A few more papers, another quill and a couple of leather binders barely add anything to the mess on the four massive tables in the middle of the library. Bryce Caron, in a less familiar position than walking around grumpy in a lot of chain mail and steel, is sitting carefully bent over the table with a quill in his hand. Slowly, very delicately, he’s trying to write some sort of letter, but it’s clear that his handwriting and fine control of his hands is not his strongest side, and it is taking a whole lot of time for each letter. Next to him, he has another letter, that he seems to be glancing on every now and then, copying the letters there to make them look all right, even if he isn’t copying the text content.
A dozen oil lamps glimmer softly around the edges of the Royal Library, providing light to the lords and ladies working within, for morning has broken, certainly, cloudy. A few of them sit at a table at one side of the room, conversing quietly, while a lady dressed in blue sits at the other side of the chamber, alone, reading by the light of a single candle.
Leaning her elbow against the table, Lanei rests her head against her fist and stares down at the book with an absent expression. After a moment, she shakes her head and allows her arm to slide to the table. Muttering a few words under her breath, the dornish lady closes the book and rubs her forehead wearily with her fingertips. Rising to her feet, she takes the book and approaches one of the shelves, to put the book there. Turning on her heels, getting ready to depart, her eyes survey, once again, the place and, noticing the Caron knight busy with his letters, offers him a nod, although he could miss it.
Probably. He’s right now busy writing an ‘R’, and even if he’s meticulous, it doesn’t end up very tidily looking. “Sh..” he murmurs and looks up in dismay at the failed writing. Looking straight upon Liane then, the Caron knight looks a bit startled and manages to withdraw the quill from the letter too fast, resulting in a tidy, very clean line of black ink across it. “But bloody..” he starts, sighing. “Good morning, my lady.” He also makes a bit of a ‘I give up’ gesture, biting his lower lip in a nervous fashion when he sees the Dornish woman.
Lanei cannot refrain a soft chuckle at the ser’s effort to write his letter. Indeed, he is not the first man she has seen dealing the best he can with the art—and giving up. It is not as if she were better than him well, hopefully she would?- but, still, it amuses her that men, which use to be so much skilled handling a sword or a spear, fail so miserably when they pick up a pen.
“Good morning, ser Bryce. You know, patience is a virtue, my septa used to say” the lady grins. “However, I see you are the same patient with a pen as I am when a needle is put on my fingers. Writing your family?” she queries in a soft voice, so that the rest of the Royal Library’s visitors will not be disturbed, and shrugs. “I came to read some books. I am trying to know a little of… well, of everything.”
Bryce studies her carefully for a few long moments before he nods. “Yes, my lady.. I am trying to write home to my mother, just as she implores me to. I have to spend a few hours doing this whenever I recieve another letter.” he glances at the letter he himself tried to write. “And sometimes, I have to start all over again. But, I shallt not bother you with that..” A pause and he scratches his stubble with a finger, not crudely so, but more as a thoughtful gesture. “What are you looking to learn? Today, that is?” he asks quietly
The lady rises a hand, and shakes her head slowly. “You are not bothering me, my good ser, not at all. I wish I could send my mother a letter. More, even: I wish she could send me news from home, to know of her and my family, and how things are going there.” Surely not very well, after such a long siege, but Lanei still keeps hopes. “You should be a good and dutiful son, and to write her often. Since she has lost her husband, your lord father, she must feel lonely.”
“As for me” she shrugs again, “I am trying to know what I can of these… kingdoms, their customs, their Houses and lands… I am afraid I know not a lot and, since I have not many things to do… Reading is a good way to kill time.”
“Why..” Bryce starts, gesturing vaguely towards a chair close by. “I am educated in those things,” he explains, “You could sit down and talk for a while? it would be pleasant, perhaps..” He does his best to look happy and self confident in his offer of company, but there’s a lingering feeling of him being .. depressed? No, but certainly a bit down. “I know the kingdoms, the customs from the North to the South, and many a house as well. I have had to learn them through reading and listening to a maester for a good many hours.”
She looks at the ser and seems to ponder his offer for a while, until with a nod and a curtsy the lady accepts Bryce’s invitation, and sits down “I will, for a while at least. Even if I am not the right person to judge if my company would be pleasant or not.” Azure eyes scan quickly the parchments on the table but soon her gaze is lifted. “Do not think I had no people around eager to teach me but I was a lazy child, more interested to learn what they would not teach me that the arts they offered me. Except our maester, which was patient enough to cope with both my incessant chatter and questions. Yet, I paid no heed to the lessons referring what lied beyond our mountains, for I had enough dealing with what lied south from Skyreach to be interested to know of the Northern Kingdoms.”
There’s a rather long pause when Bryce simply considers what she said, before he nods. “I see. I was not a very good student either, I refused to learn anything and instead pursued my own interests.. But I was good with a sword even then,” He looks a bit amused at that, but it fades quickly. “So, what would you like to know? Does something here confuse you.. apart from the incessant bickering among the knights and women alike, but that can hardly be different from Dorne?” he says, looking a bit hopeful, even if it’s just on the surface.
Bryce’s last words make her lips curl up in a faint smirk. “I know naught of that bickering, my good ser, unless you meant how poor they speak about us, the dornishmen. But I must think that, indeed, it is the same around every Court, when lords and ladies eye each other with suspicion and spread their gossips, waiting for the Prince to grant them an audience and to earn his favour.” Shrugging for the third time, Lanei explains, “For now, I am interested to learn of your Houses, which is not an easy task since there are so many. Where do the main seats lie, their arms and colors… This is enough to keep me busy for a few weeks. Also, I am interested to learn a little of geography and resources, so that I would place them correctly. But I am not following any special order.”
Hands clasped quietly on her lap, they leave the place to join the table. Taking one of the pens, Lanei dips it on the inkwell and searches for a piece of clean parchment to draw a neat ֑R’. Well, neat on her eyes, that is, for it is far from looking perfect. “Do you see? It is not hard.”
“Easy for you to say, the finest detail-work I have done in my life, apart from these letters, is gripping a sword with my entire hand, or keeping it clenched around the straps of a shield..” Bryce lifts one of his strong arms and shows just that, the hands that are rough and worn from countless hours of delivering blows. “Do these look like writing hands?” he holds the other one up as well, shaking his head. “But perhaps you will have more luck than my mother to teach me. At least here I am motivated..” he leans over the table again, and tries to repeat her feat on one of the ruined letters. R… a few clumsy lines arranged into something akin to it at least.
“Take a deep breath… and take your time too, Ser Bryce. Even hands used to grip a sword should be capable to grip a pen… were not because pen should not be treated as the hilt of a sword, but kinder. Shall we say, as if you were taking the hand of a lady which favor you wish to win.” A faint smirk here. “You wouldn’t like, surely, to have the lady complaining to you, would you? Well, it is the same here. Pens will complain if you do not treat them correctly.”
As the knight manages to draw a new R’, Lanei nods. “See, much better now. It would have taken me more time to learn how to grasp the pommel of a sword. But, in both cases, it is a matter of practice. Now, you should repeat it.”
“I have repeated this a .. thousand, times. It becomes better, briefly, but after a while my hand starts to shake from the concentration required.” He carefully, oh so carefully prints a R on the paper. “There,” he says, a bit proudly, but it’s clear that his arm and hand is very tense from the concentration requires and his eyes are narrowed, looking at the point of the quill. “A lady’s hand is, even if she is a tiny one, much easier to see and grasp than a thing like this,” he says quietly, not really frustrated, but a careful mention.
“Much better!”. These words are spoken a little aloud, for a moment those around them forgotten, and soon a ёShhh!’ is heard coming from the table next to them. At this, Lanei’s cheeks are bathed in rose, and offering the complaining ser a nod in apology, she turns to Bryce and tilts her head, again lowering her voice. “Ay. This is not the best place to have a talk… or a calligraphy lesson, especially since I forget, so easily, that we are not alone.” She sniffs. “Now they will say that we, the hostages, have no manners.”
“But the hand of a lady was not made to be grasped, Ser Bryce, but lovingly caressed. As a pen. See, you did better now. I think you would make a good pupil.” She pauses, and leans forward a little. “Now, in retribution, I would demand of you to tell me of your house. It is… Nightsong, yes?”.
“Caron,” Bryce quickly speaks, in silence, but before he proceeds, he offers: “Shall we move elsewhere, my lady? I have not talked to you since the ship, and oddly enough, the Dornish ladies seem to tolerate me.” He smiles at her, but behind his surface, in his eyes, there’s a sign of bitterness there. “I would be happy to once again have a teacher in .. writing, and I can talk to you about House Caron. My retainers would be glad to receive you on our floor?” He hurries to add: “It would be an invitation to my family, of course, even if I am the representant of us here.. not a private invitation. But.. you understood that, I’m sorry.” He looks about to blush, messing up words and meanings. “And don’t worry, I have Dornish family, it would not be controversial.”
“Aye” Skyreach’s heiress nods in agreement, and rises to her feet. “Let us move to the Hallway next to this Hall. It is also a quiet place, and no one would scold us there. Even if that ser did with a cause.” The dornish lady nods once. “Caron, of course. I meant your family’s seat, which is Nightsong, but I might be wrong. So many houses around the Stormlands… Do not think I had forgotten your name.” Lanei wanders among the tables until she arrives to the Library’s doors.
She halts by the doorway, waiting for Bryce to arrive to her side, before to continue, “To tolerate you? Well, perhaps it is only that you do not look forward to start insulting us, my good ser, as so many others. But… did you say that you have dornish family?”.
“The Hallway?” Bryce asks, looking a bit surprised. “You do not wish to join House Caron in our floors, in the Kitchen Keep?” He seems a bit confused, not understanding if it was a refusal to his offer, or just a miss of some kind. “I understand, my lady,” he says, apparently deciding that that was the case. He rises up and offers his arm to escort her, if she should so wish, but doesn’t reply to the other matters just yet, a bit distracted by the confusion around the invitation. “The hallway will be perfectly suitable as well.”
Lanei shakes her head. “I wished not those around the Library listening to my reply, my good ser. To visit your family’s apartments would be, certainly, an enjoyable way to spend the morning. Yet… I do not wish people to start gossiping about. Aye” she nods, “I visited with the Dondarrions, but Lady Carmella was there. Yet, we would be alone.” The lady drops her eyes to the floor. “You will understand, I do hope, that I do not wish to give them more reasons to… spread ill-words against us, the hostages.”
The hallway looks, indeed, quiet as expected. Lanei notices that the Knight did not reply his last question, and yet, she sudden exclaims, “Ah, but of course! Silly me. I had forgotten, completely, that Lord Manwoody took as wife a foreign lady. She is your aunt, I do suppose? Then, you have two cousins around the Red Keep. Have you met, already, Ser Aryard and Lady Ivella?.”
“Oh,” Bryce replies, then nods. “Of course, I understand.. I thought a Maester.. and the others..” He seems ashamed now. “I did not mean to invite you like that, my lady, I had no intention.” He looks away, looking like he just wants to forget that any of this just happened. “Yes, my aunt is married to Lord Manwoody,” he finally manages to admit, but he looks doubtful at the other remark: “Ser Aryard is here, yes, but I have not had the chance to meet him but for a short encounter at the sparring. He is of my age, had things been different we would have met often, I am sure..” He still seems embarrassed over his social blunder.
The lady’s voice rises now. “Oh, no, my lord! I thought no ill! I know you would not… But I have no septa, she was forced to stay in Sunspear… and… well, you know…” For the time being, Lanei had forgotten, entirely, the silent Goldcloak escorting her permanently. Now, recalling him, she looks over her shoulders just to find out that, certainly, the guard is there. She sighs, “Nor I want to bring him to your quarters, my lord.” Leaning forwards, she whispers, only for Bryce’s ears, “I do not trust this man a lot. He looks to be really interested to know what I do or not. Others are, so to speak, nicer and sympathetic.”
“Indeed” Lanei says, changing the topic, “If only things had been different, you might have developed some friendship with your Manwoody’s cousins. Still, you are on time. Life is not easy for us, the hostages and, who knows, they might welcome to have some company as well. But I cannot speak for them, you should find it out. Did you ever visit with your dornish family… before the war?.”
“Don’t worry,” the Caron knight says, indicating the Gold Cloak with a gaze, before he continues to reply to her question: “I met with my aunt, I did, before the war. In fact I even met her during the war..” Bryce admits, but then falls silent and looks at her like he just said something that was not supposed to be said. Quickly, he goes on: “And I met my cousins at a few times, a long stretch of time between each occasion, but I did. So you see, I know more about Dorne than many of the others here, and not only from the war.” He offers a small smile at her.
“I wish those dornish marriages had served us. I always thought that they were arranged as a way to fix things with the Stormlands, but in the end… they showed to be for nothing, but to mess up families on both sides.” She manages a deep sigh. “I visited Kingsgrave but once, and I was but a child of nine or ten, I cannot recall. Still, I do remember the place, impressive as it was. No wonder that Lord Mors has not yielded, still, to…” the lady’s words are left unfinished, and she bites her low lip. “Well, you know.”
“Hopefully things will change in the future… once feuds are healed, and our children and grandchildren will be capable to visit their families without seeking for the others’ throat. Meanwhile, all we can do is… to wait, and to pray to the Seven for it. Are you planning to head back home soon?”.
Bryce frowns at that. He spends quite a few long moments thinking, before explaining: “I do not think I can. My grandfather holds Nightsong now, but my mother wants me to have established all the necessary contacts to rule House Caron here at King’s Landing. All the important Stormland heirs are here, and so I must be as well.” He nods sagely. “I barely expect to return before my grandfathers burial, to be honest, my lady. And then with a marriage contract in my hands, or long since married.” Pausing to look at her for a long moment, he finally replies to her earlier statement: “And yes, I know. It is.. as it is.”
Lanei rises both her eyebrows, mildly surprised at the Caron’s words. “To tie bonds with the rest of heirs would surely prove to be an useful work, my lord. But I would expect of your lord grandfather and your lady mother to arrange a good marriage for you. They must really trust you, if they placed such a delicate task on your hands.” Then, smiling, she adds, “Well, I am sure the Red Keep is filled with good ladies, which surely would welcome to become Nightsong’s future Lady.”
The lady falls silent then and, when she resumes her words, she does slowly. “There are a good number of dornish heir and heiress also. Perhaps our staying would not be useless, if we could tie some bonds too. However, only time will tell.”
Bryce shakes his head at that. “Not in my hands, my lady. My grand father will arrange it, unless I can find an arrangement that is better than a political marriage in the Stormlands. But I strongly doubt I can.. I have not done a good job here.” He looks bitter at that, but swallows his pride and chews on his lower lip. “Is it a sad state when I spend a lot more time talking to the Dornish ladies than any of my kin. Lady Liane thought to improve that by giving me a lesson, but I do not know if it will be successful. They do not appreciate my ways.. Maybe I am more Dornish than it seemed at first.” He glances at her, realizing he has been rambling even after she said something that sounded important. “What did you say?” he offers politely, a slight blush creeping up over his fair-skinned features, the kind that so easily reddens even when not blushing properly.
To this, Lanei nods once more. “Then I misunderstood you, my good ser. Aye, parents, or grandparents, use to arrange marriages, and I would like to think they do well enough. Well” she grins, “I, at least, had no reason to complain about, when I was told that I would wed my cousin. But they knew we got along since childhood and he was, certainly, the best man I could think to have a husband.” With a couple of exceptions, but they were beyond her reach, she deemed then.
“I said nothing of vital importance, worry not, my lord” Lanei says. “Only that, since there are so many dornish heir and heiress around the Red Keep, we should do the same and to try tying some bonds as well. But… may I ask what did Lady Liane teach you? For, I am afraid, I failed to understand what you said.”
Bryce frowns a little at that. “She tried to tell me how I should behave, to demand more respect from my peers. And explained why none of the young ladies even look my way, even if I knew that already. I have settled with the knowledge that I will have my marriage sooner or later.” He doesn’t seem very happy to tell about it, and watches her reactions closely, to see what she thinks. “Liane said she found me interesting, since I behaved differently towards her, and that is why she wanted to help me.” he adds with a little quiet mutter, his blue eyes still intently focused on the Dornish woman.
“I would like to think that lords and ladies are the same, north or south from the Dornish Mountains, Ser Bryce” Lanei starts saying, weighing carefully her words. “You might find good people, as well as… not so good people, so to speak, in every region. So, if some of my own people shows you friendship, I am sure you showed them the same, as you did to me. Then, you should not wonder about. We are not fearful beasts good only to be chased down or insulted, as a rule.”
Biting her low lip, she continues, “Unlike me, Lady Liane has had bad meetings with your people. I am happy to know that, eventually, she got a friend around. Well” Lanei grins, “I did have a few too, but I am trying to dodge meeting those which would ruin my mood.”
“It makes me happy to hear that you are well recieved, then,” Bryce comments, but it’s clear that his thoughts are elsewhere, far away. “And you are indeed not fearful beasts, my lady, I know that very well. In fact, I have even begun to appreciate your kind of beauty, something I could not while at war. Not with what happened there..” He winces and looks away. “My friendship is not easily given, but I hold it as a proper thing to do to be nice to every one, treat them fairly and courteously.. and if they treat me like you have, and like lady Liane, then I remember it. Even as I rise to Lordship of Nightsong, I do not forget friends.”
“Then we are alike, my good ser. I like to show my friendship to those which showed it to me, or to me people. Those that do not, well” Lanei shrugs, “They only earn my disdain, of to be ignored and removed from my thoughts. It is useless to do another. Still, I do like to give people a second chance, just in case.”
Now, the lady takes a deep breath. “But I cannot remove from my heard my duty, so I will return to our Tower, even if to check that my princess is doing well and needs nothing.” Lanei curtsies. “It has been a pleasure to have this talk with you, Ser Bryce, and I do hope to repeat it again. Meanwhile, know that you are welcome to visit with the Fowler, if you wish, despite I realize that we the hostages are not the best of the companies. Court gossipers, you know. Still, if you get the fancy, you will be welcome to do so.”
“I don’t care, according to the gossips, I have a dozen paramours despite all treating me like I did not exist. They enjoy mocking me, but I shall not give them the pleasure of seeing me avoid the only persons who are kind to me because of it,” he states stubbornly, nodding respectfully to her. “With your blessing, I shall gladly come visit you. We shall both do our duties, but I hope to free up time soon enough.” He slowly rises from wherever they sat down, if they did, and offers her a deep bow and a real smile, for once.
“Do you know, ser? In this, as in on other matters, we do certainly think alike, again. Have a good day, my lord.” A new curtsy is offered before the dornish lady heads down the stairs and vanishes from sight.