Highgarden

CHAPTER I

About thirty years ago Lady Aluria Swann of Stonehelm met and captivated Lord Markin Tyrell. Within a year she was lady of Highgarden, with the grandeur and lavishness such a position granted.

The Swanns’, though a mighty powerful house in the Stormlands, were not prominent enough to normally warrant such a match. All of Stonehelm rang with whispers of the matches’ greatness and of hopes of the Lady Aluria’s two sisters. After all, Lady Tyana and Lady Alysanne were just as lovely Lady Aluria. Lady Tyana, after many years of playing coy and on the verge of spinsterhood found herself forced to accept her husband-in-laws match to Ser Peake, a Reacher knight with a meager holdfast. Lady Tyana’s marriage, as it turned out, was a contented one. Lord Tyrell happily gave his friend and subject Captaincy of the Guard in Highgarden; and the Peake’s began residing in Highgarden.

Lady Alysanne, by contrast, could hardly of found a worse husband in the eyes of Swanns. She wed a Tyroshi sellsword without name, education or connection. Lord Swann would have stopped the match but his daughter had snuck off to the sept and lost her maidenhead before he had the chance.

Lord Markin Tyrell, both to be kind and to extend his sphere of influence, tried to raise his good-brother to a position of some esteem. But Morpio Tynos was not a man to be tempted by wealth or power and refused all aid. In any case, Lady Aluria Tyrell had cuts all ties with her younger sister before long, as the siblings stubbornly refused to be reconcile.

Lady Tyrell was a passive woman, as difficult to anger as a sea sponge. She would have been happy to forget the whole issue and give up on her sister altogether, her elder sister, however seemed far too irate for that. Lady Peake was not one to let a matter lie; in fact ranting was a favorite pastime for the woman. She decided she’d only be satisfied after writing a nearly vitriolic letter to Alysanne, pointing out all the many ways she’d been foolish and shamed them all. The raven left Alysanne bitter and fuming, in retribution, she sent it back with a message so hateful it effectively estranged the sisters for many years to come.

As Highgarden and Stonehelm were many leagues apart and they certainly didn’t keep any mutual company, for eleven years the Swann daughters heard barely a word of each other. Although when word of a new child did reach Highgarden, Lady Peake made it very clear how much the news displeased her. However, after eleven years Alysanne found she could not afford to hold her grudge against her extremely wealthy sister and good-brother especially since her uncle, the current lord Swann, has made it very clear she’s been banished from his table

Whilst, the Tynos household was large and ever increasing, Morpio was crippled during one of his many wars. This left Alysanne with many mouths to feed and not much in savings to do it with. In desperation, she wrote to The Reach saying how her many Swann faced children would soon be forced to beg. How she had swelled with child a ninth time and was at a loss for how to care for it. She asked if here eldest son, a lively boy of ten, might be useful to her noble good-brother in anyway, be it a stable hand or squire

The Swann sisters, for all their fighting, could not help but be moved by their sisters pleading. Money, clothing and advice from Lord Tyrell were sent to Stonehelm before long.

And an idea for even greater support was brewing in Lady Peake’s mind. She decided that Alysanne would benefit most from having the burden of a child removed

“Why a child of nine surely needs more care and attention than her poor mother can possibly provide? The trouble and expense of it to us would be near nothing, compared for the good it would do Alysanne”

Lady Tyrell agreed with her instantly. “Nothing could do more good,” said she; “let us ward the child.”

Lord Tyrell couldn’t so flippantly consent. It was a serious idea; the girl would have to be well cared for, or warding her would be a cruelty instead of a kindness

He thought of Edric Dayne, the ward he already cared for. What if the children grew to care for each other in a decidedly non-platonic way? Lord Dayne would surely object to his eldest consorting the daughter of a Tryoshi sellsword.

“My Lord Tyrell, I fully agree that the girl ought to be well cared for, I’m her blood after all. I beg you think of the advantages maturing in Highgarden could give her; she’d have the finest education and introduced to society in way befitting her relation, by warding her alone we’re insuring she has every chance of a prosperous future” Lady Peake soon dismissed his other fears “As for her and Edric, such things are hardly likely and they would be raised as siblings. Even if he did take a fancy to young Miss Tynos, his is Dornish; their passions come and go with the sun they are so fond of, it wouldn’t amount to anything”

“I can see your point,” replied Lord Tyrell, “and unlikely scenarios don’t seem enough to disregard to such a plan. Still, warding a child is not something to be done lightly. If Miss Tynos is to benefit we must do out best raise her to be every inch a highborne lady “

“I completely concur,” cried Lady Peake, “I’m sure we have no disagreement on the welfare of Miss Tynos. I’ve always been one to do all I can for those I love; while would not see her as my own or even as dear as your dear children, I could not neglect her. Is she not my niece? I promise you to be most generous to the babe. So, if My Lord allows it, I will write to dear Alysanne tomorrow with the proposal, and after all details have been dealt with, collect the child myself”

Lord Tyrell assented and before long all matters had been settled, and the Tyrells and Lady Peake were quite pleased with themselves for being so very charitable. In truth, Lady Peake had no real intention of going out of her way to be kind to the girl but felt as if she ought to get credit for proposing the idea. Was she not the root of the good deed?

Lord Tyrell was surprised when he discovered his good-sisters’ reluctance to take charge of Miss Tynos. Lord Tyrell had always believed Tyana Peake to be a welcome addition to the upper echelons of Highgarden’s court, a caring aunt to his children without any of her own. Apparently, she was not as compassionate as he has hoped for she insisted that her husband was far too fragile to be around a surely rambunctious child, that she’d welcome the child if this were not the case. Lord Tyrell had to withhold a scoff, he knew the old Ser Peake well, and he knew that he was not nearly so weak to break under that strain of a nine-year-old girl. He refrained from commenting though, Lady Peake had a silver tongue when I came to excuses and it would do him no good.

“Then she’d better stay near us,” said Lady Tyrell, with her quiet dignity. Lord Tyrell refrained from glaring at Lady Peake and consented, “Yes, she’ll stay in the family quarters. There she’ll have companions her age and it will cause less bother to the Maester when it comes to lessons.”

“Very true,” intoned Lady Peake, “which are both very important considerations. I’m sure Maester Rowan won’t begrudge five children to teach instead of two. If only I could be more useful beyond fetching the girl, although that will be quite the chore I assure you”

Lady Tyrell made nodded faintly.

“I hope she will be a courteous girl,” continued Lady Peake, “and be appreciate of her uncommon luck in having such friends.”

“If her disposition be really bad,” said Lord Tyrell, “we must not, for our own children’s sake, have her stay in Highgarden; but there is no reason to except such a thing. I imagine her upbringing has left her without the graces of nobility; she’ll probably be an ignorant, callous little thing with no hint of ettiquete but this can be cured in time I’m sure. As their younger I don’t expect she’ll lead my daughter astray, quite the opposite, I imagine they’ll show her how to behave”

“I quite agree,” said Lady Peake, “and what I was saying to my husband this morning. It will be an education for the child, said I, only being with her cousins; if Maester Rowan taught her nothing, she would learn to be good and clever from them.”

“I hope she will not bother Dorry,” fretted Lady Tyrell while she stroked her dog; “Denys only just started leaving him alone.”

“There is the delicate matter, Lady Peake,” observed Lord Tyrell, “of distinction clear in the minds of the girls that Miss Tynos is not a Lady Tyrell while making my daughters not think too lowly of their cousin. Likewise, Miss Tynos would also do well to remember her station. I do wish them very good friends but still they cannot be equals. Their rank, wealth, rights, and expectations will always be different. I do hope that my lady would assist us in making that apparent.

Lady Peake was readily willing to help and only hope the girls’ relations would be easily managed.

The ravens had been welcomed in Stonehelm. Alysanne was rather surprised that a girl was chosen to be warded, when she had many fine boys, but accepted the offer most thankfully, and assured them that her daughter was a polite, friendly girl, and they wouldn’t have need send her back. Alysanne described her as delicate and small, but hoped she might benefit from the infamous words of House Tyrell ‘Growing Strong’

CHAPTER II

The little girl had a safe but long journey for one so young; at The Reach was met by her aunt, Lady Peake, who regaled her with tales of her comely new family

Velora Price was just ten years old though her looks were not captivating there was nothing in them to repulse her new guardians. She was small for her age, her skin did not glow and her eyes did not strike, she was frightfully nervous and shy; intent of avoiding everyone and anyone. But, she was hardly the child Lord Tyrell feared; more awkward than vulgar with a sweet voice and humble presence. Lord and Lady Tyrell welcomed her very kindly; Lord Tyrell, seeing how terrified the girl was, tried to be reassuring, but it was hardly in his nature. Lady Tyrell, though she did not try half as hard, became Velora’s favorite of the two with a approachable smile

The Tyrell children were all at home and Velora immediately decided her seventeen-year-old cousin and her uncle’s sixteen-year-old ward were men grown. The Tyrell girls had never met anyone quite as shy before and found that, subconsciously at least, their cousins meekness made them feel more confident in themselves.

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