The sweet cool breezes from the west have died once more, and the air is heavy and hot. Already the morning sun blanches the colors from King’s Landing, and the glare off the Blackwater is blinding. Only within thick stone walls is there any relief, so the Sept is suddenly filled with the devout.
Off to one side, Reyna Tyrell is standing with a Septon, and speaking with him in a low voice. She raises an arm for his inspection, and stands patiently while he peeks under one of the bandages thereon and shakes his head. “The Seven do not require so much of you, daughter,” he says gently. Then he draws something from his robes, and holds it up to a shaft of morning light.
It is a thorn wrought of crystal, finely faceted and with a sharp barb, as any real thorn. It is hung from a slender silver chain, and this he clasps about Reyna’s neck. “Walk in the light of the Seven from now on, child, and do not fear. The Mother is merciful, and the Father forgiving, and they have heard your prayers.” He lays his hands on her head in benediction, then leaves her to contemplate the thorn.
A slender woman entirely in black, and veiled with silver, enters the sept. With serenity she moves to kneel before the form of the Crone. A tiny object is placed at the foot of the statue, fingertips are kissed and the head is bowed in prayer. For those who know her form well, Elanna Penrose is the woman ‘neath the veil, and if she hears the speech of forgiveness for the Tyrell widow, there is little indication. Her head does not even turn.
Reyna returns to her head a veil of misty green, and winds it about her face before turning back toward the Sept proper. She moves directly to the Father’s altar, and falls to her knees. Holding the crystal thorn in both hands, she raises her face, her eyes shining raptly above the veil, and bright with unshed tears.
After several long moments of quiet contemplation, no displays of emotion this day, Elanna rises. She draws back the veil to talk softly with the septon that had merely moments before spoken to Reyna. A glance is cast the Tyrell all-but-outcast, her features pale slightly, and she seems momentarily distracted. A heartbeat, no more, then she shakes her head slightly and turns back to the septon.
“No, I assure you I have been well,” Elanna protests to queries of her health.
“That is good to hear, child,” the septon intones, before patting his belly. Another glance is given Reyna, before she gives her farewells to the septon.
“I will see you for evening prayers,” she bows her head to the man.
Reyna reaches forth to light a candle, then rises smoothly and turns toward the Mother—and freezes. She looks at Elanna with stricken eyes, then swiftly casts down her eyes and moves past the other lady. “Pardon me, lady,” she murmurs politely, as she might to anyone she had to brush past so rudely.
Elanna shifts backward a pace, her breath drawing in sharply. Even the septon is not so oblivious as to ignore the sudden rise in tensions.
“My lady Tyrell?” he asks of Reyna, “Will we see you for evening prayers?” A risen salt-and-pepper brow.
“The Lady Reyna is very busy these days,” Elanna replies softly, her darkened blue eyes coolly thoughtful upon her once-friend, “But she is still devout to the Seven.”
“I have not missed prayers in the last fortnight,” murmurs Reyna, going to her knees before the Mother. “Nor yet the last devotions of the night, or those of the noon hour. You who have tended my penance know this well.” She nods at the Septon, then bends her head to the Mother. But her body trembles in fine tremor, and her spine is rigid with control.
There is a flicker of something in the depths of Elanna’s eyes, and her lips press together to prevent words that are best not spake here…nor any place, it seems, from escaping. She closes her eyes, her hands clench into fists at her sides, and she takes a deep breath.
“Penance…” she murmurs softly, and she opens the brilliant orbs once more. Slowly her right hand opens, then the left. And if one were to look a little closely, they might espy tiny half moons impressed into palms still scored lightly with grazes.
“Good day, Septon,” she bows her head, and looks toward Reyna as though she would have automatically bid her well. And by the flicker of shadow that crosses her features, it is not something easily held within. Her skirts sweep the floor as she turns as though to depart.
“Would you know my penance, lady?” Reyna asks Elanna, her head still bent. “I will show you, if you like.
“And it is no less than you deserve,” Elanna snaps her head around, and her breath comes shallow, “You need not convince me. You have any number of folk who believe you and sympathise. I am hardly necessary in your world.”
“Yes, my two maids are most loyal, and my sons ever loving,” Reyna replies, pulling back her sleeve. Slowly she unwinds the bandages on her left arm, to show Elanna the scores beneath, to bare her wrist still raw and weeping with some terrible hurt. “No less than I deserve. I sinned because I was lonely, and now I am alone.”
“You chose to take Jonn Lannister because you were…lonely?” Elanna utters incredulously…and shakes her head, “No, Reyna.” She spares the wrist barely a glance.
“You think inflicting physical pain upon yourself will mend the mental pain you have wrought upon others?” A rise of a dark brow. So little warmth…
“Because of the selfishness you showed, others who have not deserved such pain as you both have inflicted will suffer. If you were lonely, there was any number of single men willing to drop their trousers at the mere thought of bedding you…yet you chose another woman’s husband.” Her voice became husky.
“Why Reyna? Why?”
The septon lays a hand on Reyna’s bent head, and kneels to rewind the bandages on her arm. “This penance was laid upon her by the Seven,” he says to Elanna, glancing upward. “I myself commanded it of her. What is good enough for the Gods ought to be good enough for men.”
But Reyna shakes her head. “There is no other answer, my lady,” she says softly. “He was kind to me. I can give you nothing else.”
“Men..maybe,” Elanna replies to the septon, “Men understand physical pain.” And there is a wealth of meaning in her words. She regards Reyna, “You seek something here that none else can give you. If it gives you comfort, Ren, then so be it. I hope you find it in your faith.” She pauses a moment and turns once more.
Her voice is soft as spake over her shoulder.
“At least the Seven have not faltered in their love,” Reyna replies, with head still bent as the Septon finishes tending her. “They have the mercy men lack; they see what is writ upon my heart, and do not blind themselves to it. Only death will grant me forgiveness from living men—or women.”
She raises a hand to her throat, and takes up the crystal thorn with its barb, sharp enough to prick the tip of her finger. “The Seven have even granted me the means. Would that please you, lady? Would it please all who stand in judgement, when they know not what they would do in my place?”
“How dare you…” Elanna turns again, her eyes flashing, hands clenching at her sides, “How dare you turn such guilt upon those who once professed love for you.” Her voice comes rapid, and her eyelashes flutter, “-You- are the one who have wrought wrong here, Reyna. Not us. And yet you make us feel the guilt for your wrongs. How long is this to continue?” She pauses, and she grows pale. Her hand reaches out for the back of one of the near pews.
“What would I do in your place?” her voice is very faint, “Gods, woman…” and her voice comes evermore faint, “The Seven can have you then.”
“To the Seven, then,” Reyna replies, her hand trembling for a moment. She steadies it, then plunges the thorn deep into the side of her throat, gasping once, then yanks it out and throws blood steadily at the Father’s feet.
She wavers then, as her face pales and her life pulses forth. “My sons to Lord Rowan,” she says to the stunned Septon. “My love to Almer.”
“Mother be merciful,” gasps the Septon, reaching for the lady. “Fetch a maester!!”
Elanna throws herself forward then, with a gasp. Her hands go to Reyna’s neck.
“No…” she wails, “Nono!” Her hands coat with her friend’s lifes blood, her features stricken.
“Reyna..you silly…silly..” tears fall unbidden from her eyes.
A maester there is among the devotees, and he is swiftly there, his scarf in his hands. He pushes Elanna away unceremoniously as Reyna tilts and sags to the side, and staunches the wound with the linen. “What has this lady done that… nevermind,” he says in disgust, laying one hand over Reyna’s throat to ensure he doesn’t cut off her breath.
Her eyes flutter at Elanna, dull and despairing. “Never wanted you to hate me…” she sighs, smiling.
Elanna is cast backwards, stumbles over her skirts, sprawling briefly, her hands go to her cheeks and her eyes squeeze shut. Her breath comes in harsh gasps and she rises awkwardly. It is some moments before she straightens. Her gaze is flat then, her features pale. And with face, skirts and hands streaked with Reyna Tyrell’s blood, she turns..and moves toward the door of the sept, without another word.
A wail of despair follows Elanna out of the Sept, cut off only when Reyna at last loses consciousness.