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Silence has taken over the Fowler Apartments, and yet, there are two young women around, although they look quiet, all her attention focused on the board game they are playing. The windows are open, and the sun warms the hall, the curtains waving softly every time the breeze catches them. Still, and despite the bright day outside, Jasmylla and Lanei have not left their apartment today.
Suddenly, a knock on the doors makes both ladies rise her head, and to turn her eyes to the source of the sound that distracted us. “I will go” Lanei offers, and leaves her chair to open the door, wondering who might be. Even if it is lunch time and, certainly, they already took their meals, most of dornishmen should be busy with their lunches, or perhaps resting.
As the door is opened the dashing and somber figure of Doran Dondarrion is visible. Dressed in his riding leathers, his surcoat proudly displays the emblem of House Dondarrion. A soft comforting smile crosses his face as he takes in the sight of Lanei, his head bowing with the strict formal courtesy that he is known for. “My lady of Fowler.” His tone is soft and calm, yet still his body seems tense and ready to strike as if he were preparing to be waylaid by the most powerful of knights.
“I give my sincere apologies for coming unbidden to your door at lunch.” All courtesy is still given by this proper knight of the stormlands, and his hand outstretched and opens to make visible an elegant ring. “I inquired if it belonged to my sister, which she admitted it had not. You were the only other lady present at my apartments so I assumed it may possibly be yours?”
“Oh, good afternoon, Ser Doran”. She does not look very surprised to see the knight standing at the corridor, as if it were a natural place for him to wander, and yet, her eyes widen a little. Then, Lanei gives a short delighted exclamation. “I thought I would never see it again! Indeed, it is mine.” She takes the ring, which is promptly put on one of her fingers, and steps back once, opening more the door. “But you are not disturbing, my lord. Won’t you enter? Unless you have duties to attend, that is.”
“I think I will go to my chamber to read quietly” Jasmylla says as soon as her eyes fall upon the Blackbolt and, taking a book from the shelves, does as she claims. However, she does not close the door and it remains purposefully open. “Still” Lanei insists, “you are not disturbing and your presence is more than welcome. And not only because you returned me my lost ring.”
“My duties can wait for the time being. I will need to go to the city proper soon, however.” Doran replies cordially, his smile seeming to spark in intensity as he takes note of the excitement from the Fowler. “It pleases my heart that I could be of assistance, my lady.” The Blackbolt’s stance relaxes visibly, and he takes a few steps into the hostage’s apartment.
His eyes slowly scan the area, his gaze seeming to find more love for the weapons and heraldry that align the walls then anything else. “I see you have been well accommodated.” The marcher knight admits, his smile diminishing from the original excitement of the Dornish lady to the weak smile that often rides astride his face. He takes note of the open portal that Lanei’s companion had taken as means of exit, and turns his gaze back to the woman whom welcomed him. “Your companion did not need to leave, my lady? My coming was not meant as an intrusion or abruption.”
“You have proven to be of assistance many time, Ser Doran. But, even if you need to depart soon, we can still talk for a while, and drink a cup of wine together” Lanei comments and, closing the door, the lady leads his guest to the fireplace area where the couches and armchairs are spread. Inviting him to take a seat at his will, she pours some wine on two cups and offers one to him, keeping the other for her use.
“Do you like it?” she asks now, sitting down on one of the comfortable couches and waving a hand around the hall. “We tried to change a few things, to make it more… homey, so to speak. As for Jasmylla, do not pay heed to her. She does not feel too well today, hence we stayed… home.” As a reply to Lanei’s words, a cough comes from Jasmylla’s bedchamber. Perhaps coughed too aloud to take it as casual. “She is my cousin, Lady Jasmylla Fowler, my uncle’s elder daughter. Is brother, Ser Athis, left after to take his lunch. Is your sister Lady Carmella doing well, I do hope?” the lady ventures, openly ignoring her cousin’s complaining cough.
“She is a diamond amongst the stones, my lady. As always she is well.” Doran’s reply still drips with formality, but love is there as well when he speaks of his younger sister. He does as he is invited, and accepts a seat on one of the couches as he continues to pay special interest to the weapons that line the wall, obviously wondering if any of them are still serviceable.
“It is definitely an attractive place, Lady Lanei. It pleases me that you have found a way to make a light in a dark circumstance.” The Blackbolt allows yet another weakened smile to cross his face, and he turns to gaze at the Lanei. With eagerness he accepts the wine that was offered him, and brings it to his lips to taste. “Delicious, my lady. Also from Redwyne’s stock I would presume? While I may enjoy them, I am not able to easily identify wines I am afraid.”
“Would you please send the lady my regards? I am looking forward for our next meeting” the dornish lady says inclining her head to the knight and taking a sip. “Aye, it is. Not the best of the vintages, I am afraid but, still, it is a good wine.” And, most likely, coming from the sacking of the wine cellars of Redwyne’s folks. “Besides, I will not complain for what is given us… so freely. Surely it is a way to… honour us”. Or to have them shushed.
“They are my betrothed’s, Ser Astin Fowler, weapons and banner. Someone picked up and gathered them there at the battlefield, and passed them to me” she explains quietly, for Doran’s gaze has not been missed. “I brought them here and… It is a poor way to honor him, I am afraid, but it is not as if I could send the weapons back to Skyreach, to his mother and his grandfather, since my good father-to-be, the Falconhelm, was killed too.”
Doran’s smile falters at talk of Lanei’s betrothed, but he efforts it to remain upon his face. “I consider it a fitting homage, my lady of Fowler. I only hope that my betrothed would honor me in such a way if I should perish.” The Blackbolt’s eyes dim considerably, and his sadness is given more strength as it does. It is apparent the young knight is not eager in his betrothal, but still it is respect he speaks of it with.
“I must admit, my lady. I have missed you, and I would beg your pardon for not calling on you sooner. I am not use to life at court, most of my life has been spent training and bringing outlaws to the King’s Justice.” Doran’s voice is solemn, and he speaks as burdened with some hidden weight. “Not that I mind King’s Landing, my lady.” The marcher knight brings up his wine glass yet again, taking an elegant sip before continuing. “It is just that so many faces that I do not recognize know of me, and they herald me as a hero for what happened at Dorne. I just do not feel as if I can fill such a role.”
“I am pretty sure your lady would, my lord. Who would not? Even I would light candles to the Seven, were you sent to face them before time.” She drinks again and puts the cup on one of the little tables around, grinning at his mention of his betrothed, for he never did in the past. Yet, as Lanei was already told of the lady, she is not surprised. “May I ask if she is around the Red Keep too? I would welcome to be introduced to her as well.”
Then, clasping her hands together, Skyreach’s heiress leans on the comfy couch. “There is no need to apologize between friends, Ser Doran, and I thought we were. Hopefully I was not wrong in my appreciations? As you should not feel that way, either, if your people holds you as one of their heroes. You are one, in their eyes. Enjoy your time the best you can, and do not let flatterers… Well” Lanei grins, “What am I speaking of? I am neither your mother nor one of your siblings to advice you.”
A flush takes the Blackbolt as Lanei digs deeper for information regarding his bride to be, “Lady Jyrenna is still in the Vale. I have heard rumors since my arrival that she will likely follow in my wake, and be sent to court to finalize our betrothal. I simply hope that it shall not be anytime soon.” Doran holds true to the weak smile, his eyes scanning about the apartment as he tries desperately to search for another topic, not being comfortable speaking of his marriage.
It is fortuitous that the Dornish lady offers a way out as she speaks of offering advice, the half-dornish knight turns his gaze back to the woman’s face. “You just spoke as if we were friends. Advice from friends is as powerful as that of my family. You honor me with your input, please do not silence yourself so quickly.”
Softly chuckling at Doran’s embarrassment, the dornish lady drops her eyes to the lap. “I thought that after the war, and being away your people for so long, you would welcome to meet your lady, and the sooner the better. Or do you fear the wedding day, my lord?.” There is a playful smile on her lips as she speaks so. “You should not. As for to silence myself or not…”
“...As said, I do not think it is my place to advice you, ser Doran. Yet, you do not look to be a man which mind would change just for the praising words of those that, doubtless, might seek for your friendship now. Ah, the joys of the Court! But, I am afraid, it is the same in all the courts”.
As Lanei speaks, Doran takes this time to sip the wine once again. His eyes will close briefly as he samples the elegant taste from the Redwyne’s vineyard, be opening again to listen to the lady finish her sentence. “It has been my dream to wear the white cloak, my lady. I doubt now with my coming betrothal that I shall ever have an opportunity to serve my king in the capacity I desire.” The Blackbolt replies solemnly in regards to his marriage, his eyes taking in the contents of the wine glass rather than looking at the Fowler’s face.
As the lady continues her words, another sad smile seems to darken Ser Doran’s features. “I have very few friends, Lady Lanei. I’d welcome your friendship, and your advice. The aspects of currying favor are lost to me, and I simply only wish to be who I am.” The Dondarrion knight brings the wine glass to his face, downing it with a lack of elegance that seems strange coming from the marcher knight who places so much emphasis on his own formality and courtesy.
“My friendship, you have it already. As for my advice… you will, should you ask for it, my good lord.” Leaning more on the couch, Lanei sips from her cup and placing it back on the little table, takes one of the cushions, embracing it to the chest with her arms. “Oh? Do you truly want to become one of those guards dressed in bright white? They are Royal Guards or so, right?”. She looks a little puzzled at this, and looking up at the man, the lady tilts her head, as if pondering his words.
“I have heard that they cannot take a wife… or any woman.” And surely they cannot bring a men to their beds? Who knows. “They must have a… sad life, despite all the honour that such a position would bring to them. Is it really worth? To be separated of your family, to renounce to sire children, or the joys of spending a night with a lady?.”
Yet another time with Doran’s face turn a lovely shade of crimson, his dark skin turning the color as the blood rushes to his face in embarrassment. “I wouldn’t know the joys of spending a night with a lady.” The Blackbolt’s voice is soft, barely above a whisper, and a testament to the man’s unquestionable honesty. “I suppose I would not know what I am giving up in that regards. As for my land and titles, it is my eldest brother that shall inherit Blackhaven. A second son is only what his deeds mark him as, and nothing is given to him, save that which he carves out by way of his sword.”
The flush slowly dissipates as Doran reaches over and sets his wine glass on the table, leaning back in the couch as he tries his best to remove the awkward emotion of embarrassment from his face. “They forsake everything, save the King, and their marriage is to their sword. They are a shield against the darkness, and a champion of the realm. Only the greatest of knights are ever chosen.”
“Truly” the dornish lady starts saying, “Not only ladies, but also lords, have strange… customs, in this land. I can understand although I would never share it- some of them, related to… how ladies need to behave, considering…” Considering that no man likes to be entitled the father of a child he sired not. Don’t they know of the benefits of a flask of moon tea?. Of course, she will not dare to speak these words aloud. “In Dorne, many men of your age would have around, at least, a bastard, grown enough to be squaring. But I suppose that we start really soon.” Lanei shrugs. “Still, how to renounce to things you never… experienced? That’s, doubtless, a hard affair.”
“But…” she continues, “Even if you are not called to inherit your lord father’s seat and position, and since Lady Carmella told me a little of your family, it should be so, you might have sought for a lady which hand would come with a title. There are a few around, I have heard, so they exist here too. A second son is a good match for the future lady of a house, and your family is high enough to have aimed for one of them, and shameless. Are your related to your lady?”. Perhaps that would be the reason.
The Blackbolt adjusts himself from his perch on the couch, obviously feeling uncomfortable with the talk of sex. His gloved hand comes up to his mouth as he clears his throat, hoping the sudden sound will stave off any embarrassment that may come to reside on his face. “Sexual prowess is a private matter, and no bards sing the deeds of what a man does behind closed doors. I have concentrated only on that which would make my father proud, whom always seemed to favor Ser Ryman over me.” Ser Doran still speaks in a whisper, seeming to act as if the walls themselves would have ears to listen.
“I have no knowledge of why my father chose Lady Jyrenna. It seems to me a disadvantageous marriage to say the least. Blackhaven has always been the seat of a powerful militant house in the Stormlands, and great knights have spawned from the bloodline of House Dondarrion. I could only imagine that the dowry offered by Ser Benedar was enough to peak my father’s interest.” Doran drops his gaze to his lap, retreating further into the depths of his mind and away from the conversation at hand.
Raising her feet to the couch, she embraces tighter the cushion, and starts laughing, yet softly. “Perhaps they do not here, ser Doran, for as I said before, our customs are very different. But our bards do sing about, if the… sexual prowess is worth enough of the task, or to write about. Also, we do not treat our familys’ bastards as I have heard they are treated here for, after all, they are of our same blood, aren’t they?”. Still keeping her smile, Lanei shrugs helplessly. “Yet, I must to give you that, at least: fathers, or mothers, will pride more other kind of deeds, especially those related to tournaments.” And, most recently, to the battlefields.
“If she would bring your house a good dowry, that would explain things” she nods, answering now Doran’s last words. “But, as if you mentioned, it would be eyed as a disadvantageous marriage… Indeed, the lady shall be celebrating her luck.” Lanei pauses for a brief moment. “Do not take me wrong, ser… Things work the same in Dorne. But I, personally, had no reasons to complain. However, I wish they had arranged our betrothal sooner than they did so, now, I might have a child or two.”
Doran offers his sad smile, and turns for the first time in several minutes to gaze upon the Fowler’s face. “Your children would have been as beautiful as you, I’d imagine, my lady.” The Blackbolt’s formal courtesy seems almost automatic, but the words lack no conviction, and are expressed with the deepness that accompany the dark melancholy look of his brilliant green eyes. Doran’s eyes seem locked on the lady’s face for a long moment, as he puzzles something out behind his pensive visage, before they finally turn from the lady again.
“I should make my way back to my apartments, Lady Lanei. The wine was delicious, and as always, your presence has given me a warmth in my heart that rival a thousand suns. I am thankful that the Seven allowed me at least a small reprieve from my curse, so I may know beauty when I see it.” Doran slowly rises from his seat on the couch, his eyes dropping to gaze at his feet. “I only wish there was something I could do to return your kindness.”
Perhaps it is now Lanei’s turn to look away, and despite she will not flush as Doran did a while ago, her cheeks are bathed in a soft rose color. “I… appreciate your words, my lord, even if I am well aware that men of this land look at us as if… well, let us say that they prefer another kind of… beauty, so to speak. Ours, I assume, it is way too… exotic…”
Leaving her comfortable position, the dornish lady goes on her feet. “You know, ser Doran, that you are welcome to visit with me—with the Fowlers” Jasmylla’s cough is heard again, but it impresses not her cousin, “at your will, and I do encourage you to do so every time you get the fancy… or the need.” Leading him to the doors, Lane adds, “And it is me who are, again in your debt. Remember, you came here to return me my lost ring.”
She opens the door, and curtsies. “May the Seven guard you, ser Doran”.
The Blackbolt gains a pained expression at mention of the Seven, but it dissolves as quickly as it came, and a courteous smile spreads across his face. Half-hearted is the smile, filled with the sorrows of a man who has been laden with damnation upon his shoulders, but a spark of hope seems kindled in the eyes of the marcher knight. The hope seems small and helpless amongst the darkness that covers the facial features of the young Dondarrion, but it still resides there defiantly. “May you find happiness, Lady Lanei.” He offers, his voice quiet as he bows his head respectfully, letting his gaze follow his feet as his strides take him from the Fowler’s residence.
Closing the door after Doran’s leaving, Lanei walks quietly back to the couches, and resumes her former position. “All right, my dear, he is gone. Should we continue the game, or have you grown tired…?”.
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