palais-royal-garden_3.jpgCharacter: Hanni Reese
House: House Antirran
Kingdom: the Reach
Date: 298-10-24

The stale air of the castle quickly gave way to the aroma of sweet flowers in bloom. The patches of bouvardia were the first to catch Hanni’s eye. Their delicate pinks and reds lined the entrance to the most exquisite garden she had ever seen.

“Do you like it?” asked Orland Cheshard from behind. Hanni turned and braced herself but was pleasantly surprised. Orland stood in the shadow of the castle, face and skin blurred in darkness. From their distance, Hanni could almost imagine him as a fine lord; her prince she’d always dreamt of. Then he took a step forward.

“Ah,” said Hanni, quickly looking back at the flowers. “Yes, they’re so lovely.” And easy on the eyes.

Lord Orland stuck out his arm in offering. “Shall we enter, Lady Hanni?” Having already agreed to a walk in the royal gardens, it would be rude of Hanni to refuse at this stage. Still, a final check on the arm in question was not amiss.

A light cotton sleeve covered his arm, hiding any possible boils. His hand was clear of any offenses. Taking a chance, she took his arm with a smile. “We shall.” He returned her smile with his overcrowded mouth. In a stroke of luck, Hanni felt no blemishes or boils below the soft cotton of Orland’s shirt.

Together they entered the confines of the garden, arms linked. The soft sunlight and mild sea breeze was like kisses of home. The weather brought up memories she hadn’t thought of in a long while. She had been so determined to not think of home, of the disgraceful way in which she left and in her abandon, she had forgotten the wonders it contained.

A sigh left her lips. Lord Orland gave her an appraising look and seemed to come to a conclusion.

"I must admit, Lady Hanni," said Orland. He took a deep breath to prepare himself. "I had ulterior motives for inviting you here today." Her stomach dropped and Hanni was unsure how to proceed. Hanni looked around and saw they were alone. Why hadn't she brought a chaperone? A single moment could ruin her reputation and any hopes of finding a suitable husband.

"My lord?" she said, voice steady, heart heavy. Her body tensed but she hid it well under a cloak of good posture and a stiff corset. She tried to remember the path they'd taken and started planning the quickest way back to the castle.

"I want to apologize for my behavior the past two nights. I was..." Orland cleared his throat. "...most ungentlemanly in my actions towards you. I was caught up in the wonder and festivities of the tourney. I forgot myself and spent more than a small amount of time near your lady's wine stand. I know it may be presumptuous to ask you for forgiveness, but the kindness I see in your heart gives me hope for a second chance."

Hanni stopped in her casual stroll, pulling Lord Orland to a halt. A man had never apologized to her before, especially not over a few instances of wandering hands. She knew she was attractive but as many times as her beauty gave her advantages, it hindered her. Gropes and grabs were a part of Hanni's life. Whenever a lord comes near, he felt entitled to "try the goods," as one had so brashly put it.

"Lord Orland, you flatter me with such kind words. I'm afraid I'm not good with situations such as these." Hanni stated neutrally. Orland showed a brief look of rejection, twisting his face unbelievably uglier than she could imagine. Beneath the bile that rose in her throat, she felt compassion towards the sad display. "Might I count on such displays being withheld at future meetings?"

Orland couldn't contain his excitement at the mention of a future meeting. "Oh, yes Lady Hanni." Orland agreed readily. "I wish not to push away such a pure woman as yourself."

Hanni wasn't sure how far to go with this man. His feelings towards her were growing stronger every meeting. They were starting to make her uncomfortable in their intensity. He was a rare lord who was genuine in his words and she really appreciated that but what he felt was clearly one sided.

To lighten her mood, Hanni searched the area for an interesting flower to discuss. Finding a tall, yellow carnation with strange, half closed petals, Hanni went closer to investigate.

“What a strange flower,” she mused. “What do you suppose it’s called?”

Lord Orland approached Hanni where she stood by the flowers. After studying it for a moment, he found his answer. “Those look like the bird of paradise, a beautiful and rare species.”

“You know your flowers.”

“Yes,” he said. “House Cheshard has quite the conservatory. It’s not nearly as impressive as the royal gardens, I’m afraid, but it has allowed me to cultivate my botanist education.”

They started walking, Hanni taking Lord Orland’s arm once more. “Tell me, why a conservatory? Surely this royal display persuades you of a garden's beauty.”

“Not as much as you might think. Many great houses in the Westerlands sit atop mountains. The weather is too harsh for something as delicate as a flower to thrive. If we fancy the allure of a garden, it must be kept inside or not at all.”

The pair’s wanderings paused when the shrubbery they passed through opened up to reveal hundreds of blooming roses.

“Wow,” breathed Hanni. Each rose was a pure deep red, the leaves a vibrant green. Not a dead or dying bud could be found. The rich, light aroma was here stronger than anywhere else. Hanni stood for a while, taking in the meticulously maintained patio.

“Lady Hanni?”

“Yes, Lord Orland?”

“Would you…” Orland started, his face becoming a patchwork of red splotches. “Would you… be willing t-to… give me a k-kiss?”

Hanni was astonished by his gull. Her? Give a kiss to him? For a while, she had almost forgotten his face and was enjoying herself, but here he was, reminding her of what she was trying to block out.

Hanni gazed at Orland. His face was starting to look like one of the many roses, a tragic comparison for the delicate plants. He looked even uglier with his skin a different color, the boils standing out more so than normal. She briefly thought of kissing him on the mouth but couldn’t fathom her lips touching the thin barrier between his cavity and Westeros.

He looked pathetic standing there, waiting for her answer with his red face and wide eyes. She spied a clear spot on his lower cheek. She could probably kiss that without causing offense. It was too soon to let Lord Orland out of her influence.

Hanni held her breath and leaned in for the kiss. A quick, light peck on his cheek and it was done. Hanni was certain she greeted friends with kisses more passionate than what she gave Lord Orland. It didn’t seem to matter. His face turned an impossible shade darker and his head bowed bashfully.

“I’d like to give you something.” Lord Orland said, rummaging in his pocket. Finding what he searched for, Orland pulled out a gorgeous necklace dripping with diamonds and rubies. A rose cut from a single ruby the size of Hanni’s thumb adorned the center.

“It’s beautiful!” she gasped, taking it gently from his hands as if it might shatter. “You’re giving me this?” The ruby alone cost more than House Reese could ever hope to be worth.

“I am,” he said, happy she enjoyed the present. “If you’ll have it.”

“Yes! Oh thank you! Thank you!" Hanni rejoiced. She knew King's Landing would benefit her in numerous ways but she had never thought to prosper so much or so quickly.

"Will you wear it?" Lord Orland asked.

"Help me put it on?" returned Hanni, brushing aside her long, golden locks. Orland paused, probably taking in the sight of her milky white nape. With gentle fingers, he took the necklace and laced it around her neck. Hanni felt the click of the clasp close. She turned around, taking a step back as she did so.

"Beautiful," murmured Lord Orland. "I knew a rose would suit you." Orland's eyes looked at her with an emotion Hanni wasn't comfortable receiving. She fingered the heavy weight on her collar, musing how to milk Orland further. He was becoming too attached and she knew she must tone down her charms lest their one-sided relationship spiral out of control.

"The hour grows late, Lord Orland and my lady will have need of me. I should be making my way back now. Thank you for a lovely afternoon." Hanni excused herself, leaving a daydreaming Orland behind.