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A Stroll By Sunlight

Posted on Thu Apr 29th, 2021 @ 4:27pm by Ser Arron Martell & Lady Ashara Martell & Lord Jonah Tully

Mission: The Great Council
Location: Gardens of the Red Keep

Ashara and Arron Martell walked at a leisurely pace through the gardens of the Red Keep. They admired the greenery and the flowers, knowing that the feats had been achieved at the hands of Reachmen. Ashara wore a wine-red sleeveless dress which revealed her smooth arms while Arron wore a simple dark-blue garment that was meant to make no impression at all.

The two of them paused in the shade of a thick bush and turned to face each other.

“As I said, Arron, I don’t need you here. Lord Jon is perfectly gallant, a true gentleman, and he wouldn’t harm me or dishonor my person.” Ashara said, a less than subtle look of romance in her big brown eyes as she spoke about the Lord of the Crossing. “Besides, I’m perfectly capable of defending myself.”

Arron rolled his dinner plate sunken eyes and looked at his sister.

“Please, sister.. Father sent me with you; I did not mean to come myself. As for your protecting yourself, if I recall, your tutors taught you how to read, write, charm, and please any cock in the Six Kkngdoms. I heard nothing of lessons in swordplay.”

Ashara raised her hand and landed a solid punch on her brother’s shoulder. He grimaced, but didn’t seem to mind too terribly.

“You can be such an ass sometimes, Arron!” She hissed. “Don’t you dare ruin this for me. Lord Jon is handsome, brave, and capable and I want to make a good impression.”

“Not to mention he would make you Queen. Are we just going to pretend that isn’t a factor?” He asked in return, smiling slightly.

Ashara heard footsteps on approach and immediately started adjusting her dress to accentuate her curves and primping her hair, then she positioned herself perfectly in front of Arron in order to look busy in pleasant conversation. She smiled, but through her teeth she said:

“Shut up, I think he’s coming.”

Dressed in a clean white shirt and leather breeches, Jon wasn't the epitome of King's Landing fashion. Nor Riverlands fashion. Not even Northern Kingdom fashion. He looked like a commoner, except for the lack of stains on the white shirt. With him was one of his household knights, Sir Cavalan the Hedgehog. They were enjoying a shared joke as they turned the corner to see a gorgeous woman in a red gown.

"Lady Ashara." Jon called as he walked up to the pair. He bowed at the waist with a smile. "It is not fair of you to wear that colour, for the roses look less lovely because of it." He then turned to the young man behind her. "Ser Arron, if I'm not mistaken?"

If Ashara were more fair, she would be blushing, but she could still feel the warmth of her cheeks at his compliment. She looked at her brother and then gazed at the approaching Lord, her white teeth plainly visible as she watched him. Though not impressed by his choice of fashion, he was still strong looking and had the same gentle way about him she had noticed at the super table last they'd spoken.

Arron, for his part, looked at the man in his notoriously strange fashion. He was quiet and quite weird for a man of his station. Many knew that he was a master of secrets and was the effective spymaster of Dorne, but you wouldn't know he had any skills in particular by looking at him.

"Lord Jon." he said so quietly that he could barely be heard. He bowed his neck, and then fell silent.

"Are you here to ensure I uphold your sister's honour?" Jon asked in a teasing manner. "I am sure that a Lady of Dorne has her own manners of ensuring her safety?"

Arron said nothing for the space of several moments, merely looking at the Lord of the Crossing with giant vacant eyes. He made no move, but merely looked on in the strangest fashion. Ashara fidgeted, her hands moving uneasily together over the front of her dress.

"My brother is here to see the Garden's my Lord." she said quickly, placing a hand gently on Arron's arm. "You are all the protection I need, I'm sure."

"On my honour as a knight, and as the Lord of the Twins, I shall not do anything that would damage your honour." Jon said to Ashara, giving her a smile. "I also brought Ser Cavalan, one of my household knights to serve as a chaperon. We might be pledged to marry, but rumours fly faster than hawks in this city. And if I have a choice in the matter I'd prefer them to speaking good of us."

Cavalan, clad in a green tunic with his hedgehog device on the chest smiled and bowed at the lady and her brother. "Don't mind me, my lady, my lord. Act as if I am invisible, Gods knows my lord Tully does often enough." and the smile turned into a cheeky grin.

"None could leave you unnoticed, Ser. I can sense your goodness even now." Ashara said with a wry grin before turning and looking up at Jon. "Shall we walk ahead, my Lord. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to get to know one another."

Jon offered his arm to her, and as they entwined they entered a stream of sunlight. "My lady, may I be as bold as to address you by your given name? " Jon asked quietly.

“Only if I may do the same with you.” She said, taking his arm and pulling her body close to his. She could feel his athletic build beneath his clothing, and that made her smile. “If we are to be married, I think we should at least be able to call one another by name.”

"I cannot deny you that boon, Ashara. My friends call me Jon." He said with a smile, "How does it feel for you, to be this far North?"

“At first I didn’t like this city, but after the few weeks I’ve been here, it’s beauty has grown on me a bit. I do miss Sunspear and the city proper does smell terrible, but I could live with staying in the North.” Ashara answered as she walked beside him. “How about you, Jon? How do you like being in King’s Landing?”

"It's a bit warm for my taste." Jon admitted, "And I miss the smell of the river. The sea smells wonderful, but there's something about the Green Fork that I miss here. But you make me wonder, my lady. Have you ever seen a proper snowfall?"

Ashara smiled and tossed her hair in a mildly flirtatious manner. Her brown locks danced across the space between them gently making contact with Lord Jon’s arm before falling back behind her.

“I know about the frozen waters of the north, but I’ve never seen them myself. This is my first major trip out of Dorne. I hope I don’t seem too inexperienced?” She asked, looking at him, her large eyes framed by a beautiful and curious expression. It was clear she wanted him to think highly of her.

"Nonsense, my lady. A lack of experience is nothing to be ashamed of. There is plenty life left to create experiences in." He favoured her with a smile as he looked in her eyes. "But I should note that my holdings are again the distance from King's Landing to Sunspear as the raven flies."

Ashara had rarely heard that experience wasn't important in life. She had spent some years learning the crafts and abilities of an experienced wife, even to the point of risking scandal, but she never surrendered her virtue. Even after everything she had learned, she knew still that she was just an amateur and worried that Jon didn't truly mean what he was saying, but was simply being kind. She wished that she was more travelled, more well-spoken, and yet more beautiful, though many assured her she was the most comely woman they had seen in their natural life. How much was flattery? How many were lies?

"If I have it right, your intention is that we should stay in King's Landing on a more permanent basis." she stated, referring to the election. "I would hate to think that my future Lord husband did not believe in himself."

She placed a gentle hand on the arm she was holding and fidgeted with his shirt femininely. She was prodding, she knew, but the words were escaping her mouth before she could even process them.

"If the gods will it so, I shall be king." Jon agreed seriously. "But it is a poor general that only has a single plan. I am confident about my bid for the throne. The support of your father and lord Garth we have a strong faction. My own liege and uncle, Samwell Tully has also invested me with his, and most all his bannermen's votes." He explained calmly. "But Aethan Valeryan, and his grandmother, form a powerful bloc in their own rights." He then took her fidgeting hand in the hand she had looped through, entangling their fingers. "Have faith, Ashara. I might not have to take you much farther from home than these gardens."

She smiled, her heart jumping in her chest. He was so gallant and honorable, and she had a great respect for those traits. On the other end, however, she also had a love of pragmatism and those who took what they wanted with strength. She wondered if he had that in him as well, or if all he really would do was wait on the Gods.

"I'm sure their will shall see us through." she said, taking his hand eagerly. "But, Jon, shouldn't you do something more drastic, something to break up the Velyrion block and..."

She paused, realizing she was sharing too much. She had been taught that northern Lords had different ideas about sex and seldom heard the counsel of their women. She wasn't sure how she liked that, but she still wanted to impress Lord Jon more than anything else. If she had been born first in her family, she would be heir instead of Edric, but that too was subject to the will of the Gods and they had relegated her to the politics of marriage, charm, and childbearing.

"Forgive me, My Lord, it isn't my place. I'm sure you have things well in hand." she said, the words stinging her lips as they past them. Was that good? Is that what he wanted to hear?

"Your father and I have been probing the Velaryon block, speaking to minor and major lords for the last week. I'm afraid they're either related to House Velaryon by blood and marriage, or have been made promises I am not willing to surpass to gain their loyalty. But do tell, what would you counsel? Perhaps you have some insight I have not seen." Jon was raised more by his mother by his father, and had learned that women often saw things in a valuable light the men did not gleam. He also learned that even with a woman's counsel, it had to still be his own decision in the end.

Renara thought for several moments as their shoes made sound on the path they walked in the garden. Her mind probed the situation, flitting over possibilities until she looked at her future husband, her large eyes filled with context.

"What has he promised the Lannisters, my Lord?" she asked curiously. "And have not the Baratheons an alliance with the Reach?"

"The whispers I've heard is that Shireen Velaryon promised her younger grandson, Aenar to one of the Lannister girls. Alas, I've no sons of my own to marry off. So that's an offer I could not make, unless I would break off my alliance with your father. But I also know that old Shireen has been offering Aenar to almost everyone, as if he was the virtue of a young whore to a taproom full of knights." Maybe Jon forgot for a moment who he was speaking with.

"As for Baratheon, their nominal lord is more merchant than lord. He cares more for the trade with Essos, and the Valyrian blood and prestige Aethan brings than his capabilities to rule. I made him a very lucrative offer, including a position on the small council and most of the port trade that is now going through the Riverlands. He sees me not as a ruler in peace time, but more as a warleader."

As much as Ashara might appreciate the candor she had heard from Lord Jonnah, she wasn't fond at all of the idea of her being traded for one of those Lannister snots with their noses up their own arses. She withdrew slightly in fear, her fingers coming undone from his. She rebounded, however, within herself, and decide to respond to the fact of the matter rather than her feelings.

"The situation does not look good, Jon." she said, her eyes moving away from him and dancing from bird to bird in the garden. Part of her was disappointed and the other part was equally relived. Being Queen sounded terrible. Being the wife of a strong and wealthy Lord was more her style, she had to admit. Still, she was not ready to admit defeat. "Arron has heard word from one of his spies in the city that Lord Garth has been holding constant meetings with members of the other side. He has attended one at Seasnake Hold and has even received Lady Hightower at his Estate. He may be prepared to trade us in for the popular model."

She walked for a little while and then, looking at Jon, she smiled slyly and spoke again, her Dornish accent seeming even more exotic than when she spoke loudly. Her next phrase revealed that, no matter how meek she may seem, she was still a Martell. "We could always poising that old grandmother of his and see how well he fairs without her. A young lord with no one to guide him...people may change their minds."

"Then perhaps Garth and I need to speak again." Jon agreed, thinking over their deal. "But I will not resort to assassination to gain the crown. Especially not when it will most likely inspire those hedging to flock to Aethan Velaryon in an effort to be that guiding hand. I will wheel and deal, trade favour, offer position and even gold to gain it, but I will not spill blood, not without a very good reason." As he explained, Jon's voice hardened. Harden until it rivalled the strongest castle walls.

Ashara locked fingers with him again, smiling beautifully and falling in perfect step beside him.

"Of course, Jon." she said leaning her head toward him slightly. They came to a clearing where benches lined a stone railing providing a view of the Blackwater.. She gazed into the waters, remembering the time she'd spent talking with the young Ser Ren Baratheon during the sunset. She remembered the terrifying bird he'd had perched on her arm.

"We are from very different places. Do you worry how you might get along with a Dornish lady?" she asked, looking at him flirtatiously, batting her eyelashes. "How do you plan to keep her happy?"

His stern demeanor slowly faded as they walked. "I'm sure I have some ways of keeping my lady very happy." and he couldn't help but give her a cocky. "But besides the bed chamber, both the Red Keep and the Twins have a good library, full of newer and older tomes. There's fishing, riding, hunting, and of course sailing on the river."

"The rivers by Sunspear are too shallow to sail in anything but a small boat, so I have little experience with that. My ride to King's Landing was my first time on anything that big." she said, thinking on the memory. "I like to read, but you may have to introduce me to all of those other hobbies."

She removed herself from contact with him and placed her hands on the stone rail watching the bright sky. She seemed melancholy for a long breath in which she said nothing at all. Then, suddenly, she spoke again.

"You say you can keep your lady happy, but what do you know of women?" she said, looking at him with challenging eyes, the same flirtatious grin on her face as before. She was testing him; was this man all honorable ideals, high character, and quotes from the Seven Pointed Star, or was he anything like the sellswords she had heard of who returned whole from across the Narrow Sea. "Since my father told me we would marry, I acquired some of the writings of your maester at The Twins. You know swords and castles made of metal and stone and you know how to make coin. What would you do with a woman of warm flesh? What of flowers, and sunsets, and gentle kisses, my Lord? Your maester keeps no record of these things, but they are the object of my curiosity."

"There were a few young girls around the castle when I was a young man. Both at Riverrun where I squired, and before at the Twins." Jon said, "Maids, and not-so-maiden maids that enjoyed teasing me and trading kisses." He explained with a grin. "But when Ser Jeremon took me to Essos, I had to grow up fast." He studied the sea for a moment.

"Life as a sellsword knight is not one of gentle kisses, songs sung at sunset, or the tender moments after a toss in the bedchamber." He continued, a bit saddened. "Only in my last half year did I chance to court a woman, a young merchant's daughter in Mereen. She taught me of gentle art of the courting. But alas, my cousin Jeremon had to find his death in a skirmish. In the fifteen years since two women have called spent time at the Twins to court, but no marriage arrangements were made." He gently his hands on the low wall, next to and against hers. "I'll readily admit, I am cut of rough wood, not sculpted finely. But I know what to do with the lady as well as with the woman." and he favoured her with a genuine smile.

She looked at him also, scooting her own hand innocently onto his and blushing slightly, though it was not obvious for her bronze skin. His hands were the rough hands of a man who worked and fought, like her father's hands. Though Prince Nymor's were the size of hams, these hands would certainly do.

"I can teach you poetry, if you'd like." she said, jokingly, and then she started to laugh kindly.

A chuckle couldn't help but escape his lips. "A king that does poetry. A warrior poet..." He put his hand over hers and squeezed. "Somehow I don't think most of the lords would approve."

"Well, sir, then remind them of the 'warrior' part." she said with a wink.

 

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