Tension fills Sunspear. Days, weeks even, have passed since the news of Tyrell’s murder in Sandstone, the uprising there and at Hellholt, at Starfall and Skyreach, and on and on. Each day, more news comes, of embattled king’s men trapped in a few seats, of more and more Dornishmen taking up their spears, crying for the Martells to lead them to war.
And each day, Prince Marence does nothing, though he holds the king’s cousin and many high officers as prisoners—guests, he calls them—and rumors grow daily that Velaryon’s fleet is preparing to sail against the Planky Town and Sunspear to win them, and Oakenfist, back.
A desultory tune spins out from one part of the courtyard, where orange trees give shade from the sun. Caitrin Blackmont sits there on a stone bench in her white silk, a small harp held on her lap. She gazes of over the roofs of Sunspear into some place else, idly stroking the stings of her harp and occasionally humming.”
The circumstances have left their mark, one way or another, on most of Sunspear’s inhabitants, and Lady Elysa Dayne is no different in this. Solemn-eyed and pensive she walks the shaded parts of the courtyard, a slight darkness beneath her violet eyes bearing witness to sleepless nights. Eventually, her path takes her toward the orange trees, and her attention is drawn to the woman in white. “Good afternoon, Lady Caitrin,” she greets, a dip of her head following upon her words.
“Lady Elysa,” Caitrin says politely, plucking a last note and then laying her harp aside. She pats the bench beside her. “Uneasy days,” she remarks ruefully as she looks over the courtyard.
The Lesser Gate is swung open, and a handful of horsemen come in, brilliant in their silver- and copper-plated armor, their sand steeds bestrewn with colorful tassels. Yet despite the brave show they make, the man at their head looks like barely-contained fury. Prince Rhodry jumps down from his horse as soon as he’s through the gate, shoving the reins into the hands of a palace guard before removing his helm.
“I’ll poison their next meal rather than let this travesty continue,” he announces aloud—to his compatriots, maybe, or more likely to anyone within hearing. “Marence the bloody Hostler!” His laugh is bitter indeed, sharp and bitter, and he doesn’t seem to care who sees it. But he does notice the ladies, and rather than going wherever he was intending to go—probably to work on Marence again—he instead approaches them after a few words with the other men-at-arms.
“Indeed. The calm before the storm,” says Elysa, who hesitates for the span of a heartbeat before seating herself. Only moments later her words come true after a fashion, with the sudden and loud arrival of Prince Rhodry. After seeing and hearing him go at his brother over these last weeks, she has likely counted herself lucky to have been left alone with the work of arranging feasts and gatherings. And now ... now there is not likely to be much call for that anytime soon. “Prince Rhodry,” she greets him as he approaches, a slight unease to her demeanor and in her voice.
Caitrin, at least, seems quite unsurprised by Rhodry’s loudly-voiced opinion; she only turns toward him with a smile and a politely bent head. “Hello, Prince Rhodry,” she says smoothly, smiling still.
“Where is my sister?” Rhodry asks, drawing off a red leather gauntlet sewn with chain mail. His voice is as black as his eyes. “Not Ariana. The one we call Prince of Dorne.”
“Prince Marence is in the Tower of the Sun. Speaking to Ser Robin, I believe.” Elysa’s response is almost a little tired-sounding; it is probably not the first time she has heard such insults—and worse—thrown at one brother by the other. And there is little that she, or anyone else, can do about it.
“As she says,” Caitrin replies, just a faint sardonic edge to her voice. “Consulting, one supposes.”
“Of course. _Consulting_.” The prince makes it sound like a curse. Rhodry looks to the looming tower with its glittering golden dome, glaring. Then, deliberately, he spits on the gravel beneath his feet. He looks at the two women, his erstwhile assistant and the daughter and granddaughter of two of the Prince’s chief officers, and then the prince says, with suspicious casualness, “It’d be a shame to wring a tear from the Maiden’s eye, if something forced his hand.”
Caitrin glances at Elysa, then surreptitiously mimes brushing away a tear. “And is there something to force his hand, my lord?” she asks, her voice that of a winsome court maid.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” says the prince; and he smiles. They say he’s a cruel man, and it holds for his smiles. His dark eyes turn to Elysa, and they seem amused before he goes on. “Just idle musing, of course, Lady Catrina. You know me. But those fools at the inn, growing fat on food the Prince gives them, I’ve thought on occasion that if they did something foolish—a sally, say—that things might change.”
He glances to the Tower of the Sun again, and wonders, “But what would they sally out for? It’d have to be something important. Or someone. Alas, that Oakenfist isn’t free to wander our alleyways, bedding our whores and imprisoning our rebels; they’d sally out for him, I imagine.”
The way the talk has turned is not unexpected, given the participants. Even so, Elysa finds herself silenced for a time, perhaps as she considers what she can contribute to the discussion—and whether she ought to at all. She opts, in the end, for another attempt at reason, asking, “Even if you disagree with Prince Marence’s decisions,” or lack of such, but she doesn’t say that, “do you truly imagine that a better course of action will result from him being left with no options?”
“But Meros Tyrell could be,” Caitrin says, smiling guilelessly at the Prince. Then she looks at Elysa. “Should we just sit here and wait for Daeron Targaryen to sail into Planky Town and march his men on Sunspear? Because he will. He’ll not tolerate his pet Tyrell being murdered, especially not how he was.” She smiles at this, and touches her lips with her fingertips as if to suppress a laugh.
“Dornishwomen. The downfall of many a man,” Rhodry says at Caitrin’s gesture. “I doubt we’ll get Tyrell sallying out for whores, however.” Then he stares at the assistant Keeper, for a long moment, before looking to the Tower of the Sun again. “Oakenfist and his men are still quartered in the tower, yes? They were when I left this morning, at least. But given it’s my brother, he may have become indecisive and moved them.”
“Then what -will- he sally forth for?” Caitrin rises as she asks, brushing Rhodry’s arm as she passes. “That may be something to consider. One way or another, we must have a decision.” She looks back and curtsies, then takes her leave without another word.
One of those men being the now late husband of Elysa’s own sister, but raising that point does not seem to be foremost on the lady’s mind. Still, she doesn’t flinch under the prince’s stare, and her response is given steadily, if not firmly. “Yes, they are.” A glance then goes to Lady Caitrin, but as she begins to speak the other woman rises suddenly, taking her leave moments later. A little sigh escapes her. “A decision. Many just want that, it seems. What of the right decision? Or at the very least, the best or the least bad decision?”
Rhodry’s gaze follows Caitrin as she brushes past and departs. “Do you wonder at it?” Rhodry asks, tone dismissive. “The gods are pissing themselves, laughing at us. Better to leap into seven hells than continue the farce.” A long look at the fair-haired Dayne, and then he adds with a smirk, “Keep taking his part, though. Maybe he’ll get around to bedding you. Maybe he’ll remember he’s a man; he seems to have forgotten it.”
That does the trick, at least as far as unsettling Elysa goes. A touch of colour on her cheeks brings out the light dusting of freckles across her skin more than usual, and her response is quicker than it probably ought to have been. “Whereas you do not seem to forget for a moment that you are a hotheaded fool, Prince Rhodry.” A look of frustration crosses her face. “Do you really think that I, or your brother for that matter, do not want these invaders gone from Dorne? If so, you are even more of a fool than I thought. I may have been away from home for years, but I am no less Dornish even so.” She stops for a moment, takes a breath steady herself, and a little more quietly she adds, “I do not have a death wish, though. And I would rather not see us without choice and dragged into a hopeless war because you do.”
“Open your eyes, woman,” Rhodry snaps at that. “There’s already a war! Do you think Qorgyle’s paid the least attention to Marence’s demand that they do nothing? He has Uller leading a thousand men. Lady Uller has another thousand readying to move on Yronwood. Your sister is raising what forces she can to join Blackmont in the Prince’s Pass.” Disgusted, he spits on the ground again, as if there’s a foul taste in it. And then he adds, darkly, “Hopeless? It’s up to him. If he does nothing, like enough.”
“And you are not without blame for his indecision.” Calmer now, at least on the surface, Elysa rises. “A decision needs to be made, yes. But you should know your brother well enough to realize you’re only hindering it by trying to bully him. Good day.” A shallow dip of her head, and then she’s off, a little too hastily for the composure she attempted to show.