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At this time of the evening, the Dornish tower is well-occupied. Even the more adventurous and outgoing of the hostages have returned to the warmth and…relative welcome of their home away from home. So, too, have the knights and men assigned to keep guard on the tower. It’s quiet in the hallways, though the sounds of conversation or laughter can be heard from behind a few doorways.
The Uller doorway is not one of these. There is a low, flickering light within, evidence of occupation by someone other than Serion (who has a habit of using /no/ lights), and the distinct absence of argument suggests that there may be a moment of peace within.
There is a rap upon the door, accompanied by the voice of one of the few remaining Targaryen guards. “Lord Connington of Griffin’s Roost to see the Lady Liane Uller,” announces the man rather formally. The door remains closed, yet the shuffle of booted feet beyond it can be detected in the calm of the tower.
There’s a moment where nothing can be heard within, and then a shuffle of papers, a sussurus of silk, and the door cracks open just enough for one tilted eye. Once Liane has ascertained that this is not, in fact, a prank of some sort, she draws the door fully open, tipping her head slightly to one side for the fractional pause that precedes her curtsey. “Lord Connington,” she greets as she rises, taking a step back, rather than to the side. “How…unexpected. Would you like to come in?” A faint line can be seen between her brows, curious.
As the light of the room falls on the tall Stormlord, the gold-and-silver of his beard and hair seems to gleam like fire. Lord Athell Connington, splendid in crimson and argent, stands stock-still and impassive for a moment as Liane reveals herself.
“My lady of Uller,” Athell says a bit stiffly. “You are very kind.” He enters as bid, and the two hard-eyed knights who flank the lord remain standing in the hall. They do not even flinch as Lord Connington closes the door behind him.
“Please forgive the lateness of my visit,” he continues, glancing around the chambers with idle curiosity. “But I am leaving soon. And there is a matter of some delicacy, and of great importance, and it could not wait ‘til morning.”
“Oh?” Liane looks toward the curtain that leads to Serion’s part of the quarters, a brow arching slightly before she looks back to the Stormlord. “Please, have a seat,” she invites, not pressing the question.
Instead, she moves to the lamps, turning up the light with a twist of the wick. “Could I offer you something to drink? Serion seems to have acquired a stockpile of lemonade,” she muses, a note of humor in the observation.
Once more, Lord Athell does as the lady bids; he sits with stiff precision, arranging his long mantle over one shoulder, then studying Liane with grey eyes that are only a touch warmer than the Wall itself. “I would be pleased to try your lemonade, Lady Liane.”
He continues to appraise her, his thoughts veiled behind steely courtesy. “I am a plain-spoken man, my lady,” Athell confesses with a tight smile. “And whilst I understand the necessity of diplomacy, tact, and the courtly arts, it has ever been my practice to take the direct approach. May I be frank with you?”
“It would no doubt save both of us quite a bit of time, and vastly decrease our chances of Serion wandering in and saying something rude.” Liane, it seems, can be blunt as well. Without looking away from the small sideboard, she answers as she pours a glass of lemonade.
When she turns around again, she pauses a moment longer to consider the man before approaching with the glass. “I am at your disposal, Lord Connington,” she says more politely as she offers it over, a sharp edge to her smile.
The display of spirit seems to please the cold Stormlord. He takes the proffered drink and, despite the wives’ tales of the Dornish penchant for poison, unhesitatingly takes a sip. “Very well, my lady; plain it is, then. And plainly, you are in an unenviable position. Call it what you like; ward, guest, or hostage, but in truth, you are a prisoner of His Grace the King, and a prize of war.” The words, hard though they may be, are gently delivered.
“What’s more, you are the heir to one of Dorne’s greatest houses, you are young, and you are yet unwed.” Athell’s voice is firm and cold, his mouth a hard line, but the laugh lines around his eyes soften his iron aspect somewhat. “I believe it would be to your advantage to have the protection of a noble husband, and a strong House of Westeros.”
He watches Liane carefully. “I mean to wed you to my son, and I believe that King Daeron will agree to my request,” Lord Connington says bluntly. “Perhaps you know my Almer. He has it in him to be a great knight, and he is not an undesirable catch, I am told. And it is high time he had a wife. I believe you will do nicely, for several reasons.”
Liane is clearly less than surprised by the proposition, taking a seat on one of the couches across from the Stormlord and listening to the presentation with a sober, attentive expression, hands folded in her lap. “I have heard your Almer is quite accomplished,” she agrees politely, though her chin rises slightly, eyes narrowing. “And he has never been less than polite.”
She pauses, then lets her chin fall back again. “And I appreciate that you would bring this…proposal to me. Of course, you are aware that, as a ward, guest, hostage, or prize of war, there is absolutely nothing I can say for or against it,” she concludes with a wry smile.
“In that, you are entirely correct, lady,” Athell replies with a smile of his own. But despite the hard truth of his answer, there is sympathy in the frank lord’s manner. “You are under the protection of His Grace, and it will be His Grace who arranges for your future and well-being.”
Inclining his head in subtle deference, however, the Griffin Lord sighs. “Admittedly, the situation is not… ideal,” he allows. “But in matters of policy, we all have our duties. Mine is to see to the future of my House, and to the strength and security of this kingdom.”
Again, that faintly sympathetic smile is proffered. “If it is any consolation, this arrangement is not entirely to my son’s preference either. Nothing against your person, my lady. But he has his duty as well. And I am confident that, given time, the two of you will grow accustomed to the idea and make a good match. And I expect you to do your part in that; the same as I expect of him.”
“I was going to ask next if you’d informed him of your plans,” Liane admits with a low laugh, glancing to the window and brushing her bangs from her eyes to gain a moment for thought. When she looks back, she’s once again speculative.
“And it does not bother you, Lord Connington, that your grandchildren would bear the Uller name?” The question, if not quite pointedly, is clearly phrased to imply the certainty that they /would/ indeed be Ullers.
“You have much to learn about our ways, my lady,” Lord Connington replies with cool serenity, ignoring Liane’s question for the nonce. “But I have no doubt you -will- learn.” He smiles thinly. “Do not be concerned about Almer. He is young and passionate. He may throw a tantrum, he may say unkind words, but in the end he will do his duty; my son will treat his lady wife with the respect and honor to which she is due, Lady Liane, have no fear.”
Lord Athell’s smile warms a bit. “I expect you will find Griffin’s Roost to your liking as well. The green hills and the cool rains should prove refreshing after the sand and heat of Hellholt; it will be a fine place to bring up my /Connington/ grandchildren,” he adds blithely.
Liane stiffens at the mention of Griffin’s Roost, the set of her jaw hardening. “It should be quite difficult, I imagine, to administer Hellholt from the Stormlands,” she observes, keeping an iron hand on her polite tone. “Though I’m sure it will be a lovely relief to visit in the heat of summer.”
Her smile remains fixed, hands clasped in her lap perhaps a bit more tightly than polite posture might suggest. “But, of course, your Connington grandchildren would be welcome to visit Hellholt, as well. It should likewise be a welcome retreat in winter. Your heir is one Gallard, is he not? But not wed yet, if I recall the last round of gossip.”
Liane remains silent for a moment, that smile fixed, before it simply disappears. “We were being blunt, though, weren’t we, Lord Connington?”
You aren’t carrying anything.
“I prefer the term ‘frank’, Lady Liane,” answers Athell, his smile likewise fading. “The question is pertinent, but you need not concern yourself with my heir. And I will excercise a degree of gallantry and assume you ask after Gallard for curiosity’s sake, and not ambition’s,” he allows, his eyes cold. “He is not for you in any case.”
The icy veil lifts again, and Lord Connington is distantly cordial in an instant. “As to Hellholt, I have no doubt that Almer will ably see to its disposition. With your assistance and advice, naturally. You are, after all, the lawful heir.” Athell’s smile, like his manner, is indulgent.
“I was merely referring to the Connington grandchildren you mentioned, Lord Connington,” Liane smiles sharply. “They would, after all, be coming from your heir and his bride. Hellholt is held by Ullers.” That, it seems, is frank enough for Liane.
Rising, Liane paces to the window, which she pushes open to take a deep breath of the outside air, as if bracing herself. “It is my understanding that these lands are familiar with the keeping of a name. The Tullys of Riverrun, I have heard, followed that sensible pattern to avoid the end of their line.”
“We shall see,” is all Lord Connington will concede. “Present me with a grandchild, and we shall have this discussion in more detail then.” He watches Liane move to the window, curious and detached. “I am pleased to see you considering such matters, my lady,” Athell adds. “It shows foresight, and that is a good thing.”
Rising, the tall lord allows his long griffin-broidered cloak to fall about him like red water. “But perhaps you’d better accustom yourself to my son first. I do not promise that the days immediately ahead of you will not be difficult. Yet, if you persevere, I assure you that you will find happiness, no matter the name by which your children are called.”
“I am not afraid of your son.” There is a note of dry humor in Liane’s voice as she turns from the window to look back, a wry smile tugging at one corner of her lips. “But I shall endeavor to brave the storm. If indeed there is one. If nothing else, such a prospect certainly offers a change of…” She takes a long look around the room, shoulders rising almost protectively. This is not a woman accustomed to tight spaces. “Scenery.”
“Lord Connington, it has been a pleasure speaking with you,” she concludes in a swift change of demeanor, suddenly all propriety as she strides to the door. “I do hope we have the chance again.”
“We certainly shall, Lady Liane,” replies Athell. “Though it may be some time. Yet it was my honor, entirely. You demonstrate good grace in a difficult situation. I wish you joy, and I wish you luck.” And the steely-eyed Stormlord seems sincere on both counts.
“I bid you good night.” The lord turns on his heel and, without further ceremony (and with his customary abruptness) heads through the door. The pair of knights, his escorts, take up station and the trio sweep by the startled guard and off into the night.
“Good evening, Lord Connington,” Liane nods politely, holding the door as the little retinue departs. She remains there as they move down the hall, watching them with an arch of her brow, before flashing an enigmatic smile to the guards and closing the door once more. If a brief, gusty sigh or the pop of a cork can be heard through the wood, well. Who wouldn’t need a drink?
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