“It is grave news indeed – the messenger was in the right to have come to interrupt the party. The High Priestess is gone,” Lyra said in a voice which did not hold much emotion at all. She handed the note over for Delshad to take and then ran a hand through her hair, her jaw as tense as it was when she had first read the note. These were not good times to be losing high-ranking members of their city – and certainly not those who belonged to the Temple of R’hllor.
“She gives nothing away – nothing about whom, only a brief reason why,” she blew out an irritated breath and shifted rather uncomfortably in her seat. One of the most influential women in Asshai – gone; though Lavinia had always been a very passive and non-confrontational woman, she was one of Asshai’s top shadowbinders – and now she was being hunted.
Step by step, Essos was heading towards war; a revolution, at the very least. If Asshai did not start to movie its own chess pieces soon, they would soon be facing certain onslaught. One way or another they would have to fortify their defenses against the others. Lyra had little desire to expand Asshai’s dominion over all of Essos and she did not doubt that Delshad was of thre same mind. However, there had been rumor of other cities whose rulers had such ideas implanted into their minds ever since the latest Westerosi war.
Though…if they could besiege and take control over the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai…then things would tilt in their favor. That would certainly give them much more force – not that Asshai was weak on its own, but extra weapons in one’s arsenal never hurt. She would have much preferred to not have to deal with the possibilities of a war, but she was not so much a fool to not recognize its signs.
For once she did turn to Delshad with a look on her face that was not just a polite mask to hide her lack of desire to interact with him. The two of them would have to lead Asshai through the times ahead and they could not afford to be having their Priests driven out from before their very noses. At least the High Priest Alcides had not sent them any such letter – they still had him to vouch for the Temple and the shadowbinders.
“I fear for the worst,” she found herself saying to him in low tones, not quite sure why she was choosing to confide to Delshad her inner feelings on the matter when she could have merely kept things impersonal and spoken of them as such. “If the situation boils down to war, then there is nothing I would not be willing to sacrifice to save Asshai.”
Involuntarily, she glanced over at Darya and something in her features softened to melancholy. “Absolutely nothing,” she mouthed the words and knew them to be true. If there was the need, then she would pay the price in the blood of her kin. That was the silent promise that she had sworn to Asshai upon being wedded to Delshad and taking her place amongst the Adaires.
Land and people first had needs that neither she nor Delshad could deny. It pained her more than she dared to let on to think of such things, but Lyra had always been of a practical and logical mindset. She knew that value of things and she knew that the value of some things as a collective whole were greater than others. To think in that manner was both a blessing and a curse.
‘I can only pray that it never comes to that.’ She thought to herself as she picked up her goblet of wine and took from it a sip. The alcohol tasted too sour in her mouth. She really was not in any mood to appreciate it anymore, not after having such thought plaguing her. She looked back over at Delshad and managed to make her expression less guarded than it usually was. “We must not lose sight of that which has to be done,” she said, almost more to herself than to him, “I only pray it will not come to anything drastic.”
The way she was shoveling food into her mouth made him grin. He felt happy that he could have given her the opportunity to eat. Esk felt rather accomplished at that, thank you very much. He nodded with approval as she ate. As he himself was not hungry, he merely stood there, though he did eye the wine that stood to the side of the food platters. He made a mental note of drinking some of it at some point – Esk rather appreciated good wine. He rather hoped that it would be a good vintage like had been the one at the feast.
And then she stopped eating (and so soon! – perhaps she just had a small stomach…) and stepped towards the bath – but then she halted and turned back to him. Esk watched her as she made hand motions at herself and repeated to him that he had wanted her to bathe. Esk nodded his head, as if to say, ‘yes, that was exactly what you should do’. He wondered if she did not know the concept of bathing for a few moments, before a thought struck him. What a silly, considerate girl she was!
“Ah!” Esk let out a laugh and waved his hand at her in an unconcerned gesture. “You need not worry about me, Shirin. I know full well what a woman without her clothing looks like – and it is not as if what you are wearing now leaves anything for the imagination.” He rolled his eyes at her and motioned for her to get on with her bathing and changing.
“If you have any need of me, I will be here,” he turned back about and poured himself a goblet of wine, figuring that he might as well have a drink while she was getting on with things.
Then a sudden thought struck Esk and caused him to put his goblet down before he had even the time to raise it to his lips. It was as if a sudden realization had struck him. Now it occurred to him why she had gestured at herself in that rather discomfited way. Esk slowly turned back around to face her, one of his eyebrows raised questioningly. He took one more look at her and then nodded his head rather curtly.
“I see what you mean now, pardon me for not comprehending it sooner,” he dallied only a moment longer before grinning and shrugging his shoulders in that devil-may-care way of his. He walked over to her and then swiveled so that he could slip in behind her, his body half a foot away from hers.
He felt rather much like a caring person as he made up his mind for this task. It was, of course, not something that he would usually do for anyone – and certainly not someone who was not a member of his family – but Esk was feeling very generous and helpful that day.
Without a word, Esk’s hands went to the clasp on the back of her bejeweled top. After all, many women needed help undressing themselves – what with all the reaching around the back that they had to do to get their clothing off – men’s clothing was so much more practical, though not nearly as pretty. Esk figured that Shirin must have been much too embarrassed to tell him outright that she needed help undressing – perhaps she only knew how to dress herself.
This was understandable to him. He himself did not often dress and undress himself. That was what his maids were there for. He had helped Lyra undo the lacings of her dress a few times (though he had never helped her strip down before, as that would have been quite awkward) and Esk saw no problems in helping Shirin undo that silly clasp that held her top together.
“There!” Esk exclaimed with self-satisfaction as it snapped open after some more fiddling from his fingers. Happy with his handiwork, Esk stepped away and back around her, coming about to face her once more. He tilted his head to one side and gave her a look that meant ‘well, go ahead, get on with it’. He did not fancy himself a nursemaid, but undoing one clasp had not been in the slightest bit difficult.