Joleta Gargalen meets her guest in her solar, a comfortable and elegant room reflecting the prominence of her House. She is seated on a lovely chair, carved from a single piece of ebony wood. Not quite a throne, it is the obvious seat for the ranking member of the family present in the manse. At her feet are a pair of her lean hunting hounds, resting easily on cushions on the floor. Servants show the heir to the Boneway to the solar with proper courtesy.
And the heir returns the courtesies, thanking the servants. He is dressed in the silks and samites common to Dornish Lords, is Coran Wyl; his slippered feet gently scuff against the floor as he moves with easy confidence. And when he is presented to Joleta, he bows graciously, sweeping his arm before him, and smiles easily. “My lady of Gargalen,” he says softly, with an easy smile. His voice carries, though he is some distance from the ebony chair when he speaks.
Joleta rises smoothly to her feet as Coran is shown in. She sweeps a graceful curtsy in response to the bow, showing proper respect to a peer. “My lord of Wyl,” She drawls, lips curving in an answering smile. “Be welcome in my hall, as it were.” Black eyes glint with a bit of amusement. “May I offer you wine, or sweet lemonwater as you prefer?” The two hounds take note of the arrival, but do not appear overly concerned. One yawns, stretches, then settles back down. The other simply watches, head upon her paws. Both animals wear collars of tooled leather, studded with gemstones.
Coran’s eyes flick quickly to the hounds as the one stretches, but they are back upon his hostess momentarily—and the smile never wavers. “Wine, if you please,” he says. “It has been some time, my lady. I hope that I am not intruding, but I came to offer my congratulations.”
Joleta pours the wine herself, rather than summon a servant for the task. It seems she has kept the room empty of listening ears, canine ears not withstanding. “Ah, so you’ve heard of my emancipation from my marriage?” She half-smiles, offering her guest the first cup before she pours another for herself. “Thank you, my lord. Reparations for such an indignity will be long in coming, but this is a good start.”
“I have, my lady,” Coran replies as he takes the cup. He sips. “A nasty business, that. I remember that you feared how it would end, and it pleases me that our prince has remembered his friends at such a time.” The heir to the Boneway takes another sip of wine. “And what of your son, lady? There is some—uncertainty—there, is there not?”
“May I sit?”
Joleta takes a sip of the wine, “Ah, of course, please sit.” She gestures gracefully with her free hand to one of the open seats in the room before resuming her own. Both hounds watch her sit, tails thumping softly as she does. “Devin is a fine young lad. Unruly, naturally, now that he is nearly two.” The gleam of maternal pride indicates that she isn’t unappreciative of a bit of unruliness in her boy. “But indeed, some uncertainty remains. It is a unique situation, but I would not see my son pay for the actions of his sire.”
“Thank you, my lady.” Coran sits gracefully, sitting back in the chair; settling into it comfortably. “For my part, I would wish for your son to be free from such injustice. I would see the situation remedied, if I could—and perhaps I would help you, if such was in my power.” He studies her over the rim of his cup, tapping one finger against the arm of the chair.
“When so many others were clamoring for more war with the dragon, you favored peace. When others gainsaid our prince, you supported him. And you weren’t shy of saying so: I remember your—interrogation of me in this very room.” He smiles as he says this, sipping from his wine once again. “And while you and I did not agree on -all- things, we are of a like mind on most. Or so it would seem. You have my respect for that.”
Joleta listens carefully, inclining her head slightly as she regards her guest with an inscruitible expression. Presently, she nods slowly. “I thank you for that. And though I’ve had my reservations about the actions of your lord father, he has kept his word to the Prince. Particularly regarding this ugliness at Yronwood.” She pauses, sipping her wine. “I would agree we are more of the same opinions than not. The problem with my son, however, is an internal one. Prince Marence would see peace within the walls of Salt Shore, but if an accord might be reached, he would grant the writ.”
Coran’s smile finally fades. He places his cup upon the table and leans forward, steepling his hands in front of his face. “Ah! Family troubles,” he says softly. “I know something of these things, speaking of my lord father. But you are heir to your house, as I am heir to mine. These—troubles—have a way of being sorted out.”
Joleta sighs softly, “So they do,” she agrees. “Now, if you were to have any insight as to how to resolve mine…” She chuckles dryly, then gives her guest an impish wink.
“If only I had the power, my lady,” Coran replies, leaning at ease once again. “Perhaps you could marry. Nothing quite puts paid to bad feelings like a wedding celebration!” He laughs as he says it, sipping from the cup once more.
Joleta rolls her eyes, but it is a good-humored expression. “Ah, but I find myself rather disillusioned on the state of marriage, my lord. Still, I might be able to find it within my heart to attempt it once more, but as I am such a wounded creature, the candidate must needs be a true paragon.”
Coran laughs again—but cuts off quickly.
“Dorne is weak, my lady. The cost of opposing the dragons was high and we paid dearly for it. We must rebuild; we must strengthen ourselves. Our prince’s peace will go a long way for those ends, but we must needs do our own part. For Dorne, for Wyl, for Salt Shore, and for all the houses in between. There are few paragons in these troubled times, Lady Joleta, I am sorry to say. There are only Dornishmen.”
“Aye, and you cut to the quick, my lord.” Joleta agrees soberly, swirling the wine in her glass. “And though sharp, your words are not untrue. Dorne is a much different place and Dornishmen a much different people. We survived this occupation, but it has left deep wounds.”
“Subtlety has its place, my lady,” Coran says, the smile returning. “But we both knew what I was driving at. I came to Sunspear to strengthen my house through marriage. I have been here a year and yet that front is stalled for both myself and all my siblings. And yet it strikes me that when the heir to Salt Shore and the heir to the Boneway have a similar mind for these issues, a more -lasting- alliance may be a natural step.”
Joleta regards Coran for a long moment, considering… or perhaps calculating. With the heir to Salt Shore, one is seldom far from the other. “That is a most interesting proposal, my lord. What did you have in mind?”
“My brother, Daven, is unmarried. A reaver from an old line of reavers: he takes after my father in that. His reputation is well known, of course,” Coran says, leaning back in his chair once more. He chuckles. “A great warrior, my brother. You will find him difficult to control, if that is your wish. Edmyn or Abelard may be more to your tastes, my lady.”
The heir to the Boneway takes another sip of wine. “Three warriors of impeccable blood: though we do not advertise it, the blood of Nymeria flows as strongly through we Wyls as it does our dear prince.”
“I have met your famous brother, but only once or twice.” Joleta muses, “Though not your younger two brothers.” She sits a little more forward in her chair. “Would your gallant brothers be adverse to one or two conditions?”
Coran’s smile widens and he takes another sip of wine, draining the glass. He waves his hand dismissively. “I am less concerned with my brothers thoughts than with my lord father’s, Lady Joleta This is not a negotiation, you understand—simply reconnaissance, shall we say. I do have some little leeway in these things, as I am sure you do; as is our right. But my father is a fair man. It would depend upon the conditions, I would think. I would be pleased to relay them.”
Joleta nods, “Oh, I understand. Truly, I believe I have less say in the matter than you.” She quirks a little smile, then adds seriously, “My conditions are simple. As you have surmised, I would have Devin as my heir. I have my reasons for this and they are not entirely selfish, but my lord father and I have some disagreements on this. It would please me to have my husband’s support in this and his oath to be a true and honest stepfather to my little son.”
The heir to the Boneway simply nods. “I thought as much. Though this may not sit as well with my lord father as it does with me—doubly so for Daven. I have some little influence with the prince; perhaps I can persuade him to persuade my father of your cause.”
“The Prince is aware of my wishes, but he says it is my lord father that must be persuaded. Truly, Devin and the many and more like him, are a great part of Dorne’s rebuilding.” Joleta pauses, “Salt Shore was occupied for some time, as was your own home. My son is not the only babe with a father from Westeros. Our smallfolk look to us, the nobility, for the example. Do we cast these children into the sea, as in Starfall? Or do we make use of them instead? These children, like all the little ones born in this troubled time, are precious.”
“I am not the one who needs convincing, my lady,” says Coran. “Life is precious. We are all of us on borrowed time. I watched the walls of my home fall in a day—a -day-! I watched men I’d grown up with slaughtered before my eyes. My mother threw herself at the enemy’s feet to spare me a beating. Or worse.” Coran’s voice quiets; there is just the slightest tinge of bitterness. “All of us are precious, we survivors. Aye, but children most of all.”
Joleta listens quietly, dark eyes soften with sympathy. For a long moment, she says nothing. “I think we understand one another, my lord. If one of your brothers can be persuaded to agree, not to mention your father and my own, send him to Sunspear.”
And Coran smiles again, pushing his empty cup forward. “I will do so, Lady Joleta. Shall we drink to this—not agreement, but—understanding?”
Joleta chuckles, pouring more of the wine. “Aye, to our understanding and to the future of Dorne.” Meaning, of course, the future that is waiting in the wings to rule. She raises her glass.
Coran raises his glass in answer. “To the future.” And he drinks.