As the sun rises on a hazy-hot sky traffic through the Western Yard increases; the great bronze gates spouting wagons, horses and men to and from the red keep in a cacophony of noises - whinnying, shouts, and thumps of heavy tree-wheels against stone.
The din is less loud around the training area, mainly because the shouts of practicing Knights and Squires drown out the other sounds. And despite this, at a bench beneath a tree, sits a young woman whose head is studiously bent over a book with black cover.
Her gown is dark-blue and purple, and, for any who would care to notice, sleek ebony hair matches the embroidered ravens of her bodice.
A Blackwood, no doubt; and Desmona to those who know her.
It might be hot, but where the knights of the North struggle with their plate armor and planks for shields, there are those who are used to much warmer climates. Sadly, being dressed for such hot lands also tends to drag a whole lot of mockery, thrown insults and other pleasant greetings. So, when Cadan arrives with a small retinue of Dornish hostages, it doesn’t take long before the first words are being thrown about in their general direction.
Cadan, at the front of the small group of four, is dressed in flowing silks that are tied at the wrists and ankles, a shirt and trousers this day with a loose Dornish robe on top of it all, caught in the wind as well. Around his neck, he wears his white scarf, but what’s more surprising is the sheath at his left side and the hilt that is clearly evident, sticking out of it.
Some seem to have recognized him, by the mutters of “Prince of Sheeps” and “The sheep-shagging murderer” that drifts through the people at the lists. Some wise person suggests that maybe they should calm down, citing some rumor of the man’s waterdancing and that awfully thing and nasty sword of his.. Meanwhile, the Dornish try to walk around the practice area, towards the trees and the outskirts of it.
It is not the insults thrown at the newcomers that catches Desmona’s attention, for the young lady seems very intent on her reading. But as the Dornish nears the trees the lady’s gaze whips up and picks out the four arrivals, sharpening on their leader in the front.
The book is closed with a demonstrative thump, a disapproving hand resting on the leather as the Blackwood regards Cadan.
A frown, then, tugs at her brows, and a sullen expression mars her brow - and yet, yet there is something keeping her here, for the young woman does not go away. Instead, she quips, rather cooly.
“Are you really going to train /here/?”
The man in the front seems to have failed to note the young woman and instead headed for a spot between two trees, but a young nobleman around his late teens, black hair and black eyes, taps the Prince on the shoulder. “Prince Cadan. She said something..”
Cadan twists around, taking another step before he stops, eyebrow quirking up at it all. “What did she say then?”
“Asked if you are really going to train here, I believe, m’lord.” The young man has a small grin and takes a step back to allow Cadan the reply.
“Well, I do intend to train here, is there a problem? Or maybe the lady does not enjoy the company of the ill-smelling sand-dwellers? Well, if that is the case, let me immediately separate myself from her presence..” He looks perfectly honest, the quirked eyebrow still questioning. All in all, the little exchange between the two young men was very quick, like they’re familiar companions.
The last part, said by Cadan, is half directed at Desmona and half at the man at his side.
The ice in the woman’s eyes blends with curiousity.
“I prefer the cooling shades of the trees,” she says, flicking a glance at the companion before returning her gaze to Cadan. “And you and your ilk disturb my peace, ill-smelling or no. Why,” she raises a mocking brow at the full sheath by the Dornishman’s side, “you’re even allowed to wear weapons. Does the Hand really think so little of your fighting skills?”
Desmona’s gaze seeks out the men in the other’s company, clearly checking for more swords.
One of the others has a sheath from his belt, as well, but they are the only ones. Two out of four, still a considerable amount of armed enemies! But Cadan is quick to offer a shrug and a gesture towards the hilt. “Obviously. Everyone knows the Dornish simply fell over and died as soon as the northern knights came riding in their full plate through the desert.” A honest smile accompanies the brief explanation.
“We’re also sensible enough to enjoy the same cooling shade. We have little to prove about our prowess through dancing about out in the sun, but prefer to practice for our own sakes.” That, from the younger man. The two others retreat back some, engaged in discussion about a fight they seem to be watching out in the fields.
“Think me not such a fool,” Desmona says, ice clinging to every syllable, “to spend my time on idle insults. I know the fighting skills of the Dornish, and I resent you for it. I hope you /would/ drop dead,” the Blackwood lady glares acerbicly around, “and if you were decent men, you would do just so. Prince!”
The honourific is spoken with no solemnity whatsoever as her pale-blue gaze goes to rest on the Dornish noble.
“So, are the rumours true?” The Blackwood raises a brow at Cadan, a wry smile quirking her brow. “Pick any, there are plenty to choose from, I’d like to hear them confirmed or no.”
“Plenty enough did just that, but if it was out of decency, I do not know.” Cadan maintains his calm, offering a small shrug. “Idle insults are much preferred to shouted ones. But.. I have little reason to insult the ladies of the northlands and as the Ser here commented, we enjoy the shade as much as anyone else.” He gestures towards the black-haired man next to him, then towards the trees. Tucking back a strand of hair, his dark eyes settle back on Desmona, surprise showing. “Rumors? About me? The ones spoken by the northeners, or the ones spoken by my own people? If you mean the ones about sheep, or sharing a bed with my sister, or being a coward.. a fine selection of the ones that frequent this keep, then no, none of them are true.” He smiles warmly, idly unsheathing his sword, a sword that apart from it’s extremely thin blade also is revealed to be quite dull. The point has been flattened and it’s quite obviously a practice blade.
Desmona’s gaze flicks to the sword’s point, obviously noticing the flattened metal before returning her attention to Cadan.
“Then which rumours /are/ true? The one about swearing revenge, perhaps,” the woman’s nose wrinkles and a smug smile tugs at her lips. “You won’t go far with that sword, for sure.”
Her blue gaze briefly flicks to the Prince’s companions, and a dour expression fleets past her even features. The finger that rests against the book tips against the cover with a soft, leathery sound - so unusual at the sparring grounds.
“Well, it wouldn’t do him any good to admit the truth, now, would it?” An sarcastic alto query carries to the small group under the shade. Moments later, its owner joins them, stopping just inside the shade’s edge. Elyn’s expression as she regards the Dornishmen is sour, as if they were the most unripe of lemons.
Turning to Desmona, Elyn nods, summoning a tight smile. “I wanted to wish you a good day, Desmona, but it appears I might also offer you my condolences. You do seem to be making acquaintances with the worst of the dregs around here lately.” And another offended glance is shot at Cadan.
Cadan looks about to say something to Desmona, a flicker of a smile and an amused look across his face, but Elyn’s words cause him to look around. A moment’s thought to listen to her words, then he replies: “The worst? My lady, you flatter me. To be compared with the likes of Sarmion Stormbreaker, who wows to rape a fourteen year old lady in front of an entire courtyard, or Jaesin Lannister, who laughs about murdering innocents on behalf of whom their liege lord is, or even Garvys Tyrell who will soon have a bastard in every noble belly in Dorne with the help of his soldiers.. and to think that I would come out winning, I had no expected that.”
The prince offers the closest thing to a smile that he can muster after those words, and they are all directed at Elyn. Turning his head towards Desmona again, he apologizes: “I’m sorry. And no, those particular rumors are not true, but this blunt point through someone’s eye will kill them all the same.”
“Elyn!” The Blackwood’s demeanor softens at the sight of the other woman, and she nods a greeting to the Ryswell - a pleased expression shines in her eyes. “No, I’m not lucky. I haven’t seen the sandman for a while, though, and..” And then she stops. Already at the mention of the Stormbreaker all colour - what little there is - drains from Desmona’s cheeks, and the lady goes a sickly pale.
“He has vowed no such thing,” she says quietly, to the black bindings of the book that still rests upon her lap. She lifts her gaze to glare at the Prince, with unrelenting and cold anger.
“Your apology is not accepted, Dornishman,” she quips and stands up - quite a tall young woman, is she, and can see almost eye-to-eye with the other, so her chin tilts just a little up.
“Take it back.”
Silence reigns from Elyn for long moments, even as Desmona surges to her feet. A pair of heartbeats roll by before she answers.
“War is ugly.” Elyn states matter-of-factly, although her words lack strength and a flush has risen to color the apples of her cheeks. “I won’t profess to know anything our knights have said or done, although I sincerely doubt it.” And you can’t tell me the Dornish haven’t done their fair share of the evil. I tend men every day in the hospice who have seen it, who have bled because of it, who have watched comrades /die/ because of it.” Elyn forces out through clenched teeth. “So yes, be honored if you want. You and your people deserve that ‘honor’.” The last word is literally spit at Cadan’s feet.
Aother glance is cast at Desmona, and Elyn’s smile lacks all mirth. “I have seen your Sandman lately, and much to my amusement for a change. But I find my humor has fled me, and I, too, have little desire to stay. Perhaps I shall see you later.”
Elyn glances a last time at Cadan, glaring openly, and then she turns on her heel to go.
Cadan listens to them both, letting them state their things, and he waits in an almost casual manner for them to finish. “Are you finished?” That directed at both of them. “For you, my lady..” He nods to Desmona. “I’m afraid he did say that, and I don’t lie about the knights of these lands. I don’t have to. There are plenty of witnesses, of your own people and mine. He vowed to rape Lady Jasmylla Fowler, and the only reason he didn’t was for all the money the Hand was paying him. Those were his words.”
He shrugs gently, turning his head to look at Elyn. “We’ve all said awful things. War is ugly, you are right. But the only thing you can comfort those men with, the ones who are dying, is that they bled for was a king who decided that he’d conquer a people, telling them anything else would be telling them a lie.” A pause, and he watches her, shifting his position. “While I.. I can tell my dying brethren that they died defending their wives from being raped, their children from having to be raised by their father’s murderers and their homes from being burnt down to the ground. Where were the wives and children of the invaders? What did they defend?.. As for myself, the only man I tried to kill was your king. Something I am proud of, but a little disappointed that I failed. ” All said with perfect calm and honesty. All while he talks, he slowly moves the swordpoint in a figure eight pattern near his right foot in an idle gesture, his eyes never leaving the person he’s speaking to.
Desmona casts a glance at Elyn and lets a hand raise in a supplicant gesture, but at the other’s mention of war and its ugliness she lets her gaze drop to the ground.
Then the Blackwood looks back at Cadan, a vigorous shake of her head sends her raven hair waving down her back - but there is more anger in her gesture, than grace.
“I will ask Ser Sarmion himself and have the truth of it,” she says coldly and takes a step back. When the Dornishman speaks to the Ryswell she settles herself on the bench once more, colour slowly returning to her pale cheeks. In unusual silence her brittle blue gaze shift between the other two, apparantly following their conversation - but something moves beneath the surface of her eyes.
The first words that Cadan speaks to Elyn cause her to slow her steps, although why is uncertain. When he speaks of his own people and the atrocities he claims they were fighting against, her shoulders hunch suddenly, as if struck, and this time, when she turns sharply back, her color is high and her eyes wide with anger and denial, trying to keep tears at bay.
“That isn’t true! They’re good men, honorable men, all the knights of Westeros! They were following their King because the right thing to do!” She says, stabbing a finger in Cadan’s direction. “You are fools for not bending the knee! Any destruction wrought was on your own heads! But they wouldn’t, he’d never-” Elyn wavers, her hard words trickling to a whisper. “He never would have done such a thing. Never.” Elyn curls her arms around herself, her unusually pale skin gone paler than ever. She blanches, head shaking fitfully, and she turns away, although it doesn’t seem she really sees where she’s going.
“Yes of course,” comes a mutter from Cadan’s companion who’s kept in the background, and where his face is flushed with red hot anger, Cadan is as calm as ever. The black haired younger nobleman mainly stares at Desmona, like he has some issue with her flat out denial of Sarmion’s deeds. The prince seems more interested in the arguments of Elyn.
“Run away. Be glad that you have somewhere to run. My wife won’t have anywhere to run when they come for her. My three year old daughter.. soon four.. will be lucky if she won’t have to watch.. But yes, of course we should have bent and gladly accepted all of this! We’re all the king’s due, aren’t we? So run away and keep pretending that these murderers are all good honorable knights of Westeros. Go.” For the first time, it seems the words have caused feelings to rise up in the prince, and he swallows with some difficulty. The pictures are unpleasant enough to shake even a person like him, and he looks away in disgust.
“Now look what you did,” Desmona says sharply at Cadan. “Is this your sense of not offending the Northern women, making them cry?”
The Blackwood aims an accusing glare at the Dornish Prince, then sharing it with the rest of his men - and particular the younger nobleman whose stare matched with a piercing-blue gaze of her own - and oh, is there plenty of resent to go around!
With a rustle of silk, the young lady rises and goes to Elyn’s side. “It is not us who should go, it is you. You are hostages here, no more.”
Elyn’s progress had been slow, uneven, and she had nearly tripped on a large stone lying near the edge of the practice field. But as Cadan begins speaking again, her shoulders twitch again with each word, as if it were a physical barrage of arrows, sinking into her body and not just her ears. To most of the Dornish, she presents only mocking anger and spiteful words. But something the Prince has said leaves her no quarter and seems to have disturbed her down to her soul.
“Stop it. Stop it! STOP IT!” Elyn screams, each utterance rising in volume as she rounds on the Dornishman. She pays his companions and Desmona no more heed, narrowed winter-pallid eyes fixed hatefully on him. “It wasn’t their fault! They didn’t have a choice! He never would’ve…not a /child/...” And suddenly, Elyn’s anger becomes broken sobbing as she sinks to the ground, arms coming up to cover her head, as if she expected a physical assault.
Cadan looks away at first, then he stares back at Desmona and Elyn. “I apologize. I never claimed it was their fault, nor that every man did that. But never say that we had no right defending our land. We defended more than our land, so much more, and I would do it again if I had the choice. Each and every one of us defended someone who could not defend themselves. I am sorry if the truth is so hard to swallow. Then imagine how it is for me, who sits here, denied even a chance to send a letter, to hear if my wife is still my own.” He looks back to the boiling angry young man next to him, then at the ladies. “Now, I will practice my blade, I bid you good day.” He turns away, then slowly takes a few steps towards the more open ground, trying to look as steady as he can. The other young man follows him, whispering heated words to the Martell.
Desmona’s brows arch skywards as the other woman sinks to the ground, and she leans down to pat Elyn’s back gently, if a little awkwardly.
The Blackwood straightens up and looks between the crumbled figure and Cadan, sun glinting in the mesh of golden threads on her head, a strangely uncertain look finally levelling on the Dornishman.
“That,” if the young woman’s gaze is uncertain, then at least her voice is firm and desert-dry, “is propably a fine idea. Go practice.”
Amidst sniffles and tears, a husky rendition of “...sorry.” can eventually be heard, repeated again and again, although if she’s apologizing to Cadan, Desmona, or someone else not present, is anyone’s guess. Elyn makes no reply to Cadan, and keeps her head buried in her arms until he is gone.
After several heartbeats, her ragged breathing eases a bit, and she looks up at Desmona, only to blanch again. “Gods.” She forces out, and then splays a hand against the ground to push herself up. She scrubs at her face with one black-clad arm, but it doesn’t seem to help much. Glancing in embarrassment around the yard, Elyn turns briefly to Desmona, and then blanches again. “I’m sorry, Lady Desmona. I-I need to go.”
And with nothing more, Elyn turns and practically flees east, presumably towards the Guest Tower, the Godswood, or some other haven.