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Another day in the castle, as cool as its ever been of late, thanks to the light drizzle of rain outside. The Hand, Prince Viserys, sits at his great table, scribbling away at scrolls, turning them over to an assistant to place his seal upon them. He seems worn, tired, but his duty to the realm does not wane: it’s said he works into the night, and rises again before dawn, to see that all things should be done as is proper while the king is away.
There is a tapping on the door, followed by it being opened and a servant stepping in with the weary etiquette of announcing a visitor. “Lady Reyna for Her Grace the Princess Naerys,” the man says crisply.
Behind him, that lady is indeed waiting, in subdued court dress and mane of curls covered by the lace veil she so often wears. The servant beckons her forward and she steps over the threshold to make the Hand a curtsy. “Your Grace.”
A last scratch of quill pen on parchment, and Viserys pushes the latest bill across the table to the servant to fix the royal seal on it, before pushing himself back from the table to lean against the high back of his carved chair. At the lady’s arrival, the prince half-bows from his seat, and gestures to a chair. “Thank you, Lady Reyna. Please, sit,” he says to her, and a servant moves to hold the chair for her. “You are well?”
Reyna comes forward and sits as bidden. “Very well, your grace,” she says, smiling politely and holding out a sheaf of parchment. “The household tallies, as you requested. “The stores are there on latter pages, and the first are for my lady’s own household and Prince Baelor’s.”
She glances at the window then and smiles ruefully. “We thought it best she remain indoors when the weather is so unpleasant,” she adds, to explain her presence in her lady’s place.
A servant takes the sheaf, and at a sign from Viserys hands it to the Hand. The prince’s purple eyes turn down, fingers thumbing through the pages idly as he looks over the tallies. “Yes, excellent,” he remarks absently, eyes scanning along, lips still despite his reading. The bushy, silver-gold brows are strangely animated, burrowing down in thought, or rising up in some note of surprise… And then, remembering his guest, he offers a thin smile before putting the parchments aside. “I am glad my daughter is thinking to her health,” he says then, after a minute pause. “And that she has her ladies to help her do that. And to do other things, of course.” His glance turns to the papers, and back, making his meaning plain.
Then, shifting in his seat—the wood creaks—he asks, “A refreshment, my lady?”
“No thank you, your grace,” Reyna demures, waving a dismissive hand. “My own women will be waiting to ply me with mulled wine as soon as ever I set foot in the Holdfast again.” She purses her lips for a moment, eyes on the papers, then nods slowly. “It is a pleasure to care for her. We do all love her, you know.”
“She is worth loving,” Prince Viserys offers, after a moment’s hesitation. Almost a shy hesitation, in fact, but in such an august, grave man it’s not easy to think that particular word. Another moment, and he says to the servant, “My usual hippocras, then.” While the servant departs to a sideboard to take up a decanter, the Hand says to Reyna, “We have had news from the Boneway. The king has driven back the Dornish from earthworks they made across the pass, and continues the march. Some loss of men, of course, as the gods usually will. But less than the Dornish hoped, says his grace.”
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“His grace could hardly fail with his own experiences to draw from, and such commanders as he is blessed with,” Reyna says, a trifle pale at mention of the war. Though she smiles at the man’s admission of love for his daughter, she does not remark on it. “My lady wishes me to inquire if the king is well, and her brother the Prince,” she says then, carefully choosing each word.
Viserys takes the goblet the servant brings to him, and takes a swallow. “Yes. The king is favored by the Warrior, as the septons say,” the prince remarks—is there a hint of dryness to his words?—before taking another sip. “The king is well, and Aemon with him, from what he sent. No great captains lost or even injured. He does not mention Ser Dagur, so he must be well.” His brows lower in thought, his lips thin, and then he remarks, “The Stormbreaker played a role in this victory, apparently. I believe his grace has sent to Storm’s End, to let Lord Corwen know, as well.”
“Ser Sarmion has ever been a doughty warrior,” is Reyna’s diplomatic response to that. “As for my lord husband, I always assume that no news is good news. Otherwise I would sleep little of a night.”
She is quiet a moment, then leans forward just a little. “My lord,” she begins, then clears her throat. “My lord, my lady is petitioned daily by those who would have an audience with you. I do redirect them, but they do bother her rest sometimes. To whom -should- I send them, with Ser William in Dorne?”
A slow sip of wine, as Viserys listens, and a hand lifts to rest on an arm of his chair. The fingers begin to drum, perhaps in time to the prince’s thoughts. “I am pleased you ask,” he says, setting aside the goblet. “I know my daughter would have no objections, and I certainly would have none, if you played more of a role in these matters.” No beating about the bush with him; no, he comes straight to the point. “You have done well in helping her maintain her household. She has told me how much she has come to depend on you, and no wonder—a daughter of House Tyrell is well-suited to such business.”
Then, after a moment, Viserys asks, “Unless… you would rather not take such a role? It may be more attention than you might desire, and I know you have your own children to see to.”
A long silence follows, Reyna’s cheeks a bit red as she considers. “My children I can see whenever I like, as they are here in the Holdfast by me,” she says finally, dismissing this as a concern. “But a woman, my lord? Would not the court look askance?”
She smiles then, and hastens to add, lest he think her ungrateful: “Not that I object to serving in such a capacity, your grace. At least until my husband returns to lay his claim to my time and Ser William is back.” She sits back and regards the Hand with grave eyes.
“My mother would have been Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, had my uncle not fed her to a dragon,” remarks Viserys, voice flat. “What’s a lady serving as steward, against that?” He shrugs his shoulders, the heavy chain of office clinking against his chest as he does so, and takes up the cup again. “Naerys has already played the part in all but name. I doubt Waxley will begrudge you it, when he’s away minding the king’s household on the campaign.” Another swallow, and then Viserys remembers to remark, “No mention of your brother, either, in the king’s dispatch. These Crakehall cousins, Ser Dalton Florent, Ser Andry Chester ... and Ser Sarmion, those were the names the king mentioned.” He seems to consider saying something more, and than instead takes another sip of the hippocras.
“Then they have done nothing notable,” Reyna says, cheeks reddening a little more as she folds her hands in her lap. “But there is as much honor in serving steadily as there is in seeking deeds of glory. Ardon and Dagur are, I have no doubt, serving as well as his grace could wish them to.” An even enough voice, but is that a defensive note?
She gives the Hand no time to ponder that, however. “Steward… perhaps I should not aspire to such a title, my lord. There is no Master of Keys, either, and he would work very closely with the Steward. Perhaps a Mistress of Keys instead. It would be less objectionable, I think, as no Tyrell has ever aspired to be Queen, or King either.” She smiles so that her words have no edge. “And I am a Saltcliffe, after all.”
“Ser Dagur covered himself in glory, at the landing, to be sure,” offers Prince Viserys, offering a brief smile. “There are more battles to come, of course, and the king depends on such knights as your husband and your brother.” After a last sip of hippocras, he sets the cup down, and then pushes it aside with his fingers. The servant effeciently moves to take it away. The Hand watches the young man come and go, thinking some thought or other—perhaps considering the suggestion. “Mistress of Keys ... mayhaps, yes. While Ser William is gone. You may be the chief administrator of Naerys’s household, in that way, and serve as the Red Keep’s steward for the time being until Ser William returns.”
A silence follows, and he glances over your head, to a tapestry on the wall beside the door as he muses aloud, “‘Mistress of Keys’... Yes, it sounds well. Somewhat like the Dornishmen with their chatelaines.”
“Not -too- Dornish, I hope,” Reyna says wryly, her smile still wry. “As for my husband, I think there is no man less likely to do anything in the interest of glory than he. Ardon, on the other hand… well. I am sure he will do something suitably glorious ere war’s end to compensate for the manner of our brother’s death.”
Then her smile turns pleased, demure and proud all at once. “I would not mind Mistress of Keys,” she admits.
“Then so it shall be. I’ll have something sent along to Buckwell, to see that appropriate funds are discharged to you, and access given to the steward’s accounts,” says Viserys, with a brisk nod. “Of course, if Naerys takes an interest, she may as well do her part… But she is a sensible woman, I expect, and will only do so much as she is able.”
“Yes, of course, my lady shall do whatever she is can, and we will all be sure she minds her health,” Reyna says, bending her head. “You may be sure I will defer to her.” She rises then, and smiles faintly. “By your grace’s leave? I must be acquainting myself with my new duties.”
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