|A Boy and Her Hag|
|Summary:||In which the eldest Lady Nayland forces her granddaughter to visit her.|
|Related Logs:||The Prodigal Daughter and other such Rowan Unmasked hijinks|
|Guest Suite — Tordane Tower|
|Nice chairs and a possibly slightly drunk old woman.|
|May 01, 289|
The Dowager Lady Rebekkah Nayland has closeted herself in Tordane Tower since the duel. The outcome of which she was not shy about celebrating, suddenly-appearing marriages aside. She has, of course, visited the bedside of her beloved grandson, Ser Rygar. But as ever, she's bothered as little as possible with the rest of her family. With the exception of a summons that arrived at Crane's Crossing by courier the day after the duel. Which Rowenna might have taken a bit to get around to reading. But it ordered an appearance of the prodigal granddaughter, to visit her loving grandmother. Rebekkah sits in the guest suite awaiting that now, hunched like a wrinkled old vulture in a chair by the window. Sipping on a cup of tea that smells of brandy, as is her preference. She doesn't even really bother to hide her drinking anymore. At this point, who is going to scold her about propriety?
It's the sharp march of boots on the stones that announces Rowenna's arrival, rather than the dulcet whispers of slipper-shod feet. The girl's brief fancy for dressing in gowns (with her sword still at her side) has apparently passed — she's back in tunic and breeches, looking very much like the lovely young man who was knighted on Pyke — save for the breasts. They're far from prodigious, but they're no longer bound flat. Clad all in somber black, the girl slows and ceases to stomp quite so vigorously as she enters the parlor, sweeping her grandmother a bow. "Granmama," she says quietly. "How nice to see you. Thank you for inviting me."
"Hello, boy." There's a touch of that familiar amused spite in Rebekkah's voice. It's hard to tell whether the greeting is an insult or a joke or something else entirely. She raises a withered hand, gesturing one of her fingers in a beckoning motion. "Come here. Let me have a look at you."
However it's meant, Rowenna doesn't seem to take it badly. Her mouth quirks up at one side as she bows her head to acknowledge the greeting. Beckoned closer, closer she comes, presenting herself for the dowager's inspection.
Rebekkah juts out that hand when Rowenna is within range, grasping her chin. Her grip is not strong. The girl who would be a knight could easily pull away if she wished. But it's sharp, and quite insistent, to tug her closer.
The boy-clad girl blinks, looking taken aback and uncomfortable… but she doesn't attempt to break away. Instead — after an awkward moment — she kneels in order to make having her face dragged forward less… contortionate. She cleans her throat softly, forcing herself to meet the eyes of the old dragoness.
Rebekkah nods in short approval as Rowenna kneels before her. That's a good girl. She pinches her grand-daughter's chin, turning her face this way. And that. After what becomes an uncomfortably long period of examination, she lets her go with a snort. "Rickart's a fool, to have taken you for Rowan. But, then, he never did pay that puff of a brother of yours enough mind to recognize him in a crowd. Or his daughters, for that matter. His inattention served you well, boy."
"I figured there'd be no fooling you, Granmama," says Rowenna, sitting back on her heels and dropping her gaze for just a moment, rubbing at her nape in an abashed fashion. "Rowan and I used to believe you could see through stone, and that whispering your name anywhere in the Mire would call your attention right through those walls."
"Used to believe, boy?" Rebekkah says, blue eyes narrowing at Rowenna. She does not approve of this loss of the belief in her semi-evil omnipotence. "Sit down. Let's talk. There is tea." There is, indeed, a pot and additional cups on the little table beside her chair. The brandy is not visible. "I'm not going to ask where Rowan has gone. So far as I'm concerned, if he wants to run away to be some sort of mummer dancer and bugger every boy in Westeros, best he do it without the Nayland name. I think it would bother his father even more than your little…" She snorts. "…exhibition. You were quite fortunate in the particular way you chose to be a scandal, you know."
Rowenna climbs to her feet, then takes a proper chair, taking up the teapot to pour rather neatly. She hovers the spout over the dowager's cup in silent offering. She's aware of the brandy — the question is only to dilute, or not to dilute. "Rowan is happy where he is. That's all that's important," she opines. I can't imagine father would want him back, for the same reasons you've stated… so it's just as well."
"Well, I'm glad he's happy," Rebekkah says, and she sounds more-or-less sincere about it. As for more tea, she shakes her head. She's happy with her half-finished, spiked cuppa. "There are certain things Rickart gives far more value than they actually hold. This is why your prancing show pony of a brother Riordan is his favorite, despite dear Rutger being far more adept in far more useful matters. Had you truly run away with a mummer's show, boy, I doubt he'd ever have taken you in. But you played at being a knight instead, and that holds a novelty for your father. Rickart is a boy who enjoys his novelties." There is almost, almost, fondness in her tone.
Rowenna adds a small spoonful of sugar to her tea, sipping it delicately. "I'd come to the same conclusion — that he'd never have had me back if I were a mummer… though I was a little surprised." She wrinkles her nose. "I think you're right about where he ascribes value — it's very male. If I'd run away to sing songs, that wouldn't have moved him. But since I ran away to crack heads — that's impressive. His girl can beat up the other guy's boys. Verily, mighty is his seed."
"I'm rather surprised he didn't have your idiotic union with the Terricks' pet bastard annulled, but I suppose it saves him the awkwardness of figuring out what to do with you as a spinster," Rebekkah says with a shrug. "We certainly couldn't have made you a proper marriage. I will miss little Igara Frey. She was a dear girl. Reminded me a bit of me." She smiles, and sips at her brandy-tea. "More retiring, but perhaps that is to her credit. It allowed her to wield her intelligence far more deftly. I ever-felt a need to prove myself. It is very hard, boy, to be surrounded by idiots when you aren't one. I do hope she finds a place for herself. The sept, perhaps. I considered that life for myself, though I think in the end it would have bored me terribly."
"He'd have lost me again in an instant," says Rowenna, simply. It's less defiance than fact. "I think… for whatever reason, it pleases my father to have me back in the fold, for now. I have no idea what he plans, but he's going to make it attractive to me." She breathes a rueful sigh, sipping her tea once more. "Not that he hasn't already. The sunshine or my father's regard is a… stupid, stupid, enchanting thing." The mention of her former almost-fiancee makes her frown, gaze dropping into her tea. "I regret that Igara was caught up in all this. I wish, in some measure, I could have remained a boy." She smirks with faint bitterness. "In great measure, really. It would have been so much easier for everyone."
"Your father can be quite charming when he puts his mind to it. He expects payment for his regard, however, several-fold. And whatever warmth he may give in a moment, it is very hard to truly please him." Rebekkah suddenly laughs. A cackling sort of sound. "We are not unalike, Rickart and I. I suspect it is the likeness of our natures that makes us get along so poorly. And I was, I suppose, not the best of mothers." It's said with real regret. "He was the symbol of the life I had, not the life I'd wanted. You all are, I suppose." More drinking. She eyes Rowenna as she sips. "What do you intend to do with yourself, boy? Apart from your new pet bastard. I see you've taken to boys clothes again."
"The dresses were giving people the wrong idea," says Rowenna, dryly. "I am a knight. I earned my spurs. If I must make my living as a free lance or in tourneys, so be it." She wrinkles her nose and smirks. "My hope was, originally, to serve Lord Terrick. When I was younger I had the romantic notion — not that anything would be easy, but that I would be forgiven eventually." She shrugs, sipping from her cup. "I go where my husband goes and I will serve whom he serves, as best I'm able. Jarod should be able to find a position somewhere. He's not nearly as disgraced for knighting my tits as I am for having them."
Rebekkah snorts. "You're a woman, boy. Whatever you got that idiot to do to you, none will take your 'knighthood' seriously." Still, she doesn't precisely discourage the idea. "Have I ever told you of the time I went to Oldtown?"
"It's hard not to take someone seriously who just unhorsed you, or beat you to yielding on the field," says Rowenna. "Whether anyone ever says the words or not, I mean to be taken very seriously." She shakes her head, rendering the old woman her attention. "No, Granmama. Will you, now?" She does actually sound interested.
"I was fifteen, nearly sixteen, years old," Rebekkah says, settling back in her chair. Her blue eyes growing a little soft and far away, and not just from the liquor she enjoys so much. "I had been summoned home from King's Landing by my father, Lord Darry. He felt it time to make a proper marriage pact for me. And my own plans in King's Landing had…" Her eyes go to those roses, visible out the window in the garden distant below her room. "…had fallen through. I did not go home, however. There was a carriage train of sorts headed for Oldtown in the Reach, filled with young men bound for the Citadel. To become maesters. Spares from the noble families, in large part. Fourth-sons or bastards. Men who would never matter in the grand scheme of things, and so had sought higher oaths than fealty or titles, or marriage and heirs…" There is a bitterness in her tone. "…I joined them."
Rowenna blinks, slowly setting down her cup. "I had no idea," she murmurs, eyes narrow as though trying to see the girl Rebekkah once was through all the years that conceal her. "What happened?"
"I disguised myself as a cooking wench in one of the supply wagons," Rebekkah says, grimacing and the indignity of dressing as a common servant. Which may be more reprehensible to her than Rowenna's trousers. "So I reached Oldtown well enough. He thought I'd followed him." Who, precisely, she means is unclear. She shakes her head. "He was never as brilliant about me as he was about everything else. I'm not sure I would have taken him back if he'd asked. He had wounded my pride greatly in King's Landing when he chose the maester's chains instead of me, and the young often taken wounds to their pride harder than true cuts. I refused to speak to him, and petitioned the Citadel for entry to study the arts of the maester. I was more brilliant even than him, better suited for it than any of those puffed-up boys. I had used the library in King's Landing to prepare a lengthy paper outlining my qualifications. I had meticulous footnotes, boy."
"I cannot imagine your work being anything less, Granmama," says Rowenna, quite seriously.
"It is still in the Mire library, boy, if you would like to read it," Rebekkah says. "The archmaesters, however, did not. I was turned away without an audience. And I went back home to the Darrys never to hold a maesters chains." And, while there is a touch of bitterness in her voice, there's no real regret. And she has herself many regrets.
"I'm sorry, Granmama," says Rowenna, softly, frowning. "You were very brave. And they were very wrong."
Rebekkah shrugs. "They were fools, boy, but all men are. Perhaps especially the very brilliant ones. Of all the things I miss in my life, a maester's chain has never been one of them. I doubt I would have been happy spending my days tending some library in some dreary castle for an idiot lord like Rickart, who did not understand the value of my service. I wanted him…them. All of them, really. My father, my dearest low-born prince, my unworthy younger brothers who were given House Darry instead of me…the world to see my worth, for I was very impressed with it." She laughs that cackling laugh of hers. "I was quite the arrogant little thing."
Rowenna smiles faintly, sadly — perhaps for them both. "'Reach beyond thy grasp,'" she recites. "An overinflated sense of self-importance is almost a pre-requisite."
"You are very much a Nayland, boy, scorn our name though you have these last years," Rebekkah says. Cackling some more. "You can never win at their game, you know. Men. They make the rules, and if you try to play by them, they will only change them so you still lose. My only advice for you is to find a way to play your own game. And be better than them."
"I never imagined I'd win. Not really," says Rowenna with a soft, rueful laugh. "Or… maybe it's more accurate to say that, for some years now, I knew I'd lose. Probably everything. And so far… I've been ridiculously fortunate. Stranger loves a fool." She sighs, shrugging and draining her cup. "I'll never be able to rest on my laurels like a man. I'm going to have to prove and re-prove myself every day for the rest of my life. And even that probably won't win me so much as a fond epitaph. But maybe it'll make a difference to someone. Another girl, another day. Someone had to go first, that's all."
"I know of no other woman who's stood in the halls of the Citadel, boy," Rebekkah says. "I doubt I made any particular bit of difference. Still, I did it. And if my life has not been what I expected as a silly girl of fifteen, it has at least been interesting. Precious few can say that, so I suppose I did not do so badly. Despite how all of you turned out." It's hard to tell if she's joking or not, or if the barb is aimed at her brood or at herself. "Well. I will not keep you. Go be young and foolish, and try not to get yourself killed. You are a very silly girl, boy, but I'm more or less glad you didn't die on the Iron Islands."
"Dying right away wouldn't precisely help my cause," says Rowenna, sparking a grin. Still wry, but there's some spirit to it. "I'll do my best not to disappoint you, Granmama." She stands, then leans down to kiss the old woman's cheek.
Rebekkah accepts the kiss with a sharp, canny smile. "Everyone disappoints me, boy. That doesn't mean I don't love them despite it."