Post Sun Jun 05, 2016 2:17 pm

All The World's A Stage

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All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.
-William Shakespeare


Dressed in a lovely purple gown, with the sleeves flared in the appropriate fashion, and her hair elaborately styled (thanks to her mother's earlier efforts), a thirteen-year-old Amaya appeared to quail in fear as she stood alone in the park, clearly building herself up for some monumental task that had somehow fallen to her. The park had begun to clear out about an hour earlier, and the sun was now beginning to set - a sure sign that she was running late for dinner again - but the young teen did not appear to have noticed yet. She was too busy feeling, too caught up in a desperate attempt to work up the courage to do what only she could, heavy with the knowledge that everything now depended upon her.

Now, she told herself - or rather, Sansa told herself, for that was who she was being just now. I must do it now. Gods give me courage. She took one step, then another, a certain book* clasped tightly to her chest in case she should need help with the lines, even as she lost herself utterly to the character she was so admirably playing. Imaginary lords and knights stepped aside silently to let her pass, and she felt the weight of their eyes on her, in spite of no one actually being there. I must be as strong as my lady mother. "Your Grace," she called out in a soft, tremulous voice.

The height of the imaginary Iron Throne gave her imaginary Joffrey a better vantage point than anyone else in the imagined hall; thus, he was the first to see her. "Come forward, my lady," Amaya imagined him calling out, smiling.

His smile emboldened her, made her feel beautiful and strong, and her steps gained the tiniest bit of courage as she lifted her head and moved toward him. He does love me, he does, she assured herself, a glimmer of hope warming her emerald green eyes. Still, she was careful to school her steps, ensuring that they were neither too slow nor too fast. She couldn't let anyone see how nervous she was.

"The Lady Sansa, of House Stark," an imaginary herald cried.

She stopped beneath the throne, at the very spot where Ser Barristan's white cloak (in this case, Amaya's purple jacket - there was still a chill in the air, as spring struggled to shake off the lingering icy fingers of winter, and she really should have been wearing it) lay puddled on the floor beside his helm and breastplate (or rather, a large rock and her purple backpack). "Do you have some business for king and council, Sansa?" Amaya imagined the queen asking from the nearby council table.

"I do." She knelt on the cloak/jacket, so as not to spoil her gown (both because it was what Sansa had done, and because she really didn't want to spoil her nice costume), and looked up at her prince on his fearsome black throne, looking and sounding precisely as young and frightened as she was supposed to. "As it please Your Grace, I ask mercy for my father, Lord Eddard Stark, who was the Hand of the King." She had practiced the words a hundred times, both as Sansa and as herself, and had likely read them a hundred times more - but that could not keep the slight tremble from her voice.

The imaginary queen sighed. "Sansa, you disappoint me. What did I tell you about traitor's blood?"

"Your father has committed grave and terrible crimes, my lady,"
Grand Maester Pycelle intoned.

"Ah, poor sad thing," sighed Varys. "She is only a babe, my lords, she does not know what she asks."

But Amaya (or Sansa) had eyes only for Joffrey. He must listen to me, he must, she thought, faith and hope in him giving her the courage to continue. The king shifted on his imaginary seat. "Let her speak," he commanded. "I want to hear what she says."

"Thank you, Your Grace." Amaya/Sansa smiled, a shy secret smile, just for him. He was listening. She'd known he would. The hope in her eyes seemed to grow, spreading ever so slightly to the rest of her face.

"Treason is a noxious weed," Pycelle declared solemnly. "It must be torn up, root and stem and seed, lest new traitors--" Amaya's mental recitation stumbled to a halt as she tried to remember the rest of the line, suddenly looking a bit frustrated - not at all the emotion Sansa should be portraying. "Lest new traitors..." Oh, why did she have to run into trouble now? She really didn't want to look it up in the book just for one of Pycelle's lines. Finally, she gave a little shrug, and decided that it didn't much matter, because Pycelle. "Lest new traitors something something," she compromised instead, before moving on, quickly losing herself to the events of the story, and the character she was playing, once again.

"Do you deny your father's crime?" Lord Baelish asked (there, that was much easier).

"No, my lords," Amaya solemnly replied, knowing better (as Sansa knew better) than to suggest otherwise. "I know he must be punished." Her voice wavered a bit on that last word, the thought of her father enduring any sort of punishment clearly frightening and distressing and about a million other things all on its own - but it was better than death. Anything was better than his death. "All I ask is mercy. I know my lord father must regret what he did. He was King Robert's friend and he loved him, you all know he loved him." She couldn't keep the desperation from her voice now; if she wasn't careful, she might succumb to tears, and then all would be lost. She had to get through this, her father needed her. "He never wanted to be Hand until the king asked him. They must have lied to him. Lord Renly or Lord Stannis or... or somebody, they must have lied, otherwise..." Her voice caught as she fought the threatening tears, and Amaya was so caught up in being Sansa, the threat was actually a very real one.

An imaginary King Joffrey leaned forward, hands grasping the arms of the throne. Broken sword points fanned out between his fingers. "He said I wasn't the king. Why did he say that?"

"His leg was broken," Amaya was quick to reply - a bit too quick, perhaps, but she was so desperate to save her father. She had to save him, she had to. "It hurt ever so much, Maester Pycelle was giving him milk of the poppy, and they say that milk of the poppy..." there was a brief pause, as the teen girl wracked her brain for the rest of the line, before continuing, "milk of the poppy fills your head with clouds. Otherwise he would never have said it."

Her imaginary Varys said, "A child's faith... such sweet innocence... and yet, they say wisdom oft comes from the mouths of babes."

"Treason is treason,"
Pycelle replied at once. Stupid Pycelle - Amaya really hated him. But Sansa, and therefore Amaya, still had eyes only for Joffrey; the rest of them didn't matter, if she could only get Joffrey to listen to her.

Joffrey rocked restlessly on his imaginary throne, before turning to his mother. "Mother?"

Cersei Lannister (that horrible, horrible woman, far worse than Pycelle) seemed to consider Amaya/Sansa thoughtfully. "If Lord Eddard were to confess his crime," she said at last, "we would know he had repented his folly."

Amaya as Sansa watched Joffrey push himself to his feet. Please, she thought, so desperately it hurt, please, please, be the king I know you are, good and kind and noble, please. (And poor Sansa, if she'd had any inkling of what lay in store for her, of what he really was...) "Do you have any more to say?" the imaginary prince asked her.

"Only... that as you love me, you do me this kindness, my prince," Amaya pleaded, voice wavering again.

King Joffrey looked her up and down. "Your sweet words have moved me," he said gallantly, nodding, as if to say all would be well. "I shall do as you ask... but first your father has to confess. He has to confess and say that I'm the king, or there will be no mercy for him."

"He will," Amaya assured, her heart soaring, relief and faith shining upon her face in equal measure. "Oh, I know he will."

Sansa had been so trusting, the poor thing. And Amaya couldn't resist a soft recitation of a later line, as she wiped the escaped tears from her eyes.

"Joffrey," the teen interjected upon another imagined conversation. "Joffrey did that. He promised me he would be merciful, and cut my father's head off. He said that was mercy, and he took me up on the walls and made me look at it. The head. He wanted me to weep, but..." And then she jumped ahead, not needing to bother with the intervening conversation and the antics of the fool. "A monster," she whispered tremulously. "Joffrey is a monster. He lied about the butcher's boy and made Father kill my wolf. When I displease him, he has the Kingsguard beat me. He's evil and cruel, my lady, it's so. And the queen as well."

The tears were flowing freely by the time Amaya finished, she just felt so badly for Sansa. Her rather large dragon (he was getting so close to being big enough for her to ride) made a soft sound of concern from where he was curled up nearby, watching and keeping her safe, and the teen finally gave up her game for the time being in favour of giving her Jiyo-Jiyo a hug. She was also beginning to realize that it was getting more than a little dark, and that she was definitely more than a little late for dinner.

---

“I do hope you will forgive me for depriving you of Lady Myranda’s company,” Amaya told their imaginary knights. She was fourteen now, and dressed in a beautiful gown of pale blue silk, with flowers woven into her hair. She also had a friend with her, similarly adorned and dressed (but in red), and Amaya linked arms with her now. Not waiting for a reply from the knights, the two girls walked away, though it wasn't until they were out of (imaginary) earshot that Amaya whispered, "Do you really know where my father is?"

“Of course not," Adalie, playing the part of Myranda, replied, before making a face. "Walk faster, my new suitors may be following. Ossifer Lipps is the dullest knight in the Vale, but Uther Shett aspires to his laurels. I am praying they fight a duel for my hand, and kill each other.”

Amaya giggled, very much the young girl gossiping with her friend as they continued to walk, arm-in-arm and with their heads together - even if those they were gossiping about came from a book. “Surely Lord Nestor would not seriously entertain a suit from such men.”

“Oh, he might," Adalie informed, clearly having just as much fun as Amaya was. "My lord father is annoyed with me for killing my last husband and putting him to all this trouble.”

“It was not your fault he died,” Amaya quite reasonably pointed out.

“There was no one else in the bed that I recall.” The two girls had to stop for a moment at that, overcome by a case of the giggles. Myranda's husband was supposed to have died while they were, well, you know, which was awful and horrifying and embarrassing all at once. Hence the giggling.

“Those Sistermen who came in yesterday were gallant,” Amaya finally managed to get out amidst stifled giggles; Alayne was meant to be trying to change the subject to more pleasant things. “If you don’t like Ser Ossifer or Ser Uther, marry one of them instead. I thought the youngest one was very handsome.” Her tone improved with every word as she got her giggles under control and returned to the character she was meant to be playing.

“The one in the sealskin cloak?” Adalie returned, both her tone and expression perfectly incredulous as the two girls did their best to get things properly back on track - a feat they were managing quite admirably, especially given their age. There was a reason they were both in the drama club at school, and it had nothing to do with making their eventual college applications look good (though that did help).

“One of his brothers, then,” Amaya/Alayne (/Sansa) suggested, not sounding the least bit put out by their apparent disagreement over the boys' looks.

Adalie rolled her eyes. “They’re from the Sisters. Did you ever know a Sisterman who could joust? They clean their swords with codfish oil and wash in tubs of cold seawater.”

“Well,” Amaya tried, “at least they’re clean.” The two girls exchanged amused grins at that one.

“Some of them have webs between their toes. I’d sooner marry Lord Petyr. Then I’d be your mother. How little is his finger, I ask you?”

More giggling followed that, of course, though Amaya did eventually manage to get out, “Lady Waynwood will be here soon, with her sons.”

“Is that a promise, or a threat?” Adalie wanted to know in return, valiantly trying to keep a straight face. “The first Lady Waynwood must have been a mare, I think. How else to explain why all the Waynwood men are horse-faced? If I were ever to wed a Waynwood, he would have to swear a vow to don his helm whenever he wished to fuck me, and keep the visor closed.” Of course, the rest of the line made it a hopeless cause, as the two girls quickly descended into a fit of giggles again; not that that stopped her from giving Amaya/Alayne a gentle pinch on the arm, though it did make her next line rather hard to understand. “My Harry will be with them, though. I notice that you left him out. I shall never forgive you for stealing him away from me. He’s the boy I want to marry.”

“The betrothal was my father’s doing,” Amaya protested, desperately trying to school her features into the appropriate expression while she fought back continuing giggles.

Adalie/Myranda brought them to a halt to gaze across the yard at two imaginary knights engaged in their imaginary sword practice. Their imaginary blades crashed together twice, then slipped past each other only to be blocked by upraised shields, but the bigger man gave ground at the impact; his opponent, whose (imaginary) shield depicted three ravens in flight, each clutching a red heart in its claws, was quick to press the advantage. Amaya knew all the heraldry of Westeros by heart. “Now there’s the very sort of husband I need,” Adalie declared.

A few moments later and the big man sprawled dazed in the dust with his helm askew; the mock battle was over, and Adalie considered the victor thoughtfully. “Do you think if I asked nicely, Ser Lyn would kill my suitors for me?”

“He might, for a plump bag of gold,” Amaya/Alayne teased. Ser Lyn Corbray was forever desperately short of coin, all the Vale (and therefore she and Adalie) knew that.

“Alas, all I have is a plump pair of teats. Though with Ser Lyn, a plump sausage under my skirts would serve me better.”

That, of course, was the end of their play-acting for now, as the two girls descended into the worst fit of giggles yet, barely even able to keep to their feet, they were laughing so hard.

---

"{How do you always manage to do it, Amaya?}" Adalie wanted to know, though the nods of the rest of their little circle of friends suggested she wasn't the only one interested.

They'd just finished their latest drama club meeting, in which everyone had been working on acting out some of the more demanding emotions on stage; the rest of the club's members were already filing out of the room, ready to head home, but their little group usually stuck around for a bit after. Sometimes they would go out to the park, or to grab a milkshake or something after, but today nobody seemed to be in the mood to go anywhere just yet, preferring to lounge about on the steps leading up to the stage with their jackets and backpacks for pillows.

Amaya just gave a rather bashful little shrug; she handled attention far better than her mother did, but being the only one in the entire club who could make herself cry on demand felt kind of... embarrassing? Fifteen wasn't really the best age for discovering you were the only one able to do something, even if it was something good.

"{Oh, c'mon, dragon girl,}" Renard teased, never knowing just how accurate his nickname for her was. He just knew she liked the Song of Ice and Fire books, and that Daenerys was one of her favourite characters - he definitely didn't know she actually had her own dragon. None of them did, and they likely wouldn't have been able to see Jiyo-Jiyo anyway. Most people couldn't, around here. "{Give us the secret, we won't tell.}"

"{Pleeeease?}" Nannette pleaded; she was a sweet girl, and desperately wanted to be a good actress, but kinda... well... wasn't. And Amaya knew how much any tip would mean to her.

The emerald-eyed teen let out a soft sigh of defeat. "{Okay, fine,}" she relented. "{But it's going to sound really depressing and stupid.}"

Adalie made no attempt to stifle her scoffing at that, and Amaya elbowed her in the ribs for it even as she grinned at the girl.

"{You just... you have to find a thought,}" Amaya tried to explain. "{A really, really unhappy thought - the sort you would usually do anything to avoid, because you know it'll make you horribly sad and probably make you cry. And then when you actually need to cry, you focus on it and let it kind of take over. Does that make sense?}" She looked exactly as uncertain as she felt; she might be a good actress, but that didn't make her in any way a good writer, and she couldn't always find the right words for things. She could feel them, and even understand them in an unconscious sort of way, but that didn't mean she could articulate them well.

As expected, Ren was looking at her as if that was the most depressing thing he'd ever heard. He was also looking more than a little concerned, likely imagining that she had some dark and dramatic past from her pre-France years or something. Nan, on the other hand, had furrowed her brow, clearly deep in thought as she tried to find her own, well, thought.

"{So what's your dark and depressing thought, then?}" Adalie wanted to know, but Amaya didn't answer. With pursed lips, the emerald-eyed actress merely shook her head.

"{That's private, Ada,}" Amaya apologized instead.

"{Aww, c'mon, how are we supposed to find one of our own, if you won't tell us yours?}" the more vocal member of the group still wanted to know, though Amaya could see in her eyes that she was still allowed to refuse without upsetting her. Adalie could be very good at that - somehow turning her cajoling into a friendly bit of joking, that didn't make you feel pressured or upset. It did rather put a person on the spot, however.

"{Nope, not telling,}" was Amaya's friendly refusal, and Adalie dropped it, just as she'd known she would (albeit with a bit of a feigned sulk, which just caused Amaya to smile at her friend before giving her another playful elbowing). "{And do stop looking at me like that, Ren,}" she went on to tease. "{I promise I don't have some horrific past I'm hiding from you all or something. Everybody has thoughts they don't like, it really isn't that hard to find one. The hard part is not shying away from it when you need to use it. And being able to lock it up again when you don't.}" Admittedly, it was the latter that was the hardest part.

"{I can't think of anything,}" Nan fretted.

"{Well don't try and think of it now!}" Amaya immediately scolded in the most playful way possible. "{Then it'll make you sad, and we're supposed to be having fun hanging out!}"

"{Uuuuugh, I so don't wanna go home,}" Ren complained, flopping back against the wall behind him, having apparently decided to let the whole 'dark and mysterious past' thing go. "{That stupid history paper is due tomorrow, and I haven't even started it yet.}"

Both Amaya and Adalie each reached over to give him a swat for that.

"{Ren, we've had a whole month to get that done, how can you just leave it to the last minute like that?}" Adalie scolded with mock disapproval. They weren't terribly good at being serious with each other during moments like these.

"{I was doing stuff!}" the teen boy complained. "{And it's boring!}"

"{Is not,}" Amaya (predictably) objected, this time prodding him with her foot, as that required less effort on her part. The steps could be rather deceptively comfortable, really.

Ren just grumbled something about her only saying that because she was good at it while pretending to sulk.

"{That's because I actually study, genius,}" Amaya teased. "{And, y'know, don't leave assignments to the last possible minute.}"

"{She also pays attention in class,}" Adalie pointed out, before her tone became teasing once more, and she added, "{Like a nerd.}"

Amaya elbowed her again, grinning madly. "{You're just jealous, 'cause I get better grades,}" she returned.

Feigning insult, Adalie gave her a swat, and a moment later the two girls had descended into a decidedly ridiculous (and utterly ineffective) slap fight, amidst a great deal of laughter and mock insults.

Really, it was all decidedly unladylike, but that never seemed quite so important when Amaya was with her friends.

---

The world was going to get sick of hearing Defying Gravity long before Amaya and Adalie tired of singing it. There were other songs to practice, of course, and plenty of lines to learn - and they wouldn't neglect any of them - but not a day seemed to go by without their practicing that one. In fact, they had spent a great deal of time practicing the duet even before they landed the starring roles, for it had been their rendition of Defying Gravity that got them the parts in the first place.

"{This is such a big deal!}" Nan squealed, not for the first time. And it was, too - this wasn't just a regular school play. This was the drama department's big, anual production that most of the city would end up coming to see, and not only were they all in it, but two of their group would be the stars - and they weren't even seniors!

"{I know!}" an equally excited Adalie agreed, as both she and Amaya returned to lounging amidst the vines of the Mikawa vineyard. Really, it was surprising just how comfortable a bunch of backpacks and jackets could make a place, including the ground. "{I've told just about everybody, and my whole family is coming opening night, I can't wait!}"

Though still flushed with her own excitement over the matter, Amaya looked a little uncomfortable at the mention of family. Her mother knew, of course, and nothing would keep Sayuri from attending every night of the production, but the rest of her family... Well, the rest of her family was rather complicated, and she hadn't actually told any them about it yet. Because she was very much afraid none of them would come, in spite of it meaning the world to her.

Unfortunately for her, Adalie (who could be rather annoyingly observant at times) noticed.

"Amaya?" the other girl inquired, the faintest hint of concern in her tone, and reflected in her warm brown eyes.

Amaya's response was merely a firm shaking of her head, as if to say she didn't want to talk about it. But now Ren and Nan were watching her with concern, as well.

"{Your sister's coming, isn't she?}" Adalie tried asking, rather impressively gently, just in case.

The emerald-eyed 16-year-old gave a small shrug that somehow managed to be elegant, while studiously avoiding her friends eyes.

Adalie let out a great sigh of exasperation, and made a great show of rolling her eyes. "{You have asked her, haven't you?}" she rather correctly guessed.

Amaya pursed her lips, hesitant to answer. But she did, ultimately, confess, "{No.}"

"{Why not?}" an incredulous Nan then wanted to know - because how could Amaya not have told everyone under the sun that she was playing Elphaba in Wicked already?

Amaya plucked at the skirt of her dress (a nervous habit she'd picked up over the years), pretty clearly unhappy to be having this conversation, but also making no real move to stop it. They would let her, of course, if she really wanted to - but perhaps talking about it would help her feel better? "{I'm scared she won't want to come,}" she eventually admitted. "{Same with my aunt, and... well, everybody else.}"

Silence reined for a moment, largely as the rest of the group wondered who "everybody else" was. Amaya never said much about her family, apart from her mother and (before and after visits) her sister, and they were all rather desperate for answers - but they also knew better than to press for them, especially just now. To be perfectly honest, the mystery of her family was a fairly popular topic when Amaya wasn't around. Especially the great mystery that was her absent father, whom she never seemed to realize she had a habit of referring to (on the rare occasions that she referred to him) in both the past- and present-tense.

In the meantime, Adalie's rather more confrontational and protective nature proved itself useful, as she insisted, "{Well, they would be idiots not to.}" Complete with a firm nod that seemed to say that was the final word on the matter.

Amaya's returning smile was appreciative, but also not entirely convinced. Clearly, some proper cheering up was in order. Or at least a good distraction.

"{Ooooh, I know!}" Adalie declared, visibly brightening up at the thought. "{Ren can help you practice As Long As You're Mine!}" Their friend wasn't actually playing Fiyero, but he knew the song well enough by now, and getting Amaya singing about anything tended to be a good distraction. "{And then you can sing No Good Deed for us, we'll all have a cry, and then cheer up with a rendition of What Is This Feeling.}"

Well, it was rather Wicked's fault that there was a problem in the first place - it seemed only right that it should help solve it, too. And the suggestion even earned a giggle from the emerald-eyed girl, as Ren pulled her back to her feet.

"{C'mon, dragon girl - let's see how long your voice can hold up against Ada's demands,}" he teased.

Adalie just stuck her tongue out at him, and Amaya forgot (if only for the moment) about the rather more distant members of her family.

---
*Excerpts taken from A Song of Ice and Fire. Specifically: A Game of Thrones, A Storm of Swords, and (as of yet unpublished, behold my wizardry) The Winds of Winter.
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