Lyarra earnestly wished that she retained her dark grey felt cap, so that she could pull it low over her eyes now. While she intellectually knew that not being able to see them didn't mean that they couldn't see her, the dark-haired bastard felt that the darkness shrouding her would lessen her heartbeat and cool her dampened palms. Bereft of her newfound favorite apparel though, she simply kept her features as placid as the sunny surface of a lake while regarding the Dornish court.
'Who knew that I would miss being hidden away as my father's shame?' As a bastard, Lyarra Snow had been kept to the dark corners of ballrooms and shadowy ends of solars. Now she stood, back straight, hands folded and chin up before what amounted to some of the most powerful nobility in Dorne. 'Deep breath in, deep breath out. I will not shame either of my Houses now.'
Her dark violet eyes shaded and brightened by a streak of black kohl danced over the splendor of the court. The royal room of Sunspear was a vast hall of dark gold sunstone and black marble veined in streaks of pale pink and sky blue. Banners of red, black and gold hung throughout the room with cloth of orange stitched in House Martell's sigil strategically placed throughout to catch the light of the torches. Ferns in clay vases added a touch of natural levity to the hall. Arched doors with iron-wrought latticework let into the room and a pristine colored-stone floor led up to a half-sun made of reinforced stained glass surrounding the royal dias.
The royal dias was the most eye-catching part of the majestic hall. It was in a hollow chamber carved into the hall and bracketed by five wide panes of bronze-supported glass letting in abundant sunlight. No less than eleven steps for each of the original clans conquered by Mors Martell led up to a straight-backed throne set a measure away from the stairs. Wrought of bronze and gold, it wasn't anything grand in design and lacked any intricacies but for the sun and spear embossed on its back. Above it stood a simple canopy of red silk to protect the Prince from the heavy rays of sunlight. Flanking the steps were twin bronze statues of a beast crossed between tortoise and toad with eyes of jade and a foreboding expression on its face. Elia had told her that they were Old Men of the River, a species held sacred by the Rhoynar that were believed to be spiritual consorts of the Mother Rhoyne, their chief goddess. They had been a wedding gift from Nymeria herself to her husband when they joined their two lines. The Orphans of the Greenblood still worshipped Mother Rhoyne and while they did not answer to House Martell's authority, delegations did arrive to Sunspear to request luck from these ancient statues.
In this aura of solemnity and dignity slouched her Nuncle Oberyn with seemingly irreverent aloofness as he spoke to the current lord's petition. If not for the sharp keenness of his depthless black eyes, Lyarra would have been concerned that her mother's House left its business to a man too fickle to handle matters of state.
'Nuncle plays jester so often that I forgot he was a statesman as well.' Lyarra's lips curved up into a small smile. 'A scholar, a warrior, a pirate and now this? I should wish to be just like him when I am grown… though perhaps with less children. I would have to birth them myself after all.'
Despite his six child swiftly approaching, Lady Ellaria sat serenely in the main courtier's seat before the dias. She had a lap desk ready and was swiftly making account of each petitioner's name, rank, complaint and suggested royal solution. When this lord was done, Nuncle having nonchalantly agreed to look into his daughter's martial situation with a man she apparently ran away to wed, the next man stepped forward. This one had the look of Stony Dornish but his uncommonly light blonde hair appeared almost silver and his eyes were a startlingly lavender color. As he walked up to Nuncle Oberyn, his gaze flitted over to her, warm and curious, and a small smile appeared on his face.
Uncertain, Lyarra smiled back and paid acute attention to his address.
"Lord Alleric of Starfall, Head of House Dayne," the man introduced himself with a steady, soft-spoken voice. "I've arrived with my son and Heir, Edric, to turn him over to Prince Oberyn for his squireship."
"Ah, my newfound mule!" Her Uncle perked up. "Where is the boy? Daemon's been slacking off in shining my armor lately and I could use more help."
Lord Alleric Dayne didn't look the least bit offended by this. "I have handed him off to the servants to be escorted to his quarters, Your Grace."
"I'll check his current skill set later than," Oberyn answered. "Don't bother to leave until I've tested him. It'd be a bother to chase down your party later." An inclination of a silver-gilted head was the only response. "Let me introduce you to my niece, Lyarra Snow. Come here, sweetling."
A fissure of startlement ran down her spine as she was addressed for the first time this morning. Standing up from her own chair and smoothing down her dress, Lyarra made her way past the tall Dornish lord and to her uncle's side. She had thought there would be more pomp and circumstance when she was introduced to the court but found Prince Oberyn's negligent gesture in her direction to be oddly reassuring. "My cousin, Aliandra's, daughter by the Warden of the North."
"How do you do, Lady Lyarra?" The Dayne lord politely inquired.
Suddenly confronted by the man that she would have otherwise thought her uncle, considering the rumors of Ashara Dayne, Lyarra did the only thing she could have done. She fell into a perfect curtsy as taught her by the septa for the last several days. "I am well, thank you, my lord. And yourself?"
"I am fortunate to be in good health." As she looked up, he commented. "You have your mother's curls, my dear, as well as the violet eyes that occasionally pop into your House."
"Thank you," Lyarra repeated, as her cheeks reddened. Oh Gods, this was the man whose brother died at her father's hand and whose sister was dishonored by Ned Stark also. The dark-haired girl would have expected some sort of dissatisfaction from his direction but received that kind-natured smile still.
"Lyarra has been listening to petitioners all morning," her Nuncle informed the man. "Without a word of complaint."
"Most impressive patience from anyone, particularly a child."
"Yes, I thought so as well." Those keen eyes were softer as they looked upon her. "Do you know the way to the fosterling quarters?" She did not but loathed revealing her ignorance before the court. So she nodded. "Then fetch Edric for me, will you? I would like to take measure of him now."
Lyarra nodded and then turned swiftly to move past the courtiers. She carefully avoided everyone's eyes, not yet having the nerve to look at them directly, though glimpses of sigils attached surnames to the unknown figures. Her outfit for the day was a well-fitted brocade of dark orange and gold, the silk tunic painted thinly in gold paint of flourishes akin to whirlpools and waves. It brushed past silken slippers and loose, voluminous trousers of black. Having worn clothing far heavier than this in her normal life, Lyarra felt as loose-limbed and light-footed as a bird in flight as she walked. Once past the doors, she quickened her pace to where the living quarters were and requested from the maester the location of the male fosterlings.
Lyarra knew her search was over when she laid eyes on a boy that could have been Lord Alleric writ miniature. 'He looks much like his father.'
She herself shared that paternal resemblance though her wild curls and dark violet eyes could distinguish her somewhat. The bastard wondered which tiny aspects would reveal this boy's mother's blood, for as she politely knocked on the door and Lord Edric Dayne turned, he looked nothing but a starlord. His silver-gilt hair was slightly too long and flopping over eyes that were startlingly pale. His features were soft and rounded with youth but she could the curve of the hollow cheekbones he would have one day. Standing half a head shorter than herself, this slim boy didn't strike her as anything of the warrior her uncle was forging Ser Daemon into.
On a related note, she didn't know why Cousin Arianne didn't like Ser Daemon. He was so nice!
"Nuncle Oberyn wants to test you now," Lyarra said, deciding that it would only be just to warn the boy. She wondered if she might have made a mistake when that pale skin turned translucent.
"Test me? Father didn't mention a test," the boy said. His voice was as soft and sweet as the rest of him. The bastard pitied his chances of passing whatever nonsense the Viper would arrange. "Do you know what it may be? I'm Edric Dayne by the way. Of Starfall."
"Lyarra Snow of Wint-" Lyarra replied automatically. "Of Sunspear. I'm Prince Oberyn's niece."
"The one from the North that Lord Stark hid," Edric Dayne summarized.
"How do you know of me?"
"You're currently the best gossip of Dorne. Would you not be curious if a royal family found a long-lost daughter?" The question was not offered unkindly. "It's alright. News passes swiftly here. You'll need to await an elopement soon or a duel gone wrong or Prince Oberyn getting bored and then no one will be speaking of you anymore."
"I- News doesn't pass so quickly in the North," Lyarra said, dealing with a sudden dizziness of realization. She was a royal bastard now and a lord paramount's too. Wow. "We spoke of Lord Harewood's affair with his servant for nearly two years."
"Was it a scandalous one?"
"I don't think so," she spoke with uncertainty. The Northern bastard wasn't an expert in these subjects but she didn't think the affair was anything special. "It produced a bastard?"
"What else?" Edric Dayne's worries seemed to have fled as they turned the corner and made their way down the stairs. "Come on, there must be more than that? Crossdressing? Incest? Threesome? Was there a duel at least?"
"No," was her wide-eyed response. What caliber of scandals did they have here? "His wife banished him from her rooms for a moon."
"Well, that's boring," the blonde boy huffed. "You'll be provided with far more entertainment in Dorne, my lady, you need not worry."
'Now I'm the one that's worried!' The dark-haired girl decided to let the talk of scandals rest as she quickened her pace to the latticework door. By equal measure, the Dornish boy lagged behind until she was forced to reach back and grab a hand that was as soft as the rest of him before dragging Edric Dayne forward. A sense of pride at a job well done filled her as the bastard shoved the boy in.
"Get the maester!"
The room was in mild pandemonium. Courtiers were scrambling over each other to rush to the doors, while Ellaria Sand was slumped over in her lover's arms. A head of silver hair and another guard were helping keep the lady up but from the drips of dark red Lyara could see pooling underneath her garment, it was evident that something had gone very wrong. Oberyn was barking orders around him one moment and shouting at Ellaria to keep her eyes open the next.
Lyarra stood stock still. Her sights narrowed to the blue-tinted pallor to Ellaria Sand's dusky skin, the sharpness of the tightened features and the heavily lidded eyes fighting pain to be opened. Her heart froze. 'Is this how my mother looked as she lay dying?'
"We need to find the maester!" Not having realized that he could steal his hand away, the starlord took advantage of their interlocked hands to drag her now. "Do you know where he is?"
Broken from her daze and unexpectedly grateful for it, Lyarra stuttered out the last location she had seen him in. The man had to have been nearby for the bastard to pass him on her way to the foster quarters. He'd been heading down to second layer of castle floors and while Edric may not know where that was, Lyarra had… "The kitchens! Come on!"
The two children ran together past servants, courtiers and guards as the castle was slowly whipped into a tizzy over the sudden emergency. The news hadn't reached the kitchens it seemed, as when Lyarra burst into the room by one of its seemingly endless array of doorways, all thrown open to let the steam and fire's heat out and a single exhausted breath to wind in, the maester was still sitting. Maester Caleotte had a snack before him and was filling his smooth face with sweetened naan when the children reached him.
"Royal hall… Aunt Ellaria… blood," Lyarra gasped out.
"Prince Oberyn is calling for you!" Edric added, less winded than she was.
'It's impressive how fast a man that fast can be,' the dark-haired girl thought, once the words had sunk in. Maester Caleoette jumped to his feet and had soon overtaken them to rush out the door. Their task now complete, they exchanged looks as though wondering if they should return.
By mutual consent, the two curious children headed back to the royal hall. Unfortunately by then Lady Ellaria had been moved to a private room and Nuncle Oberyn was with her. As Edric broke off to speak to his father, blushing a bright cherry red when he realized he hadn't yet let go of her hand, Lyarra headed to the hallway. Sitting between Elia and Tyene, as Obara restlessly paced through the halls, she found that it was now her duty to be chatterbug. With Elia unable to say anything in her worry, Lyarra decided to recount every petition she had heard today. She had run out of lords to mention and was about to contemplate aloud Edric's future test when Maester Caleoette walked back out.
Lady Ellaria was fine and the latest Sand Snake had been born, premature but healthy. Her name would be Obella Sand and she was asleep now but they could all take turns to see her, two at a time, youngest first. Lyarra was surprised when that meant Elia and herself would be ushered through the door. When she entered, it was to a scrupulously clean room that couldn't quite hide the scent of blood in the air. Aunt Ellaria was conscious but lying down in bed and quite exhausted. Slumped on the chair next to her was Nuncle Oberyn, who was one part elated grinning and the other part barely hidden pain. Judging by how tenderly he was holding his left hand, Lyarra guessed why.
"Come here, girls, and meet the newest member of our family."
The dark-haired girl moved closer to the bed. Nestled between her mother's chest and a pillow was an impossibly tiny figure with skin as red as an overripe berry and barely any tufts of black on her bald head. Her hands were so small that Lyarra thought one of her fingers would cover them and her eyes were scrunched closed in a baby jowled glare. Despite the lack of hair on her head, she did seem to have very finely shaped eyebrows and, er…
"She has a big nose," Elia observed. Oberyn let out a soft huff of laughter.
"She'll grow into it," the man assured. Considering his own prominent nose, the Northern girl hoped so, lest he wanted his daughter to despise him from this day onwards.
"Hello Obella," she whispered quietly, a soft, hushed sort of happiness spreading through her heart. "I'm your cousin, Lyarra."
With Obella Sand born, Lyarra didn't particularly want to make the half-day's journey to the Water Gardens. Or at least she was ambivalent on the plans. On one hand, the palace had been claimed by no less an authority than her Aunt Ellaria- obviously the smarter of the pair- as gorgeous and Lyarra admitted the writings supported this. Pale pink marble pathways, fluted pillar galleries, terraced floors overlooking reflecting pools and numerous blood orange trees dripping heavy with fruit. She would be able to meet her other uncle there, as well as another cousin that she hadn't yet met. On the other hand, Obella was becoming a lot more cuter now that she didn't look like a grumpy, red-faced baby Caleoette and Edric was a fun partner to spar against.
"Doran is a recognized Master of the Alchemist's Game," Nuncle Oberyn noted slyly. "He won a championship in Qohor when he was a young man. First ever Westerosi to reach the first title."
Lyarra was hooked. "Bye, Nuncle! Be safe and give everyone my love!"
The man burst out into laughter. "You haven't even gotten your belongings readied yet. You'll be staying there for a fortnight at least and will need to pack appropriately. Have you any swim clothes?"
"I do." Her cheeks turned crimson at the reminder. They were… flimsy. And small. And still better than swimming in the nude. "Are you certain they will be needed?"
"Would you rather swim naked?" Oberyn asked without any judgment. The Northern bastard swiftly shook her head. While there were some benefits of Dornish styles that she had quickly acclimated herself to, the light and airy fabrics, independent movement and presence of pockets especially, she was not yet ready for that tradition. "Then pack yourself a few swimsuits. The mineral waters there are very refreshing and you wouldn't want to miss out."
Lyarra had taken his words under consideration by asking Elia to help her pack and then doing the girl's math worksheets while she got it done. The bastard made a note to find a moment to pray soon. While she didn't have a Heart Tree- though she'd been fascinated to learn that Starfall kept one in its grounds- that didn't mean she couldn't commune with her Gods. Lyarra should probably do so and apologize for all of her bad behavior recently. Cheating before the maester, skipping nap time to read under her window, bribing her cousins with dessert and yesterday, even snapping at a princess! She felt almost gleefully rebellious in her behavior.
'May the Old Gods of the Forests forgive me my trespasses.' The dark-haired girl added, as she finished the final calculations. "I'm done, Elia!"
When the preparations were done, Lyarra was pulled up to ride behind Daemon Sand on the trip. The Bastard of Godsgrace was a tall, lean young man with tanned golden skin, dark brown hair and sky blue eyes. He was a lighthearted fellow and regaled her with amusements, most of which involved him apologizing for something her nuncle did, on the journey there. The dark-haired girl was quite disappointed when they finally reached the castle though the blood orange he pressed into her hands made up for the loss of his company.
'I'm going to marry that boy when I grow up,' Lyarra decided. If Cousin Arianne didn't want him, then she could take him, right?
The journey to the Prince of Dorne's solar was short, no matter how she wanted to linger about and take in the sights and soon she was admitted into an airy room by a massive and muscular guard. That axe in his hand had to be taller than her! The room itself was wide and filled with light, plenty of shimmering rainbows reflecting from the wealth of glass around her, and dominated by a low hexagonal table in yellow-grained wood where her Uncle Doran and cousin were sitting.
'So this is the infamous Trystane Martell.' Floppy hair, owlish eyes, gangly limbs and round cheeks smeared with unidentifiable edibles, she could see why he'd suffer the wrath of their cousins.
"You have something on your cheek," Lyarra pointed out blandly.
Trystane responded with a surprisingly fierce glare. "I'm aware."
Allowing him to return to wiping off the substances from his skin, Lyarra turned to her other uncle. Her first thought was that he was old. Nuncle Oberyn was as well, with hint of grey amidst his black hair, but where youth and vigor added a spring to his step, Nuncle Doran looked older than his years. He had a pleasant, lined face inset with depthless black eyes and a polite smile. His hair was fully silver or more of a greyish-white color and the silk robes he wore, of the Martell shades, were carefully placed around to hide the skin of his hands and his feet. He looked very tired.
When his keen eyes landed on her, Lyarra thought they might have softed a bit. "Introduce yourself."
The Northern bastard fell to a proper curtsy. "Lyarra Snow of Sunspear, Your Grace."
"Well met, child." The Prince gestured to the sofa near his wheelchair and she cautiously moved to perch on a cushion. "I am your mother's cousin, your Nuncle Doran. You may refer to me by that term in private and by my title elsewhere." She nodded. "Tell me of yourself."
She didn't know where to begin but under those patient eyes and the discomfort that silence was beginning to be, Lyarra spoke. She started with her time at Sunspear, pitch escalating in excitement over her lessons and newfound independence and cousins, and then, when she ran out of topics there, ventured back to Winterfell. She spoke of her other siblings and her close friendship with Robb, the Heart Tree and how often she had prayed there, Old Nan and her stories and how she'd gone on a hunger strike to be allowed to fight. Father hadn't allowed it in Winterfell but Nuncle Oberyn put a wooden blade in her hand and let her to run about with Edric and Elia and be taught as they were.
The Prince didn't speak very often himself but he would ask questions of her interests or inquire further on a story and before Lyarra knew, she was roped into an Alchemist's Game. As an opponent, her nuncle was brutal and Lyarra's pieces fell off the board before she quite understood what had occured. The dark-haired girl was left blinking at her bare half of the board in shock.
"You did well for a beginner," Nuncle Doran spoke kindly, reassembling the pieces. "Let us try again. I'll repeat the first stratagem I used in the last game and you can tell me of how to counter it."
Lyarra carefully amended her previous assumption. Nuncle Doran was a tired man but that didn't mean he wasn't dangerous as well.