A westerly wind blows hard and gusty, making the Martell banners on the walls and towers snap, making cloaks and robes flutter. It’s a wind that has passed along the shores of the Summer Sea, a wind that has blown through Salt Shore, a wind that has wound its way through the Planky Town, a wind that has shaken the boughs of the groves in Lemonwood; but it is winter, and the scent of lemons are long lost, and instead the wind smells of the desert that lies between, and of the shadow city. It is not a pleasant wind.
Unpleasant, too, is the mood of the group that exits the Tower of the Sun now, a group of august men and women: the three Keepers of Sunspear, the Lord Shariff, the Seneschal, the captain of the guards… and two princes, Cadan and Rhodry, who seems to be the cause of the grim expressions of those who leave the tower before them, arguing as they are.
“... you think Dinias Dalt will forget his son and heir is dead, you’re as touched as our brother is,” Prince Rhodry says, rather loudly.
The wind subsides, retreats, advances again, dry and acrid.
It plucks at Cadan Martell’s ochre robes and slashes his eyes with grit. He raises a hand and presses a sandalwood-scented sleeve to nose and mouth. His eyes are narrowed above it, reddened and angry from the breeze.
Or from more than that, perhaps; voice muffled, he counters: “Our brother—”
With a defeated sigh, the wind subsides again. Dropping his hand, he finishes coolly: “—shows sharper wits than you even as he is now. No, Dinias Dalt will not forget, not soon. And you mean to solve this by giving him more cause for grievance?”
Only by happenstance does a lady of note follow the men and women of rank from their seat of power. Her conversation with the dull-eyed maid beside her stands out for its discretion—for Lady Mylene to remain quiet speaks volumes itself.
She is not their only audience, either, not now that their harsh words foul the wind further.
A palace guard clears his throat, squares himself again, and glances from the Gargalen lady to princes as they speak.
Stray nobles in the courtyard slow their steps, turn their eyes to their lords and keepers, and whisper of or wait on the next word.
The group exiting the Tower of the Sun quickly draws the attention of anyone already present in the yard; tensions have run high of late and two arguing princes is not something to be overlooked. Indeed, it does not take long until word spreads beyond the yard and other nobles make their way there. One of the first arrivals is Samara Sand; perhaps she had been waiting on her father, Ser Mavros. Or, like as not, on Prince Rhodry; the two have been seen in each other’s company with some regularity of late.
“No,” Rhodry bites. “Let the Sand Dog talk sense to his cousin. Mayhaps it will work.” A look encompasses the Keepers, but it’s plain Rhodry’s remark is for those others in the courtyard who are listening (discreetly or otherwise). “But if it does not, what then? You seem to hope he shall forget himself—yes, yes, not soon.” He waves a dismissive hand, making a face at that, and at what he clearly considers a craven policy. “But eventually. Whereas I say he’ll never forget, and will need to be kept in check until he recognizes that he has no choice but to leave the matter alone. Otherwise… what other lord or knight may decide to settle his grievances by calling his banners without our leave, to go to war for their own causes?”
There is the Sand Dog now with the other Keepers as they move further away; his name reaches him and slows his steps. For once, there is no hint of a lazy smile lurking at the corners of his mouth, no restless gleam in his eyes. He only looks at the two brothers with something that seems like weariness; when his gaze slips past them to Mylene, he turns his eyes briefly, expressively, to the skies, then turns back to the quiet conversation between the Keepers and those others who had left the tower with the princes.
Cadan is less mild.
The neat lines of his beard emphasise the sharpness of his jaw, the jut of his chin. He begins to say something, and it seems likely to be cutting. But there is something—some look on his brother’s face, something in the manner he speaks perhaps—that seems to give him just a moment’s pause. His gaze flickers as if he would look around at the crowd they are drawing, but does not. Instead, he replies—sharp but even as a reasonable man would: “Bold words, brother mine. They sound well. And how will you keep him in check? March spears on Lemonwood? You imagine that will calm the other lords? Lemonwood is no Yronwood, Dinias is no Linnet and every argument is not settled at a blade’s edge!”
First among the watchers, these dubious ladies—the Gargalen, the halfbreed—and so drawn one to the other, Mylene to Samara, as the gathering around them all collectively leans for the next lashing word.
And more than one jump back at the crack of Cadan’s voice.
For her part, Mylene puts a hand to the muzzle of ermine at her shoulder as if the dead thing might need soothing for such a fright.
A hint of delight ghosts her lips, and there is a certain light in her gaze when she turns a knowing look of unspoken meaning to the Uller’s bastard daughter.
There’s no surprise on Samara’s face when confronted with the present quarrel between the princes; she would likely have been well aware of it brewing for some time now. But there is, for a moment, a troubled frown on her brow and her tilted eyes look past Cadan and Rhodry to seek out Ser Mavros, perhaps to see what his expression might give away. Little enough, most probably, and her gaze strays again, now coming to meet that of Mylene Gargalen.
Rhodry has never been one to shy away from bloodshed and violence, unlike Cadan, and he admits with a cold smile, “Would that they were—life would be a great deal less ambiguous.” But he avoids looking wistful, and he does not linger on it. Instead he looks to the Keepers, and then back to Cadan. “Gathering spears, even marching them, does not mean there’ll be a battle at the end of it,” he offers. “If a man shouts a threat, you might show him a fist to silence him—or an army. A reminder of consequences, no more.”
That sounds ... almost reasonably. But Rhodry does not linger on silence long before he adds an easy, airy aside, “But I’m glad to know you’ll not bend over and spread your cheeks for Linnet Yronwood, Cadan—she’d use you less gently than you used your lady wife, I expect.”
The elder has arched his brows, begun to reply, when the younger slides that blade home. There is a faint jerk of his head back as if he has been struck; only those very close to him would see it. To those further away, he would seem unmoved.
His face stills. And then he smiles and there is no one who would mistake it for brotherly; that or the glint in his eyes: “Come now, Rhodry. You should know better than most that when armies are gathered, when armies march, war is but one rash word away. And good men die badly in war.”
“Would you have more Corentyn Yronwoods?”
“There are subtler ways to keep the peace. If it were your choice, we would turn on each other while the northerners watched and snatched scraps from the table.”
Whatever the lady might say to the flame-haired woman at her side, the first word is lost in a crowded mix of mutters, gasps, and stray words of support for either prince of questionable support.
Mylene turns a sharp eye on the nearest, though for what, in exact, is lost to the casual glance—and what little matter it makes, for Rhodry’s last spins her again.
And she looks to the middlemost prince, first, not his youngest and meanest of brothers. “Your lover should have a care if he means to keep using his tongue,” murmurs Mylene, at last, with no concern for quiet when all else grows louder, steadily, around them. She does not look to Samara as she speaks, and if her words are meant as warning, they come with a widening smile and nothing of force behind them.
“Caution thinned by degrees between those three, and Marence with the lion’s share—and if Rhodry has little, Cadan has not much more.”
As if it proves her point, the guard by the way shifts uneasily as he checks the movements of the people and the princes giving them the lead.
Even those who know Rhodry well are not immune to being shocked by his words, though in Samara’s case it is brief and followed by a suspicious cough and her hand being brought up to cover her mouth for a moment. Then Cadan responds in kind—well, of a fashion, anyway—and that gives her pause, her stance stiffening a touch. That tension lingers as she turns to Mylene, saying, “You have spent too little time in Dorne if you think that there is anything that might deter Rhodry when he is in a mood.” Which of course is most all the time, but she does not bother adding that.
A blow for a blow—it’s fair enough, one supposes, though Rhodry’s expression grows more sour. But he leaves the matter of Cadan’s wife, and his late paramour, lie. “If it were my choice, we’d remind one and all that Sunspear has teeth still, and will to use them at need. They will walk more cautiously then, and that will avert war better than hollow talk of subtle ways. Was the Young Dragon dispatched with talk?”
He considers the Keepers once again, then, but they seem to have decided among themselves to take no sides, nor to try and get in the way of the feuding brothers (doubtless they made efforts earlier, in their closed meeting, to no good result.) He goads them, however, saying, “And is this what the Keepers can do without a prince to command them? Hold their tongues, and hope the Seven will heal my brother of his madness?”
“Do you think Dinias Dalt an enemy like the Young Dragon to be dispatched as he was, then?”
Cadan’s question is all the more pointed for being so casually put.
“If they are kind, they will do so swiftly.” It is Margaid Blackmont who replies, and bluntly, too long a fixture at court and with silver in her hair to show for it, to shrink even from a prince such as Rhodry Martell: “For his brothers seem scarce able to agree on whether the sky is blue. No, prince. Best we hold our tongues if that is what we must do to hold Sunspear in trust for your brother.”
It gives her a chance to laugh low, Lady Mylene of Samara’s response, and with a companionship closer in kind to that of brothers-in-arms does she touch shoulders with the foreigner and murmur. “Every man has his trick—”
There are those with greater concerns as they listen, and Rhodry’s claim sets forth questions like arrows sprung into the air. Rumors, best guesses, reliable sources, official word—these have kept the court at bay for now.
But to have it from a doubting brother’s mouth… Cadan and a Keeper have enough time to have their say as the people collect themselves as if one, and then at once:
“Is it true, my lords, does the Prince near death?!”
“Send for his son, where is the heir!”
“What madness grips him, does it spread as they say—?!”
The turmoil that follows the discussion—well, the argument—does not encourage its continuing, and Rhodry’s thin lips twist into a scowl. The questions, the concern, the fear wash over him, and then he declares, “And now you see why a regent is needed, and urgently, even though some might stand in the way of it.” And by that he means Cadan, clearly enough, though just as clearly Cadan is not so much standing in the way of a regency, as standing in the way of Rhodry as regent.
But then, the reverse is the same, as well. If even the sky’s hue is in doubt between them, no wonder that they snarl and gnash their teeth at the question of a regency.
The Keepers hear Rhodry, and know his thoughts on the matter. They likely know Cadan’s, as well. It’s doubtless why they look even grimmer and more sour than they did before… but with the mood of the anxious crowd, it’s for Ser Mavros to say aloud, “My lords, this is not a matter for the courtyard. Let it lie.” And then to his fellow Keepers and courtiers, “Come, we’ve tasks before us, as we have decided.” He is among the first to depart, not giving either prince much opportunity to make a further argument.
What else might have passed between Mylene and Samara is left for another time as the quarrel escalates further, in the end necessitating the intervention of Ser Mavros. But enough have already been said by then to have left that frown deeply etched onto Samara’s face. “Well, it was bound to happen, sooner or later,” she remarks, perhaps to Mylene, perhaps to no one in particular.
Cadan, unlike his brother, holds his peace—for a little while. And thin-lipped or no, he is gracious about it, inclining his head to Mavros—not so much agreeing as seeming to grant princely approval. And he himself lingers only long enough after their departure to say caustically to his brother, “What next. Will you caper like a mummer to draw a crowd and beg its approval?”
He does not wait for an answer—or, if his brother should give one swiftly, to reply in turn—moving away instead. His glance sweeps over the yard, taking in all those who have gathered; a frown etches his brow when it chances upon Samara and turns deeper when he sees Mylene. For a moment, it seems he might speak.
But then, without a word, he sweeps past, paying no attention to the many gazes that follow him and the speculation that springs up in his wake.
And so the guard follows suit as a small number of his brethren come to the calls of urgency, to calm the crowd if nothing else. To the nearest he snaps, regardless of their ranks or stature, “These are your princes, not a mummer’s farce to gawp and play along—disperse, and cease crowding the way—”
They move begrudgingly, the sharper in their wits only starting a circle of the prince’s, waiting for those last scraps.
The Keepers leave and the lady of Gargalen makes to advance, and then the guard’s hand stops on her arm.
“/Mother/,” Merrick whispers, not half so sharp as before, but Mylene only pats his cheek before shrugging him off.
His delay costs her a chance, and with only Rhodry left at the center of that spectacle, she lingers long enough to give her byblown son a dark look before departing.