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A Chat Among The Roses

Posted on Mon May 17th, 2021 @ 8:41pm by Lord Garth Blackwater & Lady Joanna Hightower

Mission: The Great Council
Location: The Grapevine Estate
Timeline: After the first day of the Great Council

Several carts lined the central thoroughfare of Grapevine Estate. Each of them were laden with some of the most beautiful roses the realm had ever seen. Highgarden men stood next to the carts doing inventory, looking at maps, and discussing routes. Seated on a low-backed wooden curule chair, the Lord of Highgarden surveyed his workers with interest. In his hands was his black cane which was crowned with a golden rose. He sighed deeply, taking in a lung full of the fresh breeze blowing in from Blackwater Bay. It was here that his ancestors had originated as smallfolk. He enjoyed returning from his seat to this place, if only to show the bay how far they had come.

Having left her escort with her wheelhouse, Lady Hightower walked alone to join her liege lord among the carts and workmen. They smelled of Highgarden's endless fields of roses. She had always found the sight and the smell beautiful. She could almost taste the fireplums she'd plucked fresh from the trees when she'd visited there as a young girl. The thought made her smile. "They are truly lovely," she commented before curtseying graciously, "my lord."

"They are, my Lady. And they fetch a pretty penny besides. Two Stags a rose, and gardens turn to gold." Garth said, using his cane to lift his aging frame into a standing position. He smiled warmly at the young woman, reaching out and taking hold of her hand. "That's the way it goes in the Reach, as you know. But, any way, it's good of you to come. Please, sit with me."

She smiled as he took her hand. "I have always loved the roses of Highgarden. "And Highgarden fireplums. My lord might remember I had something of a mania for them as a child."

He released her hand and lowered himself into the seat he'd just risen from even as a servant set a matching one beside him for Joanna.

"Soon, if the Gods are good, it may be I who does honor to you as Queen of the Six Kingdoms." he said, watching as another servant brought wine and two golden goblets.

Joanna took the proffered seat and the glass. "If the Gods are good," Joanna agreed. "Lord Aethan told me about his conversation with you when he asked you for my hand."

"And rightly she should have." Garth said with a smile. "If you are to be husband and wife, you should share these things with one another. I suspect you will hear much and more of his affairs."

"I imagine so," Joanna said, taking a sip of her wine. "I have learned a great deal in the time Oldtown has been my responsibility. Not all knowledge concerns ravens and herbs and ancient texts."

"Some of the best answers can be read in a man's eye, I've always thought." Garth answered. "The lore of Kingdoms in set down in texts and old books, but history is made between living breathing people in real time. It is important to remember that; it took me years to learn it. Take your position, for example. You may become Queen not because of some natural ancient claim, but for the love a well-positioned man bears you. For all our talk of piety and the plans of the Seven, let us not take that as a given. It could easily have gone another way and still can. Keep your eyes on your friends and enemies, dear girl, and you will never be surprised again."

"If only the Citadel admitted women..." She said it almost like she was joking. Almost. "That is the case with most queens, though, of course, family is part of every marriage decision. I am fortunate that my affections belong to a man who is also a good match for me. Not every marriage can be like Florian and Jonquil."

"No, they can't." Garth said, "but I pray yours will be. And I anticipate being close at hand to ensure it is. Do you catch my meaning, Joanna?"

The old man asked the question in a fatherly tone, but his point was pure politics.

"We are now playing the game of thrones, and I count you as one of mine own. We must stick together, come what may."

"The Hightowers have always been true friends and loyal bannermen to Highgarden," she said. "And I count you among my friends. I also do think of what is to become of Oldtown. If I am Queen, it would not be proper to hold it personally. It would fall naturally to my uncle and, in due course, to my cousin Alixander. I think that might be a relief to many. We are an old family and most in Oldtown would not want a lord with a name other than Hightower. Ser Alixander remains unwed."

Garth turned his head to the side, understanding Joanna's meaning perfectly well.

"And my darling granddaughter remains unwed as well; what a coincidence, isn't it?" he asked, smiling as he brought the goblet of wine to his lips and drank from it. "You know Celyse, of course...and I suspect you would know what sort of man she would like. Would you happen to have any suggestions?"

"I think we should introduce them," Joanna said. "The blood of the Lords Paramount of the Reach should run through the Lords of the Hightower."

"And vice versa." Lord Garth said, then sipped the wine again. "So what would smooth our way to this deepening alliance, my Lady? What needs happen before we can take this step in your view?"

"I would appreciate the Great Council. I understand that you cannot break your word to Lord Tully, but if there should be a second ballot..." she suggested.

"If there is a second ballot." Garth repeated, nodding his head definitively with his same smile. "You know, I've always said you are one of the most dazzling flowers of the Reach, and I was not only speaking of your beauty, my Lady. Your mind is a great one. I hope to put our heads together this way for years to come."

"I think we have an understanding," she said. "I have always been a scholar but you have a keen strategic mind. Growing up, I never expected I would have to concern myself with politics and governance."

"All that politics is focuses around the nature of things between peoples as they are. It is the making of history, and not merely its study." Garth responded to her from his wisdom, gained with age and testing. "You and I both have a love of scholarship, Joanna, but we must never forget that the Gods have made us Lords for the present time, and not for the past. Let us make the most of it while there is breath in our lungs."

"The dangers and gains, the reaction of the people, even moral and religious considerations, that does not come so hard. The making of the final decision, knowing the cost one must pay, or, worse, the cost to be paid by others for whom one is responsible, that does not come so easily." She frowned just slightly thinking of it. "So much of the history of Westeros is tragic."

“But, my dear, this is a Great Council of this peaceful age. The winner shall go on to be King and the loser a slightly disgruntled but loyal vassal.” Garth said with certainty in his voice; but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he second guessed and prepared to continue speaking, “assuming, of course, that the candidates won’t behave recklessly and try for a Game of Thrones with sword and arrow like in days gone by.”

He paused then, considering what he had just said.

“I’m fairly certain Lord Jon would not make war upon a loss but can not make the same bet about Aethan. Young men tend to have a greater appetite for war.”

"I do not see any imminent danger of war," she agreed. "Still, it is the dangers we do not see that aere the most dangerous. Maegor the Cruel's wars were based on nothing but his own character and he was not even born rightfully to the throne. Or perhaps..." She frowned. "What did you make of what Lord Farman said at the Council? Not about Lord Velaryon and myself but about the blackstone fortress at the base of the Hightower."

"I've wondered about the origin of that same fortress for many a year. Several times I, myself, have crossed its barrier. But, I must say that his words were...mere lore and speculation." Garth admitted, adjusting himself in his seat. "It was a story he was telling; a very compelling one for Westerosi. It was a story of legitimacy, like that of Garth Greenhand. The truth of the matter rarely comes first in such conversations."

"It does," she agreed. "Still, a century ago, our ancestors suffered a great deal from what they had dismissed as stories..." She shook her head. "Most dangers are surely more mundane, of course. That was...I distracted myself, a little." She blushed slightly. "It is hard not to wonder. For all the lore of the Citadel, there is so much still unknown in this world. But more practically, yes, I think we may look forward to continued peace. Young men crave glory but older men have cooler heads and steady hands."

"And fears....don't forget fears." Garth commented. "Have you anything else to ask of me, my Lady?"

"No, I don't think so," she said. "I am glad we got to talk."

"As am I, my Lady."


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