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A Private Tour

Posted on Mon Oct 31st, 2022 @ 6:14pm by King Aethan Velaryon & Ser Renn Baratheon & Queen Joanna Velaryon & Lady Arya Farman

Mission: To Oldtown, With Love
Location: The Hightower

Despite his fatigue, Aethan was far too eager to rest. He instead found himself consumed with memories of his past experiences at the Hightower, and eager to learn more now that he was old enough to appreciate the history. Having changed from his travelling clothes and into something more befitting the warmer weather of the Reach, he navigated the corridors with his guard, Ser Renn.

As they walked, in search of the stair that would take them up to Lady Joanna's chambers, Aethan reached out to take Renns hand in his. "Have you ever been to the Reach before my fawn?" He asked, waiting for the embrace of his lover's fingers.

The knight, resplendent in his litheness and wearing black with the white cape of the Kingsguard, swam his fingers between the King's. Despite the pleasant temperature of the evening, the touch of skin on skin was warmer still. It did not escape the young servant that he was escorting his lover-lord, ultimately, to his Queen to Be's bedchamber. The raven-haired knight pondered the question. "Yes," he admitted. "But I was very young. My mother never loved Storm's End. Everything was compared to the riches of the Reach." He glanced at the King, "Highgarden especially. My father was..." he hesitated. "More guarded. Storm's End has suffered many times from Highgarden viewing our west marches as theirs."

He smiled a slow smile, that melancholic smile of someone who was too intelligent to simply enjoy the world. "You seem in a good mood."

"Do I?" The Valyrian man raised his brow. "I suppose with the darkness of the Ironborn no longer casting a shadow over the whole of the Kingdoms, it seems much easier to breathe." Aethan smiled, squeezing his lover's hand in his.

Renn's hand returned the gesture. "May they never darken our shores again. To the Stranger with them," Renn muttered whilst he glanced out a narrow window they passed. "And your Queen is well?" Renn inquired, he had a pleasant husk to his voice. "Has your grandmother arrived?"

"Lady Joanna seems much more at peace here. I think she is glad of the time in her home." Aethan smiled, glad that she was happy. "Lady Shireen is less happy to be here. It is still her opinion that the monarch should be married at the Great Sept. 'The center of the Faith' as she put it. "

Renn understood with a slow nod. "Perhaps she can be appeased with a reaffirmation of your vows in the Great Sept," he suggested simply, empathizing with the pull Aethan must have felt. "And there is of course her coronation as your Queen." Renn knew firsthand how difficult it was to please a powerful matriarch, especially one bent on family and tradition. He smiled at the man, green eyes on him. "You are playing a balance well," he offered as encouragement.

Aethan chuckled. “Is that what I’m doing?” His smile was warm as the pair continued their stride. “I hope that this wedding won’t change things for us.” The King said, his face becoming much more serious.

Renn smiled into a cheek, creasing it- all to try and assuage Aethan's concerns. "I think it will change us," Renn said. "But not hurt. With your Queen and eventually an heir you solidify your legacy," he added genuinely. His hand squeezed. His eyebrow charged the air with a playful side. "I've tried on the child front. I'll keep trying. But short of a miracle from the Mother," he reached to pat Aethan's stomach. "I think your figure is safe." He cast his eyes forward. The door approached soon and with it, their time alone.

Aethan couldn’t help but laugh. His face stretched into a wide smile. The pair reached the door to Lady Joanna’s chambers. The Lady of the Hightower’s apartments were on the highest floor, beneath the beacon. Almost certainly, the chambers had the best view in all of the Six Kingdoms. The King reached out a hand and knocked, releasing his grasp on his Fawn as well.

A serving woman opened the door and curtseyed deeply to the King. Joanna rose from where she sat and also curtseyed to the King. "Your Grace, I hope you are well-rested." She walked over and took both of his hands, gently kissing his cheek. "It is good to see you again and with the tragedies of war behind us..." There was a note of doubt in her voice. She turned her gaze to the young knight of the Kingsguard and inclined her head. "Ser Renn, I hope that your trip was pleasant?"

Aethan smiled at the servant as she curtsied and then at his intended. He squeezed Joanna’s hands as she took his in hers, just as he had squeezed Renn’s just moments before.

Renn inclined his head once and then bowed to his future Queen. "My Lady. My travel was uneventful. I look forward to seeing more of your city." He offered. As he began to rise he saw Aethan take Joanna's hands and squeeze them. The expectation was sometimes different from reality. Renn felt his breath hitch- and the muscle memory of duty took the reins. He came out of his bow. "Here is where I turn His Majesty over to your superior care, Lady Hightower," he said again to Joanna. "I will remain outside," he said, gesturing near the door and a nearby window.

"You're welcome to stay if you like," Joanna answered gently with a gentle smile.

The Baratheon's hesitation was summed up in a glance between Joanna and Aethan.

Aethan looked Joanna in the eyes.“I wondered if you might want to give me a tour actually.” He smirked. “I haven’t been to the Hightower since we were children, and I’ve loved hearing about the history and mystery of it.” He explained.

"I'd like that a lot," Joanna said. "We can see the ravens and the libraries and the tunnels deep down with which Lord Farman is so obsessed." She grinned impishly at him.

Her grin filled Aethan with joy. He looked from Joanna to Renn. "And Ser Renn will accompany us." He declared. The King's eyes fell back on Joanna, "I want you to grow accustomed to having the Kingsguard around you, as that is your near future."

"As you wish My King, My Lady," Renn replied. Renn fell in line a few paces behind in his role as guardian, resting the ball of his sword pommel in the center of his hand. Still, he expected little danger for the couple at this time of night, in this most private part of the Hightower holdings.

"Then let's begin," Joanna said, as she turned to the door. "We can look out from the top."

Aethan’s eyes widened. “How far can you see?” He asked with childlike wonder, following her lead.

"Not as far as some of the wilder stories say," Joanna said as she stepped from the room and onto the stairs, leading the small group to the balcony surrounding the great beacon itself. They could feel the heat of it against their backs. "It is peacetime now but the color of the flame can be turned to green to call the banners," she said. "This is the tallest manmade structure in the Seven Kingdoms. Higher than the Wall. Not so high as the Eyrie or Casterly Rock but they are built into natural formations. Some say you can even see the Wall from up here, which is ridiculous, but looking out over all this vastness, one sees where the tale came from. Over there..." she gestured with one hand, " can see Highgarden, though it's too small and distant to properly distinguish much." She walked a little to one side. "Over there are the Shield Islands in the distance and beyond them Old Oak." She continued her round. "There you can see the Arbor. There Starfall. There you can even see as far as Yronwood in Dorne. It's that little spot along the horizon."

Aethan’a mouth hung open in awe. “This is magnificent.” He said. The midday light illuminated the greenness of the Reach. “The colours are breathtaking. Much more vibrant than the greys of Dragonstone and Driftmark.”

Joanna beamed at him and slid her hand into his. "We can stay up here awhile..."

Feeling her hand, Aethan looked absentmindedly in the direction of Renn and then at Joanna. "While it would be lovely to stay up here and continue to take in the view," He squeezed her hand, "I'd actually hoped to see the Black Stone Fortress at the base of the tower, and I know its quite the trek."

"It is quite the trek," she admitted. She smiled and stepped back inside, starting down the stairs with the two men. "We're below the apartments now. We're passing the ravenry. It's not really so different than anywhere else in the Seven Kingdoms, though we do benefit from the nearness of the Citadel."

“It surprises me that no Hightower has thought to employ a lift device like they have at the Wall?” Aethan said, hoping he wasn’t being insulting.

"The men at the Wall are more practical of necessity," Joanna noted. "And the lift at the Eyrie is unavoidable. No one could scale that mountain alone. However, the Lords and Ladies of the Hightower over the centuries have seen a certain virtue in not being too accessible. It creates a mood."

“And has it made you moody my lady.” Aethan asked with a mischievous smile. The stairs were plentiful before them, stretching into the darkness. He looked back to Ser Renn, who trailed them and winked.

"No, Your Grace, I am very happy of late." Joanna practically beamed at him, either not noticing, or more likely, misunderstanding that wink.

Their Kingsguard, in his usual melancholic duty, nodded at the King with the bare flicker of a smile, unwilling to reveal more emotion in the presence of his would-be Queen.

Aethan peeled his eyes from Renn and returned his gaze to his bride. "I am happy to know you're happy. My grandmother says, it's a married couples job to ensure each others happiness."

"I hope I am up to the task?" Joanna said, half-teasingly.

Aethan squeezed Joanna's hand. "I'm certain you're more than equal to the task. We've always shared a deep fondness." His words sounded most sincere. "I only hope you won't be sad to leave the Hightower behind."

"We have," she said. She knew the words were sincere. She seemed oblivious to the word he didn't say.

Aethan was pleased that Joanna seemed pleased. If this was going to work he wanted her to be happy with him. "I've always been pleased with the ease we understand one another. As if the Seven bestowed upon us two halves of the same soul. It will surely make our union an easy one."

"There are some old texts that talk about that," Joanna said, though she didn't elaborate much.

The trio continued through down the tower's stairs, which were surprisingly well lit, until the texture of the walls changed. "Have we entered the Black Stone Fortress?" Aethan asked, reaching out to touch the stone wall.

"We have," Joanna said. "No one knows exactly who built these walls. Most say it was an outpost of Old Valyria but some dissent. The stone is largely the same but the Valyrian ruins we know of are much more ornate. Perhaps it's simply that it was meant as a fortress for ordinary soldiers?"

"I wonder if there are any Valyrian texts on Dragonstone or Driftmark that might make mention of an outpost in the Far East." Aethan mused. He ran his hand along the smooth black stone. "What use does the Black Fortress serve now?" He asked, his eyes trained on how the light from the torches dances and reflected on the stone.

"The Maesters have been debating it for centuries. I am sure they would have come to light by now, if only for their lords," Joanna said. She didn't put it past some former Velaryon lords to have hidden such things. Their houses had not always been friendly. But she found it hard to believe they'd just remained unknown for so many centuries. "It is only Archmaester Quillion and Maester Theron, among the great scholars to write on the subject, who questioned the Valyrian origin. Maester Jellicoe maintains that Oldtown was originally a trading outpost for Valyria, Old Ghis, and the Summer Islands, and Septon Barth claimed Valyrians built the fortress because they prophesied the end of the world would come from Westeros. It is the base of the tower and would need to be strongly defended in battle," she said, "but few work here regularly in peacetime. Even the dungeons are a little higher."

Speaking of Valyria, and Old Ghis reminded Aethan of his voyage to Essos when he came of age. The rich culture, much of which had roots in Valyrian tradition, was awe inspiring. "Have you ever visited Essos?" He asked he betrothed, his hand still sliding along the wall.

Fire-hardened, Renn Baratheon thought to himself. He'd seen stone like this, but only in vanishly small amounts. The stone of Storm's End was sturdy, heavy granite or the comparatively light and bright gray of lime. This was a different creature. The knight brushed his fingers on the stone. "It's been well-dressed. Sometimes simplicity is as ornate as a soldier wants," he murmured softly. It reminded him of the slag of Harrenhal, only more natural... more resilient in its nature than the stones used there.

"I haven't, Your Grace," Joanna admitted to Aethan and then she turned curiously to Ser Renn. "You may be right, Ser, though, even at their most militant, the Valyrians were rarely simple."

Almost as if on que, they could hear faint but beautiful singing some distance further in the tunnels, singing in High Valyrian. "I loved a maid as fair as summer, with sunlight in her hair..."

Aethan's perked up at the sound of the Valyrian song. It was a long tradition in his house that the children be educated in High Valyrian, the language of their forebearers. "I loved a maid as red as autumn, with sunset in her hair." He sang back in Valyrian. His accent, truthfully, gave proof it wasn't his most used tongue.

"Ghosts, my Lady?" Renn murmured in the air, still save for the music. He barely edged up a smile on the corner of his mouth, hands behind his back in surprised amusement. "Or a wayward girl."

"Are there ghosts here?" The King asked, "I know we have our fair share on Driftmark and Dragonstone."

"So they say," Joanna said.

Renn, looking momentarily bemused, raised an eyebrow and said nothing more. Ghost stories amused him... though he seldom believed them to be true. His Maester had beaten such notions out of his childhood mind, with logic. There was the persistent tale of black magic in the death of the Castellan of Storm's End and some said his ghost still haunted the lower docks. But if he existed, when Renn had visited the great ruin, he'd seen no ghost.

Lady Arya stepped out with her Volantene singer, Triana. Both were in trousers and tunics, rather than proper dress for court, and looked rather embarrassed as they curtseyed. Triana's violet eyes caught the eye. The features so rare in all but a few Westerosi families of Valyrian origin, including the king's, not being so unheard of in Volantis or most of the Free Cities. "I'm sorry, Your Grace, my lady. We didn't know anyone was down here," Arya said.

"It's not forbidden," Joanna said gently. "But we were also not expecting anyone."

"You sing well," Renn noted to the Volantene. He also noted their strange dress for two ladies. His brow rose with more kneejerk judgment than he would have perhaps liked to have.

"Quite well." Aethan agreed, taking in the Volantene's appearance. "Lady Arya, I don't believe we've met your companion?"

"This is our family's singer, Triana," Arya answered.

Aethan nodded. “What brought you to our country?” He asked the Volantene woman in Valyrian. “You are far from home.”

"I was recruited," Triana said. "The Farman'strade with Volantis."

"If you ever grow tired of the Faircastle, there is always a place at court for someone who can sing so beautifully in Valyrian." The king to speak in his House's mother tongue, with a sly smile.

It was Arya who spoke. "I had hoped to bring her with me when I enter your lady's service, Your Grace."

Aethan turned to Arya. "She would be a welcome guest in King's Landing." He declared, speaking the common tongue again. " The King smiled to both ladies, "We shall see you at the Wedding feast Lady Arya." He offered his arm again to Joanna. "Shall we continue our tour?"

"Certainly, my love," Joanna said, smiling to Arya and Trianna. "Please feel free to continue your amusements. You are welcome."


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