “And precisely, Carmella.” She sighs.
“But what I have I done to hurt anyone?”
Carmella’s confusion settles into an unbecoming frown before she slips off of her chair completely and crouches before Elanna, her hand resting gently on the other woman’s knee. For Elanna’s sake she forces away the frown and bears a compassionate gaze, though there is little else that she can offer but kind words.
“I am not sure what the hope for. If this is the only one, then there is obviously someone holding something against you. If it is not and other widows are given the same gift, then someone is out to hurt a number of women for no reason at all. Even worse because those widows are already hurting in their loss.”
Carmella’s hand falls from Elanna’s knee, but she’s not immediately quick to get back to her feet or to her chair. “Can you think of anyone that might wish you pain? A member of your household you may have let go recently? A knight no longer in your family’s service, a cook who was released for one reason or another? Anyone at all?”
“I have been going through it in my head again and again,” Elanna shrugs, a sigh again at her lips, “I mean…there were some in my good family that were not happy I came here…” she frowns, “But none of them would do this. And I am not responsible for household firings and hirings within Baratheon manse.” She rubs her brow, as though the pressure would bring the memories to bear.
“I just..do not know.”
The mention of Elanna’s family brings another frown to Carmella’s lips, for that family is her sister’s family as well. “I could write to my sister, Ser Robert’s wife, if you’d like. Perhaps make mention of knowing you without mentioning what has happened? She might provide some information if it is indeed something come from Penrose.” Though her worried expression suggests she hopes that isn’t the case.
Carmella pushes herself into a standing position again and re-takes her seat, claiming her teacup in the process. “I wish I could be of better help than that, but the idea that someone would do such a thing on purpose disturbs me greatly.”
“Also keep a weather eye open to see if any other strange gifts have been received,” Elanna shivers slightly, despite the warmth of the room, “I would rather know that this happens to no one else, for all it interrupts my sleep of an eve.” She sinks down into the depths of her seat.
“Do not trouble yourself over much, perhaps it was only a single practical joke. If it happens again, I shall certainly be more concerned myself,” Elanna finally adds, “Let us leave until that eventuality.”
Carmella forces a smile and then quickly hides the lackluster expression behind her teacup as she takes a sip. “Let us hope that is all,” she adds, eyes drifting towards the hypnotic dance of the fire. She takes another sip from the cup and then sets it aside again. The occasional rattling of the door soon draws her attention from the fire to the windows at the balcony and she sighs.
“I should be getting back to my own rooms,” she says reluctantly. “It is getting darker and the last thing I want is my Septa alerting the entire Keep to my absence. I fear I’ll have Ser Amond sewn to my side if that was to happen and I’d prefer to keep him at a distance, not give him reason to stick close beside me.”
With a heavy sigh Carmella gets to her feet. “I do thank you, for the tea and the company, though I wish there are been more pleasant topics to discuss. I do hope this was nothing but a cruel joke and that you are not forced to suffer further.”
Elanna rises to her feet, “Thank you for your concern, Carmella. It is very touching.” Her smile, though a little wavering, is warm.
“Have a care on the walk home, the paths were very slippery!” she advises the young maid.
Carmella retrieves her cloak from the footman and drapes it over her shoulders. It’s still wet, but it should do well enough to get her back to the Holdfast. “Please, let me know if there’s anything I can do in the future,” Carmella says, lifting a hand in a farewell before ducking out of the door and down the stairs.
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