Making their way northwards is a trio of young women, two garbed like noble ladies and the third as a maidservant. Dark-haired Aisling looks vaguely annoyed as she shakes her head to some question posed by Sylvina, her step-sister. “Really, Sylvina, I have no idea what all that was about. All I know is that I saw Ser Doran make some remarks about Ser Sarmion the other, when the Baratheon himself was not present. However, Lady Elanna was, so I gather she must have passed it onto him.” She shrugs, mostly disinterested, then adds, “Either way, there were accusations flying in both directions. Ser Sarmion called Ser Doran a kinslayer, I believe, and he in turned was called a butcher or something along those line. If you must know, there was a gaggle of ladies there who I am sure will shortly be gossiping about it somewhere in the Keep.”
Having moved away from the scene in the western end of the outer ward of the castle, Ser Aidan seems to have decided to find a place to sit and to contemplate. Certainly, his appearance remains as thoughtful as when he left, as he looks upon the royal sept from one of the benches across from it. When he says Lady Aisling and her companions drawing nearer as they go about their business, the Dornish knight stands, smooths his robes with a practiced motion of his hands and offers an elegant bow. “My ladies,” he says, and nothing more. Sylvina recieves an interested glance—he’s clearly not familiar with her.
“Aisling, you really ought to take Lord Terin’s advice. If you were to spend more time with the other ladies at court, your chances of making a good marriage would be much improved,” suggests Sylvina in response to that, with a little sigh at the end as if she knows what the response will be. And indeed, predictably enough, Aisling snorts. “Precisely why I plan to continue avoiding doing just that, Sylvina.” She might have had more to say, but as the trio—with the silent maidservant following behind the two ladies—reach the spot where Aidan stands, she happily abandons the subject.
“Good afternoon, ser,” she greets him in kind, not quite as cooly as the other day. A glance to Sylvina, and she adds, “Ser Aidan, this is my step-sister, Lady Sylvina Serry. Sylvina, this is Ser Aidan Dayne. Of Dorne.” She adds that last bit after a brief pause, and with a hint of a wry smile. And this time, it seems, it was her turn to correctly anticipate her step-sisters reaction. Halfways up from her elegant curtsey, Sylvina suddenly stiffens. “Good afternoon, Ser Aidan,” she says, almost tersely, and with a quick glance to Aisling, adds, “I really should be on my way now. Uncle Terin will wonder where I have been.”
“Lady Sylvina, a pleasure, however brief the meeting,” Aidan says, even despite her terseness and obvious discomfort; he’s the soul of courtesy, it seems. The reference to one of the king’s small council may perhaps register, but he doesn’t reveal it as he watches the young woman make her hasty departure with her maid.
Then his gaze returns to Aisling. “Perhaps I presume, Lady Aisling,” he tells her, manner and voice both relaxed, “but I thought that you were not best pleased when I refused Ser Doran’s offer to borrow his horse yesterday.”
A wry smile lingers on Aisling’s lips as she watches her step-sister depart in a haste, and a faint trace of it even manages to remain as she turns to Aidan. “Oh? Is that what you thought?” she asks, one slim brow arching. “I suppose that would be the assumption of most any knight, would it not? But what if my displeasure had more to do with your attempt at claiming you thought I would manage just as well? I have little use for such courtesies, ser. I prefer the truth of what someone thinks.” And for now, at least, she seems quite determined to live up to that standard herself, saying just what is on her mind.
Why does Aidan not seem surprised? “So I have given offense, it seems,” the young knight says, a trifle flatly. After a pause he goes on, “Well, I won’t repent of it, though perhaps you will see it is merely a misunderstanding. He said he did not now truly doubt your ability with the horse, and I do not doubt him myself, if he has been able to make a right judgment; but for whatever reason he said otherwise to you earlier. I took advantage of that, I admit, but I wished to be courteous to Dondarrion when I turned him down.”
So, he explains himself, well and good. Except he adds, “In truth, I cannot say how well you ride, and would not hazard to guess, Lady Aisling.” He doesn’t touch on his own skill, either, which is no doubt a sign of modesty.
“Well, that is a relief, Ser Aidan. Too much apologizing is quite ... unnerving,” replies Aisling, though its fair to say her tone of voice is more than a little dry. “Of course, since I am not a knight, you need not worry that I cause a spectacle such as we just had over there, regardless of whether or not some repenting was called for.” That, however, is rather lightly spoken, making it sound more or less like a joke. Mostly, anyway, and she does seem to be somewhat less displeased as she acknowledges your concluding words. “I suppose that some day you may have the occasion to determine how well I ride, and perhaps I will have the occasion to do the same in kind.”
A flicker of his dark lashes, a momentary bite at a lip, and then Aidan clears his throat, “Yes, of course, my lady.”
There’s awkward pause after that, now that Aidan has settled matters from yesterday to his apparent satisfaction ... and then he cannot help but make reference to what both Aisling and he saw. “Ser Doran seemed very angered with Baratheon. It was ... surprising, that Ser Sarmion did not take up the gage. One can say many things of him, but avoiding fighting is not one he showed us in Dorne.”
Judging by the brief, inquisitive arch of a slim brow and the quick frown that follows, that initial reaction puzzles Aisling. She does not, though, remark on it, but instead follows Aidan’s example and remains briefly silent. As the subject is changed, however, she speaks up again. “Yes, I suppose that was a bit curious. He does seem like the kind of man who enjoys warlike pursuits,” she notes, again a little dryly. “One could, I suppose, presume that he knows to direct his anger only at his real foes—he certainly has some strong opinions about Dorne, that much I’ve heard—but such a black temper is usually not so ... discriminating.”
Aidan nods his agreement, glancing beyond Aisling towards the western end of the castle, although nothing can be seen there. “He is certainly ... fierce,” the young knight responds, clearly choosing his words carefully. “No doubt Prince Viserys shall have words with them. It would not do, after all, for the king’s enemies to know his lords are so readily at one another’s throats.” An ambiguous statement, that, from one who was so recently an enemy of King Daeron.
Another quirking of a brow, at that, followed by an appraising look. “No, I suppose that would not do at all,” Aisling agrees, also in a rather careful manner of speaking. “Though if I were to hazard a guess, the King would regard it as a good opportunity to recall some of the more ... restless knights to Dorne, to keep their minds focused on who it is they are supposed to be fighting. As long as there is fighting to be had there, of course.” She almost makes a query out of her last words, as if she’s wondering whether Aidan might have an opinion on how long that might be.
“The king would be wise if he did that,” Aidan says, “although I cannot help but think it will be his Hand who counsels it, should it happen. Prince Viserys seems to be very shrewd.” That last comes out a little grudgingly. As to that last ... “They would be well-occupied, I am sure. We do not bend our knees easily in Dorne, as Skyreach and Kingsgrave’s continuing defiance shows…. Though the guardsmen speak of Lord Tyrell having been sent to try to win their fealty.” Glancing at a some passing septons, a twitch of his fingers at the lower end of his robes helps it to drape a little better, an unconscious gesture showing long practice to such things, and then he asks , “Have you kinsmen still in Dorne, my lady?”
Aisling considers the response given for a little time, a thoughtful cast to her features. “But on their own, I imagine they cannot hold out for too much longer, surely? At least, that seems to be what most of the talk around here suggests.” A slight shrug, and she adds. “Then again, that is perhaps just wishful thinking from those who do still have kin that have yet to return. For most from the North, that is not so. My cousin Elyn lost her betrothed last year, though, and while most of my mother’s kind returned safely with Ser Balian, my aunt Morya lost her husband.” She stops a little suddenly, as if something just came to her mind, and the glance directed at Aidan is at once awkward and uncomfortable.
Aisling’s query gets an uncomfortable shrug from the Dornish knight, who says with it, “Dornishmen do not bend the knee lightly ... and some do not bend them at all, my lady.” That he is not of the latter kind may well pain the knight, for his eyes darken. “King Daeron has a victory such as Aegon the Conqueror never had, with his sisters and his dragons. Yet it is one thing, perhaps, to win a war, another thing still to make it last.” A breath, a sigh, and then he adds, “I am sorry for the losses of your cousin and your aunt. I shall remember them in my evening prayers. Many women lost those they loved.”
Still uncomfortable herself, Aisling just nods to start with, remaining silent for a little while longer. When she does speak up again, she leaves the subject of the continuation of the war, saying, “I cannot say what they would think of that, but it is not inappropriate, I suppose. Even though they, like me, do not adhere to the Seven.” A glance strays briefly to the nearby royal sept, before she looks back to Aidan, again eyeing him in a thoughtfully appraising manner. “I cannot help but to wonder, I must admit,” she finally adds, no doubt having considered this for a while, “what you hope will happen now. If there’s continued fighting, there will be more deaths, after all.”
A difficult question posed leaves Aidan searching for a response, trying no doubt for some courteous thing that does not reflect poorly on him. In the end, what he says is delivered with judicious care. “I would wish that whatever is just be done, and only the gods above can decide whose cause in the most just.” A long beat, a wrestling with himself, and then he blurts out with a sudden flare of fierceness, “But in my heart, my lady, Dorne’s cause is just. Even despite the cost, it is just. It would be craven for me to say otherwise.”
“I appreciate the honesty, Ser Aidan,” responds Aisling after considering the knight’s words for just a moment. “I think it is possible that my own answer would have been much the same, had I been in your position.” There she pauses again, before smiling thinly and adding, “I would not, at least, wish to leave it up to the gods—yours or mine—as I doubt they had very little to do with King Daeron’s decision to go to war. Since the Conqueror landed, we have seen Targaryens of many different kinds, but they almost always stand out in some fashion. The line is thin, I think, between greatness and madness.” Even she has the sense to speak just a little more softly about such matters, her voice a notch or so quieter.
Seeming a little embarassed after his outburst, Aidan inclines his head fractionally at Aisling’s appreciation of his honesty. What she says of the Targaryens clearly interests him, but he notes as well the lowering of her voice; it is perhaps not wise to speak such things, within these high, red walls. “I think you for your kindness, Lady Aisling. It is, as always, a pleasure,” he says suddenly. “If I’m not mistaken, the bells for evening prayer will soon ring out, and I should avail myself of them.” He lingers a moment, perhaps searching for some elegant phrase to take his leave by, but in the end he merely offers a bow.