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Sunset With the Enemy

Posted on Tue Mar 16th, 2021 @ 6:48pm by Ser Renn Baratheon & Lady Ashara Martell

Mission: The Great Council
Location: Palace Gardens, King’s Landing
Timeline: After the Reception

All the guests had dispersed after the reception following the late King’s funeral, leaving only a smattering of scattered guests who remained to talk in the recesses of the garden. Servants moved about, efficiently clearing out tables of picked-over food and removing the ornate banners that graced the green garden. Despite the businesslike bustle in the area, Ashara was able to find a corner all her own with a view of Blackwater Bay. She leaned over the beautiful stone wall and her eye caught a flock of birds flitting in the sky. This was what she needed: time to think.

She had done well-meeting people at the reception, putting all her energy into engaging with the guests just as she was asked. She had a magnetic femininity that attracted the attention of most of the men there, but she hadn’t found many of them particularly interesting save a number of young people her father viewed as a “waste of her time”. Now she lingered in the quiet place with the sun setting in the distance and Dornish guards standing at a distance, keeping watch. The light of the setting sun played in her golden eyes and the wind billowed her lacey pink dress, which fit her shapely toned form perfectly.

A whistle sounded- long and steady. It clipped off and then sounded again- two short, sharp sounds. In the golden-coral light of near-twilight, a small shadow called back, its wings wide and open. The shrill cry of two quick whistles again and the bird dove. It dove fast, blindingly so like an arrow. It ducked beyond the darkening stone cast by the setting sun. And with a swoop, it returned. "Good girl, Xerys," a voice called- the owner of the whistle calls. And she flapped toward him, a rabbit with a broken neck in her talons. The figure, a lean silhouette wearing black, bribed the kestrel with something from his pocket and she dropped the rabbit in favor of it. She landed on his arm, presumably which was gloved.

Ashara looked over her shoulder and found the thin young man standing there with his bird. Her hair flopped as she turned her head and her deep brown eyes focused on him with interest. She didn't recognize him in the slightest but still watched him with subtle and polite interest as he moved closer to her. She thought perhaps she should turn back to the bay and min her own business, but as was its custom, her curiosity got the better of her.

"Are you a falconer, Ser?" she asked in her lilting Dornish accent as she lifted herself from the stone bench and stood more gracefully than before. She clasped her hands in front of her body in an elegant yet defensive posture, though she knew her guards were near should the man turn out to be dangerous.

Xerys had returned to Renn's hand again after a circling without any kind of bounty. It was then that Renn heard the lilt of the voice, and one touched by the Dornish brogue. He turned to see the young woman there, swaying his form. The bird, its eyes dark black, surveyed her and blinked as well before she lifted and rust and slate-colored wing to preen her feather.

"Yes," he answered simply. "Are you familiar with them?"

“Not at all, no.” She said, her eyes curious as she took a few steps toward him, though still keeping her distance. “Some do it where I hail from, but my family rarely spends time in such pursuits. Though, I dare say, I would like to learn more.”

"Her name is Xerys," Renn said, "Her mother was a gift to me on my ten and fourth birthday. From my water dancer instructor," Renn explained, "She's more docile. Lyx was really strong-willed. But it was a test," Renn explained. He turned enough that the falcon was on full display. "Don't look her in the eyes... that's a challenge," Renn said. "How's your arm, are you strong?"

"Well, it depends," she answered, not really knowing how much strength was necessary and feeling rather uncomfortable about approaching. She ran a hand through her long black hair, her eyes on the bird's feather as she was careful to avoid eye contact. She offered a feminine smile. "You don't expect me to hold this bird, do you?"

"Learn by doing," Renn replied simply, "Sometimes you just have to get your feet wet. And sometimes we fall down." His thin frame swayed some as he pivoted. He made a fluid motion toward one of the area's trees, "Branch, Xerys," he said as he flicked his arm enough to tell the kestrel to jump off his gloved arm. Her wings flapping, she made for one of the branches in the still tree. She perched up there, almost invisible in the failing evening light. Renn turned to the Lady and took off his glove, "Do you want to try?"

Ashara seemed to consider the proposition for a few silent moments, her large brown eyes scanning his face for signs of kindness or disdain. When she saw nothing but genuineness, she gathered up her own courage and took a few more steps forward. Her dress tickled the ground gently as she moved.

"I think I would, yes," she said, a smile curving her lips upward even as a look of worried crossed her face. "Just don't let me get pecked, or whatever it is they do."

"She won't bite you if you respect her," Renn said, "But don't be afraid of her. She's a predator. She senses that," he said. His glove off, he handed it to the Dornishwoman. "Put that on," he instructed. He turned from the girl, pout pinky and pointer finger to his lips, and shrilly sent a series of whistles. Xerys leaped off the branch and made a widening spiral of flight like she was hunting.

"Seven Hells.." she murmured to herself as she hurriedly pulled on the glove. She noticed her guardsmen tensing at the exchange, but she was most focused on the approaching bird. She lifted her arm and tried her hardest not to be afraid.

Renn's shrill whistle-call rang in the clear air again, his eyes upward and tracking his bird even in the failing light. He took a pair of steps back from the Princess and raised a hand of warning, "Stand ready, my Lady. Be like a reed. Strong in core, but flexible," he advised. Then, with finger to lips again, he whistled Xerys. The bird called and plunged to return. He took steps back as the kestrel began to open its wings to slow its descent, then flapped and with enormous power grasped the leather glove donning Ashara's arm. She flapped and then folded her wings nearly behind her.

Ashara let out a youthful squeal, rocking away from the bird on her arm and then rebounding with a smile. The animal was astounding in its beauty. Now she understood what had failed her imagination when she looked at these magnificent creatures from a distance. A surge of energy flowed through her.

"Exhilarating!" she exclaimed, her eyes scanning the creature with amazed trepidation. "Where did you learn this skill, my Lord?" she asked, assuming his rank based on his clothing.

Renn smiled a polite, almost melancholy smile, "My water dancing instructor. From Braavos," he stroked his bird's chest plumes, "By way of my Uncle. He studies birds with our Maester." Renn shrugged a shoulder. The slate blue and rusty orange bird, clasping securely the girl's arm, turned her grip and then turned her head in a swivel at this strange new being. Renn distracted her with a piece of dried meat. The bird circled its head, eyes fixed on his motion. "Do you Dornish falcon?"

"I've spent my life focusing on a different art, I'm afraid," she answered him, still looking at the magnificent creature. "Though the Stone Dornish are known for their skill with birds, I've rarely had the pleasure of mingling with them on hobby."

She looked at the young man now, her brown eyes scanning him, carrying the magic they always conveyed. It was a look that communicated, somehow, innocence and passion simultaneously; both intellectual and sensual at the same time.

"A water dancer, yes? So you work with the blade?" she asked, her eyes nervously scanning the bird, "Might I know who I have the pleasure of meeting while you...relieve me of this majestic friend of yours?"

Renn put his fingers to the edge of his lips and whistled a short series. A tension gripped the Princess's arm when the bird's powerful talons at first seized and then flung open. In a flutter of wings, Xerys was airborne again. Renn watched her go, "I'll take the glove back," he requested. He softly cleared his throat as he pulled it back on, "Renn Baratheon," he said in a soft murmur. "Ser Renn," he added with a single shoulder of shrug. "Yes, I..." He took a step back to give them safe space.

"I'm not built for the broadsword, Lady Martell. I studied polearms for a while..." he shook his head, "They're fine." He said diplomatically, "I took to the longbow and that was my passion..." he shrugged again, "Still is. But." He dashed tongue between lips, "Spiro and Uncle Barristor, they insisted a man needed to know a sword. And..." He shrugged, "I grew to like it." Renn turned attention and whistled commands at the bird who was lazily circling, waiting for more. "Mmm, she's bored of us," Renn half-smiled. "Do you know swords?"

At the mention of his name, the Dornish guards tensed a great deal. Their families, and their realms, were old enemies and those rivalries died hard, especially when so much blood had been spilled across the Dornish Marches. A smile crossed her lips though, as she saw an even greater opportunity to learn.

Renn sensed the tension of the Dornish guards, glancing normally sad-pleasant green eyes with a strange strength in their direction. More green before a storm now. He raised a hand of stay to them. "I have no intentions to harm your Princess tonight," he rumbled, "I swear to the Mother and the Father," he said to her with a nod. He lowered his hand and looked up at his bird. His ears perked to her follow-up.

"I know the spear, Ser Renn, and the whip. I can do considerable damage with both with the element of surprise on my side, but I am no warrior," she said, placing her hand gently on his arm. "Come and sit with me as the sun sets, I wish to learn about you and your people."

She started moving toward the stone benches by the banister which overlooked Blackwater Bay tinted in the golds and yellows of the ending day.

"But where are my manners? I am Ashara Martell, daughter of the Prince of Dorne. It's lovely to meet you."

"And you," Renn said with an agreeing nod. Renn escorted with a polite distance, still feeling the eyes of Dornishmen on his back. He bade her sit first and then he sat a respectful distance away. He folded his hands in his lap and for the moment pulled off his glove. He flexed his fingers. "But my lady should know I'm a poor conversation partner."

"I'm afraid I don't believe you, Ser Renn," she said with a grin, looking out at the garden before them. "I believe it's always those who speak least who have the most to say. You are unlike any Baratheon I ever heard of. You seem gentle and...considerate."

Renn ran his thumbnail against the opposite's thumbprint, staring out at the nearly-failed light. And for a stretch of time, he was silent. "The Baratheons I know say the same," he said after almost a minute of contemplating. "Storms and seas breed hard men." He paused again, staring at his thumb, "You Dornish sail, don't you?"

"We do," she answered simply. "Nymeria's 10,000 ships brought us to these shores and, though she burned them, we have kept the traditions alive. We sail for commerce all around the world and, of course, our warships combat the pirates of the Stepstones. We, too, are a hard people, and we seldom forget a wrong done to us, but we Dornish make up for that, perhaps, with our fire and passion."

Renn nodded simply as well. He brushed a fly off his cheek with a swipe, "Good motivation to settle," he commented about the Rhoynish Queen burning her entire fleet. Again he nodded when the Princess brought up their hardness, and their fire. He paused again for a while, studying the patterns of the grass until the shadows soon made it impossible. "Do you like King's Landing?"

"I'm afraid I don't, though I anticipate I shall spend some time here," she said with a slightly sad expression. "I miss the heat of my home. How about you, Ser Renn? Do you like it here?"

Renn smiled, "It is colder here..." He agreed on both counts. Dorne and Storm's End both felt warmer than this kingdom. "I will learn to," Renn replied, folding fingers and resting them across his knees. He leaned forward, "Its far from my brother and his scheming."

The young woman's dark eyes fell on her companion for a moment. She was intrigued, but more for intellectual reasons than for anything else."

"Brothers do keep their schemes, don't they? My brother Aaron is about them constantly. What is your brother after?"

Renn smirked a small smirk at the invoice roil of contempt at his answer, and stared at his thumbs, "Money," he said dryly, brow raised. "The grease of the Realm he calls it." Renn shrugged, "But my father and Brannis changed Storm's End from a kingdom broken by the earth's upheaval, into a rising commercial empire." He looked back at the girl, "With a Braavosi banker eager at the door every week, it seems." He chin jutted to her, "What's your want?"

"Perhaps I want what most girls my age want: a handsome and high-born husband." she said, not really answering the question. "What else is left to me, really? I am not the firstborn, or I would be Princess of Dorne."

Renn looked on with a solemn brow raise, having his doubts. Was that always the answer? Couplings? Children? Securing alliances? Was money the grease of the realm, or was it was found between the thighs of man and woman, Renn darkly wondered. "You're still Dornish..." he murmured, "The ends of Westeros are where women have the most personal choice..."

"Yes, and a Martell. Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken." she said, looking at him and then frowning. "Even though I do have more choice than most noble girls, if I am to do my duty to my family it will mean marrying. Ironically, whomever I do marry may be able to bow and, quite honestly, bend me in whatever direction he might please. But he will never break me."

She looked at the man sitting next to her, observing his slight frame and gentle face.

"I love my family, Ser Renn, more than I love myself. So I will do what I do not like if I have to. Though, to be honest, I'm still hoping for it to be pleasant and good."

"A good husband shouldn't want to break you," Renn said back with only a sidelong glance, "Both the Father and the Mother say that." But he nodded with understanding, "Armies break each other. Not man and wife." He tossed a piece of dried meat on the ground, planning to lure back Xerys from her boredom with these complicated humans. "Is your Lord Father feeling out husbands for you or something?"

"Why, of course." she said, giggling somewhat playfully. "Isn't that what Lords, Princes, and Kings do when they get together? Decide who gets to bed their daughters?"

Renn smiled wryly.

She giggled again, finding the idea very funny. Her mind went, for a time, to the longing so many girls felt for that very occasion and she wondered if they were wrong to desire such things. As she finished her laugh, she turned her mind back to her companion.

"How about yours? Is Lord Baratheon looking for a pretty bride for you?"

"He knows I mean to join the Kingsguard," Renn said, "But as soon as the contents of my pants might make him inroads to new business ventures, I'm sure he'd see me wed." Renn said wryly again. "So its a race."

Ashara began to laugh again, looking out at the sun where it set on the horizon over Blackwater Bay.

"Then, I guess you should hope whoever becomes King sees fit to make you a member of the Kingsguard." she said, looking at him. "I think, if I were Queen, I would like to have you guard me, Ser Renn. You seem kind, and if you're as good with a sword as you are with your birds, I would be very safe."

Renn smiled small, "Stand up and make a case for it," Renn mused, lifting a gentle brow. "That'll surprise the Seven Hells out of a few." Renn looked on, "Thank you for the compliments." He slowly stood, lithe body stretching lanky arms to the sky. "I should return you to your guardsmen. They've tolerated me long enough." He donned the glove as he spoke, "I need to return Xerys to her keep and take this rabbit to the kitchens. The kitchen staff can make a decent stew with it for themselves I imagine," he mused. The boy looked up into the near-night and sent forth a series of whistles. "Time for bed," he said to his bird as she reluctantly turned forward him, flapped, and began to land on his arm.

"It was a lovely talk, Ser Renn. Thank you for introducing me to Xerys." she said, lifting her head to look at the creature with the same trepidation as before. "Until we meet again."

Renn bowed his head at the lady, "Until next time, Lady Martell," he replied. "Say goodnight Xerys." The bird blinked and looked on into the increasingly purple night. Renn waited a few beats, "We're still working on that..." Renn said of training his bird. He bowed his head again with respect and then again with eyes met on her guardsmen. Renn turned and proceeded back to his rabbit kill. He picked it up and disappeared into the torchlight shadows.

 

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