There have been scandals, both lesser and greater, that have wormed their way into the gossip of the court, from a lady assaulted by common hands to a disgraced knight riding in a wedding tourney to a coterie of young lords and ladies becoming ensnarled in whispers of a lewd, foreign book and its scandalous drawings that would make a septon’s hair rise on end. That last scandal led to the dismissal of one woman from the court, its said, to lead a life of penitence in some distant motherhouse. Yet otherwise, despite these troubles, these problems with the morality of the Kingslanders and the courtiers alike, King Baelor has seemed largely untroubled amidst his prayers and his occasional meetings with the small council (meetings that take place more and more often when Baelor is not meeting with members of the Most Devout, or his High Holiness himself).
So it came to pass that on this day, while the king was in the second hour of his afternoon prayers at the royal sept, the king found himself interrupted. It was a lady of the court, a respectable widow who had lost her husband in the Dornish conquest and had since found a place helping to oversee the household (such as it was) of Baelor’s sisters, the princesses in the old keep which some have taken to naming the Maidenhall, and others the Maidenvault. Though the princesses were secluded there at the king’s behest, in his desire to protect the purity of their souls and deny the lusts of men who might look on their beauty (“Even his own,” a court wag was known to remark, until the Hand had him sent away on a long and lonely mission to Castle Black after he repeated the jest in his hearing), their attendants—those who were wed or widowed, at least—were not similarly constrained. And so this lady came, passing the knights of the Kingsguard, to bring to the king a message and… something that she carried wrapped in a cloth, which she said that the king must see. When the knights of the Kingsguard allowed her to approach the king, after consulting with him, the lady laid it out quite plainly:
The king’s youngest sister, Elaena—a maid of three-and-ten years—begged her dearest lord and brother to let her out of her confinement. The lady reported that Elaena had wept as she asked it, but it was not so much for the asking that she wept. No, it was the gift Elaena made that made her weep, though some might call it an offering instead. The small cloth bundle was unwrapped, to reveal within a thick, lustrous braid of platinum white hair, with a long bright streak of gold winding through it. There were many who had said of Elaena that though she had neither the striking beauty of her eldest sister Daena (Baelor’s former bride and queen, until the High Septon undid the marriage) nor looked like to grow to the voloptuousness of her next eldest sister Rhaena, her pale hair was her crowning glory. And now it was cut, sheared away at the end by what seemed to have to be a knife. Baelor, struck silent by the act, asked what Elaena’s message was as he stared at the braid. According to the lady, Elaena had cut her hair in the early morning, before her maids were awake, and informed them that she wished the braid to be sent to him with this message: if he feared that her beauty might tempt men to sin, then she would no longer be beautiful, and would do whatever the king required to prove it if only he would at last allow her out of confinement.
Prince Aemong, attending on the king, looked moved almost to tears by little Elaena’s offering… and the king actually _was_ moved to tears, at the thought of his sister’s sacrifice. He let the lady who had brought the braid know that Elaena would stay. “Her mortal soul is still beautiful, and innocent,” the king said, “and that is enough to draw impure men like moths to a flame.” The lady looked crestfallen, and to that the king added that he would see the braid placed in the royal treasury, to be housed there with the greatest treasures of the Targaryens: the crowns of past kings, the sword Blackfyre, the dragon eggs inherited from the days when the dragons still lived and bred. He counseled the lady to tell his sister that she must pray to the Maiden, to thank her for preserving her innocence, and that he would make time to join her in her prayers in a little while.
And so was the princess uncrowned, and the king moved to tears, but not to a change of heart.