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The night is warm but moonless as the Darklyn carriage rolls toward King’s Landing, the stars hidden by thick clouds. The sky ahead is darker still, confirming the reports of heavy rain in the capital. Addison stares out from within the coach, pondering the darkness as he sits across from his sister and her servant Sara. His man Stiv is at the reins, whilst a dozen of Duskendale’s finest escort them at Lord Kendel’s insistence. The pace is slow and the cushions plentiful, yet still the passengers are subject to every imperfection of the road. Addison’s eyes flick away from his reverie to see if Obany is still awake.
She is. Barely. There’s a flinch to her eyes a moment before she gives up resting her temple against the side of the coach. “Brother,” she murmurs, pulling herself away from her half-sleep. “If we turned about now, we’d only have as much distance to travel before being free of all coaches and society.”
Addison manages a smile for her, albeit thin and toothless like all his smiles. “You have choice in the matter, dear sister, or at least more choice than I. Lord Kendel made that clear to me, in his gentle way.”
More awake now, Obany looks across to Addison with mirroring eyes. “‘His gentle way’? My, he must want you here very deeply, if that is even a portion truth. Which it may not be.” A teasing smile that turns inquisitive crosses her lips as she continues, “Will you tell me, now, what business it is?”
Addison’s gaze passes across Sara’s face as he replies, his eyebrows lifting at his sister’s smile. “Come now, Oby, we both know it’s not that he wants me in King’s Landing, it’s that he wants me out of Duskendale.”
“Come now, indeed. Nothing else at all? Nothing for my brother who’s travelled the four corners of the world?” She crosses her arms, narrowing a playful gaze at him. “How am I to know who to charm, if you won’t even let me help you?”
Addison leans back, smiling again in spite of himself. “Hardly one corner, let alone all four.” He pauses, considering his words as always, then changes the subject. “Are you truly having second thoughts about coming?”
For a moment, the corner of Obany’s mouth lifts in a smile. Only a moment, though, before she lets out a huff of air and pulls back a bit of curtain to look outside. “Only if you give them to me - and you shouldn’t tease so for that matter,” she adds with a pointed look to him. “But, no, only if you give them to me, only if I feel every jolt along this accursed road, only as I miss my home, and only as I think of the scheming wenches I’ll be endearing myself to in two days.”
Addison assumes a rather unconvincingly-sympathetic look. “Two days? More like four, I’d wager, unless you plan to join the horses at the bit.” He smirks and glances outside. “The men might enjoy that.”
Obany’s mouth parts, indignant and without anything to do but look so at him. “Wait… nay, wait. Was that a jest I heard? Has Addison Darklyn… No, it can’t be. Surely not humor at his charge’s expense?” She glares at him, pale eyes narrowed, fighting laughter. “If it encourages them to move faster, I might consider it, you realize.”
This time his smile is more genuine. “At any rate, I’m glad you came.” Then, apparently unsure of what to say next, he lapses back into silence.
Giving a satisfied nod, Obany looks to Sara. Her voice is quieter when she speaks again. “Do you have acquaintances you intend to visit, or is this a pure escape from the estate?”
“It will be good to see Durance and Yohnen again…” Realizing he has not answered her question, he frowns. “Acquaintances, yes… well, many of the same captains who dock at Duskendale come to King’s Landing as well…” He is still searching for words when the carriage comes to a halt. “Ah,” Addison says, not unhappy to drop the topic, “he’s finally giving them their rest. I’m surprised he drove them this long; he knows you’re not fond of the road.”
With that, the carriage door opens and Stiv’s grizzled face appears. Seeing his sleeping wife, the old manservant keeps his gravelly voice low. “Sorry, m’lady, it’s past dark and th’ beasts be tired. Best we all rest.”
Before Obany can reply, Sara snorts awake, the skin under her eyes shadowed and puffy from the strains of travel. Obany manages a thin smile to Stiv - and his wife barely more than a glower - as she looks away from Addison to the opened door. “Best we all, surely. The inn?” She offers a hand to Stiv, the other tightening at her throat and the clasp there. And, briefly, Obany casts Addison a knowing glance, arch and unrepentant.
Stiv’s face is apologetic. “Erm, beg your pardon, m’lady, but there’s no inn for leagues. The men are tentin’ down an’ Sara and I will too. Will m’lady be content with her carriage seat?” It’s clear Stiv asks only for the sake of courtesy, though this time Addison suppresses his smile, mostly.
Her thin smile unfaltering, exquisite in its complete frigidity, Obany takes back her hand and tilts a nod to Stiv. “Don’t apologize for my wishful thinking. This will be more than… adequate.” She half-turns in her seat, glancing outside to where, assuredly, there is no inn, and giving room for Sara to pass in all her girth. “You sleep well, m’lady, and this lout’ll get you to a proper bed soon ‘nough.” To Stiv, Sara gives a pointed glower as to ensure that it is so. Once out, she lands on the rain-soaked dirt and turns to Addison. “A good night, too, m’lord.”
The knight nods. “Good night, Sara. Stiv.” A gust of wind rushes past the closing carriage door and puts out half the candles, leaving the Darklyns submerged in shadows. Addison looks to his sister as he lies down on his side. “I’m sure Durance will have a nice bed waiting for you.”
There is a sound of rustling cloth as Obany curls onto her side, face shadowed so as it make it impossible to see the frustrated frown on her features. “He’d best, or I’ll say you love me more.” A pause, before she continues, her mood no further improved. “I had this all wrong, you see, my dear. I should have let you marry me to an old knight with whiskers and warts, had him build a resting house here, let him die of old age and -then- come to the Landing.” She tsks under her breath.
“I would not have done that to you. I will not.” He is silent for a long moment. “Strange to return to the apartments after all these years. Unexpected.”
Obany’s voice is gentler when she replies, either the frustration worked out of her or weariness taking its toll. “Unexpected is not unpleasant, I hope. You said yourself you look forward to seeing Durance.”
Addison allows himself a wry chuckle. “Seeing, of course. Living with? We shall see. You know I’ve had my fill of chivalry, but our brother still dreams of the Kingsguard.”
Her laughter echoing his in the quiet carriage, Obany replies. “Shall I need to protect you from our brother’s noble heart?” With one arm, she mimes drawing a sword toward the roof - quite ill, too, to an experienced swordsman. “Or just his noble tongue? While it may be easier than keeping you both from tearing a pup in half rather than share it, you’re old enough to mind yourself, dearest brother.” A pensive pause. “He hasn’t your mind.”
“And he’s happier for that.” His eyes are drawn to the remaining candles, flickering firelight dancing in their pale blueness. He starts to say more, pauses. “I wish his dreams fulfilled.” He frowns at the words, trying to make out Obany’s reaction.
There’s a stilling to Obany’s body, a flinch to her eyes as she stares down at the bench beneath Addison. Her voice is light when she speaks, her face, however, unchanging, “As do I. It can only make the remainder of us look better. Or under-accomplished. But with a brother in the Kingsguard, what more could they ask of us? We might have peace. That’s even better than a dream.” Obany tucks an arm under her head and brushes her nose against the soft sleeve covering it, half-hiding her features.
“Peace…” Addison repeats the word as if it is unfamiliar. He stares at her, perhaps in wonder. “Peace -is- a dream, dear sister. To believe otherwise… is to invite further pain.” He looks away, into the night.
“And how -peaceful- your dreams must be, then,” Obany replies, tone airy, still, and unindulgent of Addison’s sobriety. “Mine are of mundane visions. Rocks. Beds. Those sorts of things.” There is a further rustling of cloth and Obany’s hand finds Addison’s shoulder. “You have to keep me sane a few days longer. I’ll have none of it when we arrive. I’m counting on you, Addy.”
Addison stiffens at the touch, then relaxes. He looks back, searching her face. “I think your sanity is safe.” He clears his throat, fighting his gloominess. “But how can I help?”
Obany makes an noncommittal noise, her eyes searching his face with more seriousness than her tone implies. “You are over-confident, I think, in the trials I shall face there. Or my ability to surmount them without turning into a motley-wearing half-wit.” She stretches a leg, tapping it against the too-close wall of the carriage, and sighs. “And help? By letting me talk and be normal and tease you mercilessly until you tell me why you’re coming to the Landing with me. I’m… I’m glad you came, too.”
He grunts in return and moves as if to turn away, but instead merely shifts to lie on his back, staring at the ceiling of the coach. “Why? I thought you knew.” Addison shakes his head and sighs. “Lord Kendel felt the rumors about my travels had reached an… embarrassing level for the House, and no one knows what our bold young king might think of them. Sending me into the dragon’s belly shows the world that we’ve nothing to hide… and encourages me to avoid any further embarrassments.”
Obany watches Addison in silent for a long moment, the humor whipped out of her, judging by her intent expression. “And…” Obany begins slowly, picking her words tenderly, “... how brave you are. Don’t worry, brother.” She hesitates, looking down before quirking a weak smile. “Someone can find something hidden about anyone, there, even from the ones who have nothing to hide, so that is a lost cause. And I’ll guard you from embarrassment by being on my grandest behavior. Will that suit?”
“Brave?” He shakes his head again. “Brave would be refusing him, and staying with my child.” He clenches his jaw, then meets Obany’s eyes. “It’s not your duty to guard me, Oby. It will suit better for you to seek whatever joy you can.”
Her eyes narrowing in acknowledgment, Obany gives a quiet tilt of her head, her attention never wavering from him. “And where is my joy, without yours? If I am protective, it is because you taught me to be so.” The corner of her mouth curls in the dimming light. “What pleasures I have to look forward to in the coming months will not be found at court, and I’ve wasted so many years being nothing but your pestering correspondent.” Voice diminishing at the end, Obany rubs at her eyes with her knuckles. “I must be tired.”
Addison musters one more smile. “Never pestering. Sleep, dear sister. Dream of beds.” His fingers begin extinguishing the last candles.
Managing one quip to shake away her own low-spirits, Obany counters, “I must already be dreaming. I thought I saw you smile.” She laughs, under her breath, mostly hiding the groan of shifting her position on the carriage seat, and buries her head into her arm.
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