━ｂ ｌ ｏ ｏ ｄ ｏｆ━━━━━━━━━━━
xxxMadness. It was a curious thing, something that could so greatly vary, yet stay rooted the same, even if those roots had been placed from different causes, and in different ways. It had, when she had been younger, too unknowing of the world to truly understand the weight of the dreams, when they were only nightmares to scare her from seeking solace in the blackness of sleep, been something she felt lay in the eyes of the beholder. After all, one could seem raving mad to everyone else, to the world, even, but to themselves, what was perceived as madness made perfect sense, and to them was nothing but clarity. Though, she had supposed that wasn't even what madness was, or perhaps that was what made someone mad. Now though, she knew differently, and while perhaps that was true, something told her that a beholder didn't have to find one to be mad for the madness to take root in their veins and begin to devour them whole until it was nothing left, just a husk of what they once were with wild madness rooting deep inside, or a practiced insanity hidden behind a carefully placed mask that only few could see behind. There wasn't much she knew definitively about madness and what she felt about it besides that, as she wasn't sure if she had ever met someone with insanity creeping within their mind, and in the stories she was read before each night in bed, the ones who had lost their mind were always the ones painted as villains, never as heroes, and she had never much paid any mind to the ones who wished to burn them all. She had always held a fondness for the heroes instead, who without fail were always distinctly void of madness, with their mind clear, and filled with just and true intent. When all she had known was the love of two parents, and the feeling of silken sheets pulled up under her chin while being tucked in for the stories of gallant knights from far off lands and dragons and epics of Valyria before bed, she had wanted the be like those heroes, but now that she had grown older, and seen more of the world, and learned of it's hurts and evils, and seen so much of the terrors in her head, she only wanted she be good. She just wanted to have a good heart, and a sound mind of sane clarity, if she hadn't lost hers already, which with her dreams, could be a very strong possibility, even if the thought sent her stomach churning into knots at the fear of becoming what she never wanted to be. She wished she could eliminate that thought from being a possibility, but for so, so many reasons that swarmed her mind the instant it came up, with her dreams being the most prominent, terrifying one, she knew that she never could. If it hadn't caught up with her already, she was certain that madness could already be beginning it's slow, crawling creep into her bones, and if she said that she had never thought about being mad herself, or her own family's supposed or possible madness, then she would be lying to both herself and the world. She had thought about it many times, far more than she would ever care to admit, even to herself, though not admitting it to herself was something she couldn't do. Those thoughts had been on her mind ever since she had been a little girl, the only one to have dreams of nothing but fire and ruin. How couldn't that be madness? A child, so young, so innocent, so unaware of all the despicable horrors of the world, dreaming of desrtuction of the most grim and grotesque kind, of everyone she knew and everyone she didn't, and her own home, consumed by fire and death. What could that be if not a madness burned into her fate through her blood? A mark of insanity placed upon her by whoever weaved her thread of life and time? There was no way there wasn't something wrong with her, or something that was different, and even if it wasn't madness, it wasn't normal. It couldn't be normal. While fire and blood were normalities in Valyria- as normal within the stronghold as the ashen stone of their tower walls and lava lining the streets-, with dragon fire erupting from dragon's mounts and blood of the dragon running through her veins, the manner in which they came to be in her dreams was not. Valyria was not supposed to be confused by fire and ash, nor charred, still burning lifeless bodies beside gurgling pools of blood and lava, and children were not supposed to dream of such things every single night and wake up crying each night they did, and dreams were not supposed to take her during the day time after they had grown so much worse throughout the years, with a faceless man's presence growing ever stronger. It had reached a point where her fear of her own possible insanity had become more than just a small baseless worry of a child wondering if they were normal. A fear of nightmares had become a fear of reality and she was too scared to let it continue unchecked for another day, and she could no longer sit without it being addressed. They were now more than just dreams, so much more; they took her in the day, and haunted her during the night, and she had to speak with someone, she had to figure out why. She had to, she just had to, before she truly lost her mind and ever bit of sanity she may have left wondering, especially now that the faceless man had been revealed to her, and she discovered that for years she had been dreaming of a man she had never met, of a man who's existence she did not know. If anything, that was an even bigger sign of madness having crept into her bones, an almost damning piece of evidence to that, but at least, even if it was nothing but a sign to her insanity, she was no longer alone, and right now, she cared about that far more than she cared about madness, no matter how much she feared having lost her own mind.
xxxAt last, after so long, she had someone to share in it with. For the first time for as long as she could remember she was not alone. She had been alone so very long, so long that she could never have imagined truly sharing this with someone, so long that the hope that she one day could had never been anything but a hope she knew would never be anything more, and yet, it had, and now before her was the man in her dreams, his handsome face revealed, and his touch so comforting, so reassuring, so soft. She had felt the embrace of her mother, of her father, and felt their love in the strength of the arms around her, and she felt safe with them, and loved, and protected, but never before had she felt the relief, or the true peace, that she now felt with him, at the knowledge that she was no longer in this alone. Her mind was still swarming, still burning with so many questions, but amidst their whirling there was a feeling of relief, true, utter relief, that she had never felt before. There was no feeling that could ever compare to that, no touch or promise or string of reassuring words that could ease the mounting fears she had had since she was a but a girl, no anything, that could make her feel as she did now, so relieved, so comforted, and so not alone. Of that, if she could be certain of nothing else for as long as she drew breath and until she was nothing but yellowed bones in the ground with the rest of her returned to the earth to bring about new life, she was certain of that, and she knew that would never change. She had never felt this before, and she was sure that she would never feel anything like this again, and it was all because of him, because he shared in the torments she had always known. Had he been having them for as long as he could remember, too? Had they been plaguing him since he was but a small boy? Had he known their horrors for his whole life? Had he seen the flames engulfing everyone he loved and everyone he knew ever since he had been a child? Were the monstrous horrors and broken cities littered with corpses of ash that had become as familiar to her as her own hands if not more so, the same ones that he had seen? Did he know the sight of smoldering stone and blackened air as well as he knew the back of his own hands, or the sound of his voice? Was he scared of them too? Did he fear he had also gone mad? Was she not alone in fearing she had lost her sanity, or clarity of mind, the moment the dreams became too real and persistent to deny? If he had seen her before, in his dreams, that had to mean he had the dreams as she, didn't it? That had to mean that she was no longer so painfully scared and alone with what she saw? Could they share in this together now, these horrible nightmares, these fears, these pains? Would he even want to share them with her? Would he even find her tolerable to be around? Would he find her to be a disappointment, a let down from the woman he had seen in his dreams, or would she be a salvation to him, as he had been to her, or had he found that already with another? Had he been all alone in this too? Had he too had no one to bear this burden, these terrible dreams and fears of losing his mind in the very worst of ways, all by himself? Had he shared them with anyone, or found another who had them too? She doubted that he had, if another person existed who had them as she did, she was sure she'd have found them by now, but then, she had also never found him, and really, neither of them had even found each other, they collided. He didn't seem to react as if he had already found these answers before though, as if he had already found another in his dreams; he seemed just as shocked and stunned and a mix of things she could not put words to or explain as she was, and he had been the only other loving soul to appear to her dreams. That had to mean it was only them, right? That he had never found someone to share what he had seen with as well? That he had also been alone? He too dreamed of a figure he had never before met or seen ever before, had he ever thought he was mad, that he was losing his sanity, losing his mind? Had he ever feared that, or stayed awake for as many days as he could while fighting of exhaustion to escape the terrors of the dreams? Did they scare him as they terrified her? Or had he never even felt such fears, or worried about what the night terrors that ruled his mind meant? She felt her breath catch in her throat, a new terrible thought, a twisting, turning, churning, winding, weaving, horrible worry taking hold that set her heart beating faster with a fear she was sure she would never be able to hide from her face, from him. Had she gotten too carried away with her hope? Did he even have the dreams? Had that even been where he saw her from? She was part of one of the dragonlord families, surely he could have seen her through that, without her seeing him? But the way he spoke knowing her didn't sound as if he recognized her from a place he had been, it sounded as if he had recognized her from someplace that wasn't real, the place of his dreams. That had to mean something, right? That had to mean she hadn't gotten so ahead of herself with her thoughts that she had wrongly assumed he was like her and that she wasn't alone, right? She didn't know, now she truly didn't. She wasn't sure if she was alone or if she had him to share in it, and all she could do was hope that he did, because now that she had had that hope, if it turned out she was wrong, and he had never had such dreams, she was certain that it would break her, and that she'd never be the same again, that she'd never be able to continue on as she had been, if she could continue on at all. For so long she had carried this burden, these nightmares, this fear, all on her own, and now that she had found someone else who knew them, who had carried it as well, she didn't want that to be taken away, especially by a wrong assumption. She just had to hope she wasn't wrong, and that he too knew the horrible dreams, it was all she could do, and while looking into his violet eyes, eyes that mirrored the unexplainable feelings reflected in her own that only they knew, she hoped more than anything, she hoped with all that she was, that the hope he shared in her dreams and knew of the suffering she had endured for so long, was true.
xxxThankfully, before her horrible racing and frantic thoughts of fear and worry could continue any further, he began to speak, answering the question she had asked only moments ago- even though it felt as if an eternity had passed since the words of hope that he was alright had slipped through her lips-, and drawing her attention, caution a temporary halt in her racing thoughts as her violet eyes returned to his face and she felt herself calming once again. They had never met before, but he was familiar, a figure she had known as long as she would know a good friend, and seeing his face, truly focusing on him and seeing him again eased her, and helped to center her and her thoughts. She felt safe with him, like she never had to worry about a thing, and as she searched his features, she could feel at least a few of her swarming worries melting away like steel bring formed, still there, but changing, into something better, into things that were not rooted in fear. His brow was furrowed, as if he had been thinking hard before speaking and finally finding his words. It didn't sound as if he had managed to completely found them, though, as he spoke a word, a slow word at a time. He was struggling to get them out, but regardless, she felt a weight leave her shoulders at the words. He was alright. He hadn't been hurt. She let out a sigh of relief, a breath she hadn't known she and been holding. More fluent, or fluid words could come later; they were hardly coming to her too truthfully. What mattered now was that he had been unharmed. "I- Ah, I'm glad. Good. I'm very glad you're alright." Rhaemi breathed, giving a small, sharp nod, eyes flitting from his features to his own purple eyes as he searched hers upon trailing off. Hopefully he wouldn't care too much that she couldn't really find her words either. It was easier than it had been when she last spoke, but presently her focus was on being glad that he hadn't been hurt in their collision. Even though this was the first time they were meeting, she already cared for him, she already found herself wishing that no harm ever came to him and that he would never know the feeling of pain. He felt like someone she and known forever, yet had known only for a moment all the same, and yet, even with the shortness of which they had known each other, his presence felt as comforting as the few she had known for years. He felt like the safety she had felt on Rhaenya's back before the dreams had begun taking her during the day, he felt like the freeness of those flights, of the comfort they brought in ways absolutely nothing else could bring. She wasn't sure if it was because she was almost certain that he shared in her dreams and that he knew of them too, or if it was because he had been in them for so long that he had almost become a friend within them, the one light amidst the rubble, a smile amidst the tears, a sun in the rain, or if it was something else entirely, but she didn't care too figure out what exactly it was now, all she cared about was that he hadn't been hurt, and that he was okay, at least physically. If his dreams were anything like her own then she could say nothing for if he was okay in any other way, she knew she wasn't, but she was starting to feel more okay than she could ever remember having felt, now that she had met him, and she hoped that if he had experienced what she had, she was helping him to feel better in that way too.
xxxHe blinked down at her, and then his grip loosened, the touch bringing her attention back to reality once again. Her eyes shot to his, a moment of worry that his hands would slip away, that she would no longer feel their warmth, but she quickly found that that worry was unfounded. Though his grip had loosened, it remained, just looser and more relaxed than it had been before, and she was so glad that he hadn't let her go. His hands were warm upon her skin where they had gripped her so she hadn't fallen into the lava that lined the streets to a death most painful sand gruesome, and she wasn't ready to say goodbye to that warmth just yet. It was so very comforting, like a blanket if safety wrapped around her, and she was scared that if he let go he would walk away and she'd never see him again or get answers to her dreams. He grounded her, his touch the thing that centered her, like an anchor from a ship, a very handsome, unparalleled, soothing anchor wrapped in the softness of moss. He started again, and then swallowed, stopping. It seemed like words were still a struggle for him too. He continued quickly though, finding his voice even as it lowered ever so slightly, like a whispered secret, and she could feel herself lighting up, filling her with a hope. He had seen her before? He had seen her, he had, that meant he had the dreams too. She had been right. She wasn't alone, Rhaemi had found someone to share this with, someone that she could share the burden with, someone else who knew what it was like, someone who wouldn't call her insane if she found the courage to mention them too. She gave a nod as an answer, and an even larger one at his next question, when he asked if she knew what she had seen. She knew to all too well, and from the sound of how he had begun that question, he knew it too, and she was more than eager to answer. "Yes, I-" She swallowed, hurried words coming up jumbled and tangled within her throat, rushing out the moment after the last word had left his lips, before she had even thought of exactly what to say. "I have seen you. Many times, in so, so many dreams. You were the only thing besides me that was ever alive. Your face was always blurred but it was you, there is no doubt. Now that I see your face it's..." Rhaemi began, trailing off as she focused on the memories, on the images of him in her dreams, and before she could stop herself or even realize what she was doing, she gently reached a hand up to touch his face, fingertips lightly gracing his skin as they pushed a strand of curled hair back into place, as if she were testing to see if he was real, or just an illusion, a trick of her mind, another cruel vision to torture her. It was like she was in some sort of trance as her eyes gazed at his features, and her hand moved to lightly cup the side of his face, his hair almost silky as it brushed the tips of her fingers. It would have tickled a bit if she weren't so focused on him, and the images of old memories, once blurred but now complete, now perfectly clear and displaying his features in the place of where a faceless man used to be. "all so clear." Rhaemi finished, her words coming out with a breath, her eyes almost watching him in wonder as she searched his features, before she realized what she was doing, and it stopped, whatever trance had taken over her leaving and snapping her harshly back into reality. She blushed instantly, going quite red- more red than she should have been able to turn-, eyes widening, and hand recoiling quickly as if it had just been burned as she looked down in embarrassment to compose herself again and prepare herself for the risk of having lost him with that touch. She let out a breath, a shaky one as her heart began to beat quickly again, and tentatively looked up after a few moments, only slightly calmer. "Sorry, it's just, I just- I'm still grasping that you're here, before me, in front of me, very much alive and not a dream." Rhaemi confessed, looking into his eyes for a moment, before glancing away and then tentatively looking back. She breathed again, inhaling heavily as she looked down and then exhaled. Okay, she was okay. She was calmer, but gods was she so sorry. She just hoped that he would not be upset. Slowly, she looked back up, eyes earnest, and apologetic, filled with all the hope she had that he wasn't going to leave. It was just so much, so so much, and he was finally a good thing about it, and she didn't want to lose him so soon. Hopefully if she returned to actually answering what he had asked it would help things. "All I know of what I've seen is that you're the only one there, or, the only one alive at least. It's a land- Valyria burning, it's always been burning, things have never not been on flames, and they have only grown more vivid and persistent with time. I didn't used to faint when they happened, because until recently they would not visit me in the day." Rhaemi answered, her gaze clouding over with thought as she spoke, the words hard to say and yet easy all the same as she recalled them, and uttered them to someone for the very first time. It felt good to say them at last, really good, and it too gave her relief, even as she worried that she had just ruined it all. She knew how insane her words sounded too, but at least she didn't worry that they would chance him away, because he already knew them, and even if they had both lost their minds, he would understand the insanity of hers. He continued then, telling her how long he had been seeing her, and that he had only just returned today to search for answers, just as she had been doing before their paths crossed and he saved her. A fortnight? He had been having them since then? Had that been when the visions became particularly persistent, when they began plaguing her in the day? Had that been when they started? She couldn't quite remember with the thousands of thoughts swarming in her head, and he didn't really give her enough time to recall it, after he stopped and then continued again before she had the chance to find the thoughts and memories she needed to determine it. A seer? He was going to see a seer too? She perked up, noticeably straightening. Was he going to see the same one she was presently headed to? They were clearly somehow linked, if he had them too, maybe he would wish to go together? She hoped he would, she had been alone in this for so long, and now that she wasn't, she didn't want to be alone in it ever again. It was an agony that had been with her so long it had become an almost friend. Now that she had met him, she didn't want to see him go. "A seer? The one spoken of near by?" Rhaemi asked, far more hopeful than she had wanted to sound, and noticing then that his eyes had become calmer, almost gentler. The sight eased her more than she knew she needed to be eased, and she let out a soft breath, her worries easing, violet eyes never once leaving his. "I was headed to see a seer as well perhaps it would be wise if we went together?" Rhaemi suggested, offering, and hoping far more than she had any right to that he would accept, eyes searching his expression almost urgently. Even though his expression had eased, he still seemed to be filled with confusion, and she was sure that she looked much the same; she knew she felt it, that she had felt it for about as long as she could remember. If she hadn't messed things up by touching his face, she so hoped that he would join her in finding the seer, in finding the answers she so desperately sought. She wasn't even sure if the seer could even give her, or him any answers, and if none could be given, she wasn't sure if she wanted to handle that devastation alone. Rhaemi wanted to face that with him, so she could at least have him to fall back on if it failed. She would understand if he wished for their paths to part and never cross again, she very well knew that she had almost certainly crossed a line, but she couldn't stop herself from hoping that he would want their paths to remain entwined, that he would want to go see the seer with her. They had just met but it felt like they had already known each other for so long, and she wanted to get to know him, to see him smile and learn what he liked and what he disliked and all there was to know. She wanted to figure out this puzzle with him, to solve it together so she was no longer alone and so that she had least had someone to share it with if it was an ailment that could never be fixed. She just hoped more than anything that he would agree, and that he knew she was sorry, and that this at the very least would not be the last time they met. He was a solace, a light in a place where there had only been darkness for so, so very long, and she didn't want to say goodbye. She didn't know if she could take him saying goodbye so soon after she had finally found him and a key to figuring out her horrible visions, her terrible dreams. She just wanted him to stay.
━━━━ｎｏｔ ｂｒｏｋｅｎ， ｂｏｗｅｄ，━━
xxxHad he always been this impatient? This utterly and completely incapable of waiting for longer than the merest fragment of a second that lasted far too long? Or was it time that had changed, that had slowed down to an excruciating pace before undoubtedly one of the most important moments of his live? He was about to meet his wife, the woman he was to love and cherish and call his princess until the end of his days, until the last breath left his body and his bones turned to dust beneath the earth, or even after that happened, if they were so lucky to have their souls still lingering entwined together even after their bodies were long gone, wherever they went after embracing the coldness of death. He didn't have time for waiting right now, he didn't have time to linger in this boring in between, he didn't want to wait for the start of the rest of his life. Zo knew that when he met her, they'd have all the time in the world to spend together and learn and grow side by side- if she so wished, because he'd never force her to join him in anything if that were not equally her desire to do so, too-, but he wanted that to start now. He wanted to meet her now, to assure her if she had any worries now, so that she need not spend another moment in torment fearing he would not like her or that his touch would be cruel. He didn't have time for patience, now was not it's time. It was pesky, annoying, irritating, itching away at his skin and making him feel as if he had to do something that moment, to get away from where he was or else he'd explode as the feeling continued to build. He didn't want patience now, he didn't want to wait, and yet now the seconds felt longer than they ever had before. Why did time choose now to feel so slow? Why did it have to torture him so? Why couldn't time slip by, like a breeze, and bring his love to him? It wasn't even a question that he would love her, he just knew he would. He would not be like the husbands with a heart that burned coldly for their wife, the ones who only deigned to look their way when they wished to fuck or form an heir. That was something he refused to be. It didn't matter how she looked, what she wore, how she liked to dress, or what she liked to spend her days doing and who she wished to spend them with or who she was in any sort or kind of regard, he was going to love her, his future bride, he would love her no matter what. It was something he knew in bones, knew more than he had ever known anything in his life- including his own name, which he had drunkenly forgotten at least twice amidst a tryst-, and he absolutely could not wait to meet her, to let her know he already loved her, and for the first day of the rest of their lives to begin.
xxxNot loving her was not a choice he would ever have, which was something he was more than happy about, but would his bride-to-be love him in turn? It would not wound him if she did not, but he would be lying if he said it wouldn’t be most spectacular if she shared the love he had for her. It wouldn’t matter if she did not, though, he would love her all the same and would not at all be hurt if she chose to give her love to another and spend her days with them. She was free to do whatever she wished and be with whoever she pleased, and he had no qualms if that whoever was not, or would never, be him. He would also completely understand if he just did not possess the parts she desired. Should that be the case, he would happily be her cover, a shield, so that she may be with whoever she wished regardless of what was dangling or not between their legs without drawing the scornful eye of those up North where they did not embrace such loves with warmth and open arms as they did in Dorne. He would happily instead be a brother, or a friend instead of a husband or a lover, or anything else she wished him to be. He would protect her, and keep her safe, and make sure her name could never be tarnished by some foul gossipmongering talebearer's word, so that she may love her days happy and free with no sorrow touching upon them. He understood that one loved who they loved, and that it was no choice; it was who they were, and that was something to be embraced, and not shunned. He himself did not care what his partner was, or feel a desire for any person in particular; all that mattered to him was that they too wished to spend time with him in such a way. He knew what that was like well, and he would wholly understand if she was like that too, or possessed a preference, or desire for only one, or something else entirely, and he would make that known to her as soon as he could so that need never be a worry that crossed her mind. She would never receive any sort of judgement from him regarding that or anything else, and he hoped she would know that soon, so that it didn't ever have to be a worry she faced while around him. That was the last thing he ever wanted, the last thing he ever wished. She was to be his princess, his equal, and he would do his best to ensure that no such judgements ever fell upon her, and if any ever did, he would happily take the blame for her and find a way to spin it onto himself. He knew the world of gossip well, he enjoyed being a part of it's world and hearing the things his gossipers brought back to him, but he did not enjoy it when the rumors turned foul and cruel and had the potential to ruin an innocents life, and he was determined to never let those fall upon his bride-to-be, his lady Ashara, should she ever choose to love someone other than him, be it man or woman or both.
xxxEven if she happened to love him in return, he would also never force her to be his partner in making an heir if she didn’t wish to be his other half in that; they were lucky to be in Dorne, where he could father a bastard with another and name them prince or princess, and even if they weren’t, he gave not a fuck for what another would say. He would never force another in those ways or put any sort of pressure upon agreeing; such an act took two, and in his eyes, it should not happen if both did not say a yes that was not forced and filled only with the true desire to share in such an act. If she didn’t want to have a child he would not make her bring one into the world. If she wanted a child, but not with him, he would understand that too, and take no offense, and that would also be okay. Even if the rest of the world cared, he would not. It was her body, and her choice, and he wanted her to do what made her happy. A man could do that all he wished, and he saw no reason why a woman could not do the same. There would always be an end to any power, always another to usurp a throne, or a king or queen with no family to take their place, and what did purity of blood matter then? He would care for the child, his or not, and unconditionally love them as he was going to love her, and that, and her happiness were all that mattered. He would be there for the child in however she wished him to be, and he would respect if she wished him to not be present at all. She would be the mother of the child if she ever wished to have one, she would be the one to carry it and bring it into the world and he would listen if she told him she wanted him to have no part in their life, especially if it wasn't his. This marriage was not her choice, and he wanted to give her as much choice as she could possibly have within it, and he would be content to watch the child grow from afar, and understand if she carried any resentment toward him that wouldn't have her wanting him near. Even without a child, he would understand if that resentment was there; he knew he'd be extremely pissed and displeased if he was sold off like sheep or cattle or a pretty necklace with gorgeous, twinkling inlaid jewels in the market from a land across the sea as daughters so often seemed to be in this world the moment they grew old enough to be wed. That resentment, or anger, or whatever it may be, was more than beyond justified in his eyes and he would absolutely understand if she felt that. The practice was unfair and often cruel in his eyes, and not one he enjoyed seeing. He had seen the happiness, and the wonder of marrying for love and the good that came with it through his parents, even through Ricasso and his own future bride, and even the woman that had given the world his niece. Such a wonderful sweet girl with nothing but kindness and love in her hear would never have been born had love not been allowed to happen, and Zo knew that he wouldn't have been born either, and that neither would Qyle have been, had his parents not married for a love. He understood why marriages were arranged that way, because humans were greedy creatures, but he had never liked it, and he was truly sorry that the woman who was to be his wife was a victim of that, and that was why he was ever more determined to give her the best life he could, and the promise that he would love her and there would never be a coldness for her in his heart if she would accept nothing else. Where she had no choice he wanted to give her one. He was being sold off in a way too, but he also partly had choice, so it could not at all be the same. She had been engaged to a Lannister boy for far too long, and now that it had been broken she was handed to the next person who could grant her family good fortune and power or whatever they were hoping to achieve from the marriage, and unless he was missing a great piece to the story, she had had no choice in any of it. He knew little of why the engagement had been broken off by her family, but he was sure being so quickly moved to him had to have her feeling at least a little like some sort of tool. Those in Dorne had more freedom in love and marriage, but she had not been engaged to someone in Dorne until her family's eyes had shifted to him, so he was unsure if she had ever gotten to feel that freedom. Truly though, he would understand if this was something that she just hated him for, if she wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and if seeing his face sent her into a place of resentment and rage. He would not blame her, or take any offense and he would do his very best to respect her boundaries and be there only when she wished him to be. If she needed time that would be okay room and he would be there when she was ready with open arms, mind, and heart, and an array of tasty delicacies and trinkets from far off places to enjoy in hopes it would give her a smile. If she was homesick he would do all he could to make her feel at home, even if she resented him and would not want his gifts. He just wanted to make this as good for her as he possibly could, and give her a joy and a happiness she may not have gotten to have if she had been sent to marry another. Every outcome, every possibility, he was prepared for, and ready and willing to do all he could. He had accepted and come to terms with all those many possibilities awhile ago, and none would change his unconditional and devoted love for her, nothing ever could.
xxxStill, he couldn’t help but worry about what she would think of him, and if she would be miserable in their marriage because she disliked him so. He knew she had been previously engaged to a Lannister, had she met him? Fallen for him, grown feelings for him? Would she find him to be a disappointment, a downgrade in comparison? He knew the engagement had been broken do to something the lion family had said or done, but had that been her choice? Had she wished it to end, and it's breaking had happened to go in her favor, or had the ending gone against her own wishes? Would she still wish to be wed to him, for his kiss, for his tongue, for his touch? Would she forever resent him for keeping her from that? Would she try and do all she could to get back to the Lannister boy? He had no high opinion of the lions, but had had no idea if hers was different, or if she had known them in a way that he could never understand. Did her parents simply wish to aim for a different thing with the marriage, had the Lannisters pulled out part of their favors and changed the deal or something like that, without any concern for Ashara and what she may have felt for her previous betrothed? Or did she hate him as much as the world seemed to despise the lions? Would she welcome a marriage to him if that was the case, or could she still be resentful for being forced into a marriage that she in no circumstances did want? Would she care for him too? Would she be miserable? He didn't need her to care for him return, or even like him for that matter, but Zo never wanted her to be miserable with him, and if she was then he would do all he could to make that right and at least ease a fraction of that misery. She would not deserve that sorrow at all, and he wanted nothing more than to ease it if she possessed it, but would he even want him to ease it? Would she let him? Would she even want the love he so unconditionally gave? He would never ask anything of her, or force her into doing anything she didn't want to, but he still feared that she would be unhappy at his side or as his wife. He would build her a new city if she wished to be away from him, and begin to lay down the brick and mortar with his own two hands, there is nothing he wouldn't do, but what if that wasn't enough? What if she would still be unhappy, still angry and hurt? What could he do then? Would there be anything he could do to ease it? That was something he feared, a worry that had been sitting with him since his father told him he was to marry her. If she resented him, or the situation, or carried hurt and sorrow, he would completely understand it, but he still hoped that she at least would not feel that for him, and that she could at least find some joy in his presence. Was that selfish? Was that cruel of him to ask, to hope? Was it bad to wish? He didn't know, he had no idea, and he was scared that the one scenario he feared would be the one they were stuck with until their deaths. He didn't know what to do if a life with him would make her most unhappy, even if they were cities apart. He had solutions for most everything else, plans for what to do and what to be for nearly everything, except for that, because if he did all he could, and she was still unhappy, there would be nothing left. Would she even find his jokes enjoyable, his efforts to make her smile charming or at the very least endearing or sweet? Would they even give her a grin? He didn't know, and he could feel his impatience beginning to rise again, and naw at him like a dog to a bone. He had to stop thinking about what would happen if she didn't like him, it was just making him nervous, and he didn't want those nerves to in turn affect her and make things worse or bring her any sort of discomfort. He hoped more than anything that she would love him too, that she would want to be with him as he did her, but he knew that would likely not come to pass. Perhaps though, right now it was best to think about the possibility he hoped for most, rather than the one he feared. If she loved him, and their marriage was a happy choice, would she enjoy his stories? Would she enjoy the harmless gossip he collected and his beloved hawk when he chose to be home? Would his bride-to-be enjoy his creative and artistic ventures? Would she enjoy his plays, or at least appreciate them? He had always held a fondness for performers, for story tellers who told their stories through both body and by word in costume and sometimes even with others around, doing the same. He had loved them ever since he had been a boy and a traveling band of actors and bards visited, sewing tales of Valyra and the Summer Isles and legends of Direwolves and the Children of the Forest up north and the dragons and magic of fire to the east, and telling them through dances and beautiful colors of every fabric woven into the most gorgeous costumes he had ever seen with words as soft and smooth and as beautiful as silk. He had wanted to be like them, to create stories like that as they did from the moment they performed for his family at the castle, and he had written one for his betrothed to watch with him after they dined that he so hoped she would like. He would not at all blame her if she didn't like the play or share in those tastes or feel the same about stories and creative things as he did, as everyone had different tastes and different pleasures, but he still greatly hoped that she would, and that if nothing else, they could find joy and solace and laughter within them together and share in the smiles. He wanted to create things with her, stories, plays, tales, songs, music, dances, whatever she desired. He wanted to bring to reality things she had only thought possible in her dreams, things she had never thought could exist outside then. Zo wanted to make her dreams come true and shower her in stories he crafted just for her, so she could know the extent of his love in a way words alone could never express, so he could make her smile and bring her joy. He would give his hobbies and creative pleasures all up for her if they brought her misery and she asked, but like he hoped that she would love him back, he hoped that that would never come to pass, and even though he was still worried, he was most eager to see if she liked all that he had prepared for her to give her a welcome that had her feeling welcomed and like this castle could be a new home.
xxxAll of a sudden, a commotion broke out at the entrance, and Thomos burst through very clearly heavily panting and out of breath. Zoroastarr's thoughts ceased almost immediately, and he straightened, watching the boy lean against a wall as he struggled to catch his breath, gasping for the air his lungs begged for. He was a good kid, sweet, and very loyal. He had come to Dorne as an orphan bastard from a city along the west coast along with a traveling merchant, or rather, he had snuck aboard a merchants ship in a barrel filled with some spice, and hadn't been discovered until he reached Sunspear. The merchant caused quite a ruckus when he discovered to get the boy taken away and punished, but Zo had been there at the time, and stopped the guards who had started attending to the mess of a scene it had become. He was just a kid, a little boy who had lost his family and had no where to go and hadn't known what else to do. A stowaway, yes, but not a thief, and not at all deserving of punishment. Zo had just gotten a baby bird a few days prior, and he needed someone to follow it when it grew large enough to fly so he knew it would always be safe, because Zo would never keep a creature from it's freedom or flight, and so Thomos came under his service and care and became a friend. He got a room in the castle, and quickly proved to be a quick learner and an eager helper, and he more than proved his loyalty as the years went on. He had been nothing but faithful to Goss and to Zo, and had more than earned his keep and the coin he was given. There were few he trusted as much as he trusted Thomos, and he had long ago decided that should anything happen to him, the boy would be the one to get his treasured hawk. He was also to deliver a single rotting fish to Qoren with a letter he had written during a very drunken morning where he felt like he was about to die and had been fully convinced he was about to, but that was an entirely different story of no importance right now as the boy finally caught his breath enough to continue waking and ran to him, bowing and then straightening again. "The Lady Ash..ara is.." He let out a cough. "racing here with... someone. They'll be.. here soon." Thomos let out another cough, this one sounding particularity harsh, and Zo quickly placed a hand on his back, helping to steady him and noticing how the boy seemed like he was about to faint. He frowned, worried that he was overworking the boy, but gave a nod, and pulled him closer for a moment in an odd side hug. "Thank you Thomos, now go inside and get some rest before you pass out. I'll have someone leave you a hefty plate in your room after we dine." He gave the boy a gentle pat on the back, and a guiding push toward the door, and Thomos looked back with a tired- a very, very tired-, grateful smile. Zo watched him return inside, eyes narrowed in concern until he slipped safely in and he had faith the boy could make it to his room, and then turned to his brother with a mischievous smile, finally processing want the boy was said now that he wasn't scared the poor kid was going to faint in his arms at any moment. His lady was near, she was close, he was going to meet her soon and he was beyond excited for that, and even more excited at the fact she was not just peacefully riding there as everyone else would, no, instead of that she was racing. He could already tell she was going to have a most beautiful spirit, and he could not wait to be the one racing her if she wanted to challenge him. He just couldn't wait, and he was sure he was doing a horrible job of containing any of his excitement, especially as he leaned in conspiratorially toward Ricasso, his grin as wide as it could go, and his eyes shining. "I bet you five gold pieces that it is my bride who wins." Zoroastarr proposed, glancing at the entrance and then back to his older quite boring yet tolerable and sometimes fun brother, who looked none too pleased at the words that had just left his mouth. "Whyever would I make a bet with you dear brother, when all of our coin goes to the same pocket? Yours." Ricasso asked, arms crossed, and expression unamused and dry as he turned to face him. Zo scoffed, giving a dramatic sigh at his half-brother's ridiculousness. "Oh come on, if I lose you'll have five more pieces to spend on your newsest venture." Zo watched as Ricasso fixed him with a glare that would have greatly unsettled him if he wasn't in the mood to be a pestering bastard and taking great joy in this exchange while he waited for the love of his life to arrive. "She's not some whore, she is to be my wife!" Ricasso hissed, eyes fiery, yet cold as ice all the same. Zo grinned, holding his hands up on a mock surrender as he leaned back. He tried to hide his smile, but that only made it bigger. "Woah now, no shame if she were, it's a respectable business, one we all love here, and I might even go into it myself were I not a soon to be married prince, though I must admit, fortune telling calls to me more." Zoroastarr set his has hands down, and watched as his older brother snorted at the end of his statement, raising an incredulous brow at him in question, likely in disbelief and wondering at how his brother could be such an idiot. "You, and your cards, a fortune teller?" Ricasso asked, only causing Zo to grin even wider. He had fallen right into his trap. Qoren once told him that he had a shit eating grin- though he was too much of a pride to use those words exactly-, and he was certain that was what he wore now, far too pleased with his own antics. He reached into a pocket, quickly pulling his deck out and fanning them out in front of Ricasso. "Oh, you mean these cards?" Zo smirked, waggling his eyebrows, far too proud of himself. "Why don't you draw one and see how good a fortune teller I am? Five more pieces says you get the fool." Zoraostarr teased, moving the cards even closer. Ricasso only let out a disappointed sigh, and stepped away, walking over to stand on the other side of their father, Qyle following close behind like a duckling with it's mother. Zo frowned, giving an exaggerated pout. "Oh dear brothers, you wound me! Where is your sense of fun?" Zoraostarr called, feigning deep hurt and even deeper offense, with Elio bursting out with a laugh near his side, no longer able to hold it in. He was about to quip back at a very amused Elio, but before he had the chance, his lady and another man, presumably her brother, rushed in through the final gate and into the courtyard of the Old Palace, it's two old Rhoynish towers standing tall to greet them.
xxxGods, she was beautiful, nay, breathtaking. His breath had been stolen from him the moment she came racing in. Her hair was long and whipped by the wind, and her smile brighter and more beautiful than the sun. She hadn't won, but he cared not about that; he cared only for the sound of her beautiful laughter as her hand went affectionately to her horse, a gorgeous mare, though not nearly as gorgeous as it's rider. Her laughter was like the most beautiful music, a song he never wished to end. It made him smile, this not not a smirk, nor a grin, just a smile. A blissful smile. She was like a goddess, and he knew the great love he already held for her could only increase, and he had hopes that she would like him return. He felt a pang of sadness as her laughter faded, but quickly perked up as he noticed her attention had turned in the direction of himself, and his family. Would she be able to tell which one was him? Would she prefer one of his brothers to be her betrothed and find him a disappointment she she learned it was him? He hoped not. He would support her with one of his brothers if she wished to be with one, save for Ricasso who had already found his love and Qyle who was too young, but now that he had seen her, and her smile, and heard her laughter, he truly hoped that she would want him, that he would be all see had hoped. He hardly noticed the man she had entered with moving, or someone coming to take her beautiful sand steed, nor the bannerman that had finally caught up to them or were beginning to arrive; he was too utterly mesmerized by her to pay them any mind, too entranced. He watched as she lifted a hand to run through her long and tousled curls, and he heard himself let out a soft sigh. Every part of her was beautiful, and as his eyes trailed down the length of her hair, he finally noticed her dress, and how it looked very nice on her. It fit her figure well, and did not completely cover her skin which was something he would never be caught complaining about. The color of her dress was a deep plum, a gorgeous color that he thought suited her so very well. The fabric was a bit shimmery in the sunlight, almost like a peak with the way it caught the sun in a dull but noticeable shine on top of the surface. The fabric was folded, back and forth, almost like bellows in forges to stoke and feed the flames, but much prettier, and more meticulously done. It was quite pretty. The skirt ended at her waist, where it was met by an unfolded band of fabric about the width of three of his fingers when turned on their side that sat tightly against her skin, with a small cut out at the front where it wasn't sewn to it like the rest. He couldn't see it too well from where he was, but it looked like some silver casings covering strings fed underneath it as an attachment to the rest of the dress to hold it up and all in place. The pattern the strings and silver were done in reminded him of constellations, like one had been drawn out upon her skin. It's shape looked a bit like a star, but it also reminded him a bit of a crab, with the way they crossed in the center like the markings on a crab's shell and it's outline was a bit like the shape of a crushed house. There was also some silver coming up from the top of the shape, between the fabric covering her breast that looked a bit like eye stalks, but that was probably just him not seeing it up close enough, and he was greatly looking forward to seeing the dress and the rest of her up close soon. The fabric covering her chest had a line of the silver seemingly seen into it's center, with another silver piece on each of her shoulders, and came off to the sides of her arms, hanging until her elbows. From this angle he couldn't see if that fabric carried to covering her back as well, or if that too was covered in constellations of thread and silver. Either option would still be gorgeous, and she would still be just as beautiful in the dress, and he would still adore the way it was held together and it's intricate style. The way the silver caught the sun was beautiful, like her smile, but no where near close to begin able to compare to the beauty of her smile. He doubted anything could compare to that, and he nearly frowned when the man who had entered with her crossed his vision and drew his attention away from her, and to what they were presently doing.
xxxHer gaze still seemed to be cast in his direction, and he watched as she only seemed to half pay attention to what she was offering her hand to as the man reached toward her to help her dismount. He lurched forward a step instinctually when the dismount took an ungrateful turn when she tripped over herself as her feet hit the ground and fell into her brother, who thankfully caught her before she could fall. He blushed a deep red, and stepped back, absentmindedly running a nonchalant hand through his hair to try and hide his embarrassment and leaning forward to catch her when she was such a distance away. Hopefully she wouldn't find that too stupid if she had seen. The man didn't let her go just yet though, and they seemed to share an exchange before he wrapped around her back, blocking her further from view. He frowned, and tilted his head. What was that about? Had something happened? Had she been hurt? Was there something else going on? He watched curiously, far more intrigued than he should have been until the realization of what had likely dawned on him and he found himself turning red again. Oh. She had dismounted ungracefully, and with a dress that had the fabric over her besets separate from the rest and covering each one individually and only attached to the skirt through threads and thin silver to leave the flesh between the three pieces exposed, that had to have caused something to shift. Or at least, that's what he was assuming had happened, as he truly had no other idea as to why the man would remain in front of her and then further cover her after a presumably hushed exchange. If that is what happened, he hoped that she wasn't too embarrassed; accidents like that happened, and he didn't mind that at all. The man, or, brother who had shielded her though; Zo decided that he liked him. That was good of him to do, and he had come racing in with her so clearly he shared in her good spirit. They seemed to be close, and he was glad that she had someone like that to watch out for her. He knew that if he had been in that situation instead of her just now, none of his brothers would have come to his aid, and he'd have been left free to fix it without any cover. He wanted to grimace at the thought of that, but before he could, a new voice reached his ears, and he realized someone was formally introducing themselves to him. His name was Olyvar, or at least he thought it was anyway, it could have been something slightly different, his gaze was still on his lady and he hadn't exactly been paying attention to what he was saying. Reluctantly, he tore his gaze away from her and her brother, and to the new man, giving him his full attention as he finished introducing himself, and then gave an unimpressed look in the direction of his love and the brother he had decided he liked. That had him frowning, and noticeably bristling as he went on to apologize for his siblings stiffly. Zo didn't like this brother. He was too much like Qoren, and he did not want anyone displeased at his bride-to-be having fun and enjoying herself regardless of blood relation or not. He had found her entrance to be spectacular, and the thought of it had his smile returning to his face, even as the man continued to say that his siblings could be a bit eccentric, clearly not at all happy with how they had entered. Zo forced a smile at the man, and waved the apology off with a purposeful gesture of his hand. "Why apologize for eccentricities? They're what makes life interesting, don't you think?" Zoroastarr asked, gesturing again with open arms, and raising his voice so she was sure to clearly hear, smirking, and eyes flickering to Ashara where she stood in the distance, a genuine smile tugging at his lips as his gaze settled on her once more. He wanted her to know that he had loved her entrance, and that he did not agree with this wet rag in the slightest. He noticed that she seemed to be frozen in place for a moment, before she snapped out of it, and looked up to the brother at her side, who he had been most right in assuming to be a brother. He gave her a small nod and a wink which had Zo tilting his head curiously, until he turned his attention back to Ashara, and watched as her gaze turned to the wet blanket before they settled on him, and remained on him until she stood before him and he found his breath once again stolen. Fuck every goddess to exist, none could hope to compare to her, she was even more beautiful and breath taking up close. She curtsied, and he felt his heart skip a beat as she spoke his name. It sounded different than he had expected it to, but her voice was just as beautiful as she was, and he loved the way his name sounded coming from her lips. He hoped that he would be able to hear it again and again and again, and he smiled as she continued, saying it was a pleasure to finally meet him. He wasn't sure if she meant it, or if it was just a formality or a mix of both, but he certainly knew that it was truly a great pleasure to meet her at last, and he could not hide his smile as he bowed, gently taking her hand in his while his other, still holding his precious deck of cards went behind his back, ready to be pulled out the moment he needed them. He was such to keep his touch gentle against her hand as he brought it to his lips, pressing a featherlight kiss to her skin while his eyes never left her own. "The pleasure is mine, Lady Ashara," Zo murmured, still entranced by her. "and please, call me Zo, I am already yours." He smiled, eyes twinkling, sending her a wink meant for her and her alone while moving to stand. He reluctantly let her hand fall from his and back to her side and straightened fully, letting out a soft sigh, before his smile took on a mischievous glint and soon turned into a smirk as he took a step back and knelt on a knee before her, the hand behind his back whipping out from behind him, his deck now clearly in view. "Now, my lady, before your welcome begins, would you like to pick a card and test your fate, and see what the stars have in store?" Zoraostarr asked, his smirk growing, and eyes searching her beautiful features. He could practically hear the internal groans of his brothers behind him, and the undoubtedly amused grin of his father, but he didn't care about them, right now all he cared about was her, and giving her a smile. His eyes remained on hers as he then carefully fanned out the cards, holding them so they were faced down before her and splayed out for her to choose. He had no idea if she'd be eager to play this game with him, or if she'd bite, but he hoped it would at least bring her a smile, and he was more than curious to see which card she would happen to draw. A hidden part of him hoped it would be the card of The Lovers, so there was more hope that this marriage could be one of love and not only arrangement but truly any card she drew would be perfect, though not nearly as perfect as her and her gorgeous, gentle features and entrancing dark eyes and magnificent laugh and her smile that shown brighter than the sun.