|A Brother Returns|
|Summary:||Jacsen returns to the Roost, and is greeted by Jarod and Lucienne.|
|Related Logs:||TBD - some that aren't yet posted, methinks|
|Four Eagles Tower|
|All over the shop - in the courtyard, through the castle, into Lu's room.|
The spray of sea salt that the summer breeze drives from the sea is one of the few sources of relief one can find to ease the sun's heat, beating down on highborn and lowborn alike at Terrick's Roost. Nevertheless, there is much to be done in the service of one's lord, and the castle bustles with energy all the same.
As Captain of the Guard, perhaps word has reached Jarod of the unexpected arrival that has just occurred in the castle's courtyard, a quintet of men drenched in sweat and covered in the dust of the road, flying the banner of Seagard.
One among them wears the seal of Terrick's Roost upon his breast, and the look of Jerold Terrick upon his face, though it would seem not many about him immediately recognize the traveller's connection to their lord and master. Jacsen reins his mount and its soft clopping trot comes to a halt, leaving the man atop a moment to drink in the remarkably familiar surroundings, his blue eyes searching.
Four Eagles Tower is rich in unexpected arrivals presently, so it's not without some half-amused wariness that Jarod goes to greet the latest one. Still, they're friends with Seagard and Ser Rivers is usually glad to be in the company of Mallister men, so he's happier about this one than some others that might be in the castle just now. Out he strides to meet this party. And, at the sight of Jacsen, he comes to a halt. A wide grin splitting his face, and a glad "Ha!" escaping his lips. The expression makes him look younger than his twenty-one years. Though the first thing he does is draw his sword, in a flourish, and point it in Jacsen's general direction. "Halt! Who goes there? Speak the password, my lord, or I shall be forced to cut you down as a villain!" It's said with a dramatic flourish that'd be perfectly in place in a very bad mummer's show, and is probably more confusing than intimidating.
One of the Mallister men, swift on horseback but less swift of wit, spins his horse in Jarod's direction and makes to draw his blade. "Stay yourself," Jacsen orders the man, the instruction coming quick and sharp. His expression warms with a smile as he settles a look upon features once more familiar than they were now. "You must forgive my guards, they can be a touch… overzealous."
Jacsen takes a moment to draw off his riding gloves, a thoughtful look possessing him as his eyes search the sky for some notion of the password his brother seeks of him. "You're an ass." His lips twist when he says it, and there is mirth to be found in the otherwise serious eyes that lower to the Captain of the Guard once more. "But at least you've a real castle to protect now, better than the forts of sticks and stone you'd build. It's good to see you, Jarod."
"That seems to be the general opinion around these parts, aye," Jarod says with a laugh, sheathing his sword as fluidly as he drew it. "Makes me miss my sticks and stones. Sweet seven, Jace, it's about time you got your ass back here." There's absolute glee in his tone at his half-brother's homecoming, though it's paired with an immense note of relief as well. "We need you."
His brother's laugh is warm, if brief. "Ah, some things never change, do they?" Jacsen reaches behind him and unhooks a cane from his saddle, the thing heavy with some carved wood, leather bindings and topped with a metallic cap. "It's good to set eyes on you again, and home as well," he concedes, setting the cane over his lap while he fusses his right leg out from the stirrup. It might be easy for Jarod to forget that his brother is so maimed, as either the designs of the Seven or Jacsen's own have kept him mostly out of the eyes of all but one Terrick, their sister Lucienne.
His left leg moves freely, but all the same the lord must be ginger about dismounting his horse. He stumbles only a touch, catching himself with his cane before he embarrasses himself in his father's very courtyard. His smile is strained when he looks back at Jarod. "It's been a long, hard ride," he explains, somewhat lamely.
Jarod half moves as if he's going to help Jacsen from the saddle, but he stops himself. Waiting until he's done it himself. Then, he reaches out to try and catch Jacsen in a rough sort of bro-hug. There's much shoulder-clapping and clasping of arms to be done, though he does make some effort not to jar Jacsen's balance too much. "I missed you, little brother," he says. An old joke, as Jarod is 'older' by little more than two months. Brothers-by-other-mothers that they are.
Whether or not Jacsen is grateful for the swift motion of an embrace from his brother that banishes away that momentary awkwardness is impossible to know, but he does lift one arm to wrap tightly about the strong knight. There's strength in his own grip, but years past are the drills and hard labor that earned him such a strong physique. "Not half so much as I did you," Jacsen assures. "Seven, but it is good to see you again."
Jarod's life is pretty much devoted to making himself physically able to hit things really hard, so his grip's only gotten stronger over the years. He clasps Jacsen's shoulders, taking a moment to just grin his brother in the face, then releases him. "C'mon, let's get you back to the castle. Father will be ecstatic, as will everyone else. I only wish you'd come home sooner, little brother. I think Father, and Jaremy, could've used your advice very badly these last months. I've tried to help as I can but…" He shrugs. When it comes to matters that don't involve hitting things Jarod Rivers is somewhat less well-equipped. "…things're tense right now. I think you might find Terrick's Roost less peaceful than Seagard, which I never thought I'd say."
The Mallister men that accompanied Jacsen remain on their horses, the quick to act one holding the Terrick Lord's mount by the reins. "Have someone see that their mounts are settled, and the men fed?" Jacsen requests of his brother, leaning some on his cane once he and Jarod's expansive, manly embracing is done with. "Would that I could've come sooner, but Lord Mallister had need of me at Seagard. If we'd had an idea things would go so far so quickly…" He shakes his head a bit. "Too soon to linger on that mess. Tell me how you've been? Lucienne? Jaremy? Father?" He knows well enough to leave questions of his mother, no mother to a bastard even as well loved as Jarod, for the others.
"A merry and lucky bastard, little brother, same as I ever am," Jarod replies. Albeit a little dryly. "I'm just fine. Like I said in my last letter, Father appointed me Captain of the Guard a few months back, though I'm still not sure quite what possessed him." Self-deprecation aside, he can't help but sound very proud. "I've managed to fuck up my personal life in a number of small ways that'll make you laugh once we've had some wine, but fortunately my troubles wound only me, and I'll survive just fine. Father's sore over the whole Stonebridge mess - which we should talk on over *lots* of wine as well, come to it - but otherwise he's still as he ever was, for the good of us all. Lu is too lovely for her own good, and tries very desperately to keep Jaremy and I from entirely ruining ourselves, so she'll be glad of yoru help there. As for Jaremy, he's still smarting from the loss of Stonebridge as well, I think. Or at least the loss of its lady, which I'm sure wounds him deeper. He's also been unwell of late. Just a summer cold, I think, though it's taken him badly. It should pass, as all such things do." He probably notes the ommission of the question about Lady Terrick but pretends he doesn't smoothly enough.
"Seven, poor Lucienne…" Jacsen shakes his head a fraction, "Stuck with the both of you louts." His lips twist at that, and all the talk of things better discussed over copious cups of wine, though sober when he speaks of the 'Stonebridge mess'. "Father should be more than sore over it…" he lets out a slow breath. "Lord Mallister did not let me part his Seagard for a simple visit home I'm afraid." He halts his slow walk forward beside Jarod, and shakes his head a bit. "Damn, Jarod. Let's forget about Lords and Stonebridges and all the rest for just a while still? It's been…" … a lifetime … "… too long."
It's as if speaking her name conjures her; Lucienne appears in the doorway to the entrance hall, hovering there as she studies the man with his cane. "It can't be," she murmurs, hands both rising to cover the slow falling agape of her mouth. As she determines for herself that, yes, indeed it /is/… well, there's not a moment to waste! With enthusiasm more befitting a child she grasps handfuls of her skirts to free her feet, and springs into a scurry down the steps towards her brothers. "Jace!" It's more excitement than has been seen from the lady in years, and as she nears her skirts are abandoned for the gesture of splaying her arms wide; she intends to claim the most affectionate of hugs. "Oh, Jace!"
"Lifetime-and-a-half, little brother," Jarod says. "But, aye, I'll glady forget. For tonight, at least. Fair warning, the castle's crowded right now. We've visitors from House Camden, out in Tall Oaks. Good folk, those. There's talk of hawking and hunting while they're here, which'll be very merry. Oh, and have you heard? Jaremy actually managed to find himself a new bride-to-be fairly quick. Lady Anais Banefort and some of her House are in residence as well. She's pretty and witty and blonde and spirited with several fair sisters. I wish I could be so well-rewarded for my collosal fuck-ups as Jaremy was for losing Isolde, but I won't begrudge him, for I think I'd have to hit him if he made a dog's dinner of *this* one. And…well…we've one more guest, but that's a less happy tiding, and you might want to have some rest before you meet them." He does not have to explain who this unwanted guest is right away, though, as Lucienne comes flying in. He laughs, steeping out of the way so she can assault her brother with love as he did a moment ago.
"A Banefort woman? I'll have to meet her," Jacsen remarks quickly, the topic seeming one that interests him deeply. "I trust the Westermen are better at keeping to their word than it the Tordane's seem, and care more for honor than a Hag. And what's this about sisters?" He notes, dryly, "I can't imagine /you/ making a colossal fu-" Perhaps he can be forgiven for turning to the sound of that voice so quickly, his unabashed smile loosing again with ease. "Enne!" he calls as she dashes towards him, lifting his unencumbered arm to wrap tightly about her waist that he might squeeze his sister close. When he's steady, even the cane-totting arm manages to find its way around her. "Seven, but you are a sight."
"Nobody told me you were coming!" She sounds somewhat puzzled as they embrace, though it doesn't hinder the warmth and strength put into the action. "How is it," Lucienne ups to her tippy tip toes to murmur as close to Jacsen's ear as she can manage, "That /none/ of our other guests have caught me unawares, and yet /you/." Firm, closelipped, delighted sibling kisses are pressed upon his shoulder, sister loathe to let go. Eventually, she does lean back a little, only to repeat in a soft accusatory exclamation: "You!" A suspicious look is shifted to Jarod.
"All trueborn sisters so far, alas, though I think Lady Elinor Banefort and I have a happy future of unrequited lust for each other ahead of us," Jarod says with a sly grin and chuckle to Jacsen. "Don't worry, I'm mostly joking. I know better than to bother highborn girls." To Lucienne, he shakes his head and gives her an innocent look that even manages to be genuine. "This is no plot of mine, sweet sister, I'm sorry to say. First pleasant surprise I've had in weeks, as the matter of fact."
Jacsen is content to drink in the welcome, even managing a warm chuckle. "Yes, I. What fun would I be if I were always so predictable?" he asks of his sister, in mock seriousness. When she leans back, he looses one arm from her waist so that he can prop himself up with his cane, though he seems in no hurry to move on. He laughs again, and looks between his siblings. "If I climb back up on that horse…" he gestures with a nod back to where the Mallister men and his horse are being led to the stables, "Can we all do this again? I don't think I've smiled so much since we rode off as squires…" He means Jarod, of course, at that last. It was a ride that began so well, for a venture that ended in so much personal loss.
Lu's brows loft, genuinely surprised as Jarod stakes no claim in the return of their brother. She looks back to Jacsen, shoulders dropping sharply with a happy sigh. "My. My, my, /my/. Everyday, Jace, for as long as you're back, we can do this all again. We won't even make you re-mount. Are you back, then?" For good. Her brown eyes inch wider, ever hopeful.
"Aye, that was a good ride," Jarod says, though his tone's more wistful now. The start was good, the end was hard. "Anyhow. That other guest I spoke of was Lord Ryker Nayland, little brother. Yes, the very same Lord Ryker Nayland who just swipe Stonebridge and Lady Isolde out from under us. Still not sure why he's here. He claims to be seeing his younger brother Rowan-" And Jarod' former squire, though his voice cools on that. "-about a marriage pact, but I can't say I believe it. Likely just trying to tweak our nose and nudge us into breaking the peace, which even I'm not stupid enough to do. Anyway. I'll leave you to Lu and let you surprise Jaremy and Father, but I should be getting back to the castle to make sure punches haven't been thrown yet. You. Me. Wine. Later!" He points at Jacsen emphatically to make this a bro-date, before turning to head back to said castle. Which he'll run to at full tilt, because that's his preferred speed.
There are worlds upon worlds that spin in Jacsen's eyes as his brother speaks of Ryker Nayland making himself a known commodity here in Terrick's Roost, but he banishes it all with a smile for Jarod and a promise of wine and stories for later. As their brother stalks off to do his duty, Jacsen finally lets go of his sister and matches her gaze. "It's complicated," he explains to her, an admission of uncertainty at best, and at worst, confirmation of what she would not want to hear.
"I see." If her smile were a candle, it would seem as though a breeze threatens the flame into an uncertain flicker - but fails to extinguish it. "Always the wine," is Lucienne's amused observation sent after their departing brother, with a quick shake of her head. "How fares the House Mallister? I still think often and fondly of my time there. I did see Lord Jason made an appearance at the tourney just past in Stonebridge." Without saying it, she gestures back towards the tower; an invitation to start walking.
Jacsen seems on the verge of saying something as he watches that candle flicker, but his tongue holds. He's content enough then to follow Lucienne's lead and begins in his slower gait towards the tower proper, nodding at her words. "Things proceed well. There is much good will to be found for the Mallisters, especially good will that flows from Riverrun. None will speak it too loudly, but it is no secret that any Mallister rise is at the expense of the Freys, whom seem to be not late at all when it comes to matter of personal interest. Lord Hoster Tully, I think, sees a powerful Seagard as his best defense against an the unreliable Twins." He chuckles softly. "But I wax too politically, my dear Enne. How have you been? I swear, you're even more beautiful than last I laid eyes on you."
"Never," comments Lucienne most seriously on waxing too politic, having listened with a keen ear and keener eyes to her brother's observations. Her pace is easily and knowingly set to Jacsen's comfort as they walk. "It is good to hear your opinions, dear brother - and you, you've grown more handsome than I ever could imagine. By the Seven, how sweet it is to have you home again, and how I look forward to… just to have your ear, and your words of wisdom." So very sincere is the relief evident in her tone. "Matters here have been… vexing, lately, Jace. Our tower seems a hub of activity, guests pouring in from everywhere. You heard the rumors of the Tordane letters, I presume?"
He has never been one to need much coaxing on such matters, and many candles did they both see melt to useless stubs at Seagard whilst nights were spent talking over matters of politics, philosophy, and court. Their time apart has not, it seems, rendered her brother any less vociferous. "Matters here have not escaped notice beyond our lands, sister dear," Jacsen explains, her compliments taken with an affectionate look. It's one that fades appropriately given the matters they discuss. "And none are more interested than Lord Mallister, and I can only assume the Lords Tully and Frey besides." His cane raps upon the floor in a steady cadence, one that matches their pace. "Rumors, yes, but I'd rather hear fact. What do we know, Enne?"
Lucienne nods gravely. None more interested than Lord Mallister. She pitches her voice softly, so as not to carry to any nearby interested ears. "Of course. The only fact is that Ser Gedeon Rivers, now sworn to Oldstones, presented Issie -" Comfortable enough to still use the childhood nickname for the woman who was once as close as a sister, "- with letters that out her as illegitimate and describe Lord Geoffrey's wish for Gedeon to accede the seat." And here's the part that vexes the lady, so says the look she gives the ground in front of them. "And now he - Ser Gedeon - and his Lord Ser are guests here, whilst the rest of us scurry about trying to prove or disprove these claims." A frustrated breath escapes dearest Enne as she lifts her eyes back to Jace. "Someone tried to poison him. And it appears Lord Ser Anton Valentin courts me. It's all very…"
"We've lost Isolde to Hag's Mire, and Stonebridge with her," Jacsen recounts as the pair wind their way through the open spaces of the tower, the soft tap of her brother's cane underscoring every spoken word. "I see little we stand to loose in the face of his claims, and much we could gain." He considers Lucienne a moment, before he resumes, "Little will prove or disprove his claims, I should think. Written words hold only the value men are willing to put in them, and even witnesses can be silenced. No. I think the matter of this Ser River's claims will be decided by the interests of House Terrick, and our skill in pressing those interests into action." He says nothing of the scrabbled together Lord that sits Oldstones and his interest in Lucienne, save for the flash of something in his eyes. "But tell me, Enne dear, what do you make of it all?"
Lucienne seems reluctant to reply, all of a sudden, eyes darting about to figure who might be watching. She walks on, headed towards the curved stairs that lead up to the private quarters. "There is more you need know," she explains barely above a whisper, "To my chambers, Jace." Slowly and patiently, she starts to ascend the staircase, never more than a step in front of her dear brother.
At the top, it's not far to the door they need, and once safely tucked behind it in the empty room, a flood of words spill forth from Jacsen's sister. "There's a… a woman. A lady of the night." Lucienne cannot bear to utter the name of that profession, prostitution. "Amelia. You would know her, surely, from the trouble she's caused our House lately. I enlisted her, mostly to see her occupied in a useful way rather than a damaging one, to take word for me to Issie. I asked the Lady's mind on these matters, and received a troubling response, Jace."
Her brother silences at the mention of more to be said, setting himself to the task of climbing the stairs he remembers as a lad, last bounding them to pay farewells to his siblings as he prepared to ride off with Lord Mallister, dreams of honor and knighthood filling his young mind.
Dreams all turned to dust on the field of battle, where men were made or broken. Could it be that a man could be both broken and made? One might imagine the young squire, holding back tears of pain, tears of shame, staring up at the sky as he was carted off on a hastily assembled stretcher, as if he could beseech the Seven themselves to make it so.
It takes Jacsen a moment to cross that threshold, as if he would drink up the sight of the quarters and all the memories that came with it, but a long ride from Seagard and the climb up the stairs has conspired to send him shuffling for the first seat, be it a chair or edge of a bed, that he might rest his aching leg.
"Amelia. I might know this name," he remarks though he does not linger on the instrument but instead what news she might have relayed. "What response has the Lady given?"
That painful shuffle is a movement not lost on his sister, and Lucienne's eyes glisten with tears unspent for her brother. She moves to attend hands to his shoulders, gently at first and then building to a squeeze that would seek to clench all that ails him and toss it mercifully aside - if only she could. That she cannot prompts a long, frustrated breath in, expelled as a soft sigh as she moves instead to seat herself upon the bed next to him. "She is well, firstly. Then she bid me listen to Amelia. Oh, if I could unhear what was said." Eyes slide woefully out of focus as Lu turns her face to the room, flitting about the furnishings - an elegant table and chairs well across the room, several tapestries not of her own hand, plush rugs, mirrors, a table to dress at and the like - but never settling on any.
"And then…" The pause is ominous, as Lucienne steels herself to repeat the accusations. "Miss Amelia said: the House Valentin is a lie. She believes they intend to dethrone Isolde and take control of the Riverlands, possily in conjunction with the Ironborn. Issie's sent ravens to King's Crossing to verify this claim. She intends to send word here once she knows."
There is a long silence that hangs in the chamber after that, a silence that extends while Jacsen finds a place for his cane across the bed beside them both. "They are no real House, the son of a fortunate man, and an aunt who managed to finally convince a Mallister to do more than take her to bed after a lifetime… but the Ironborn?" He puts a hand on his sister's knee, a fond gesture that reminds her he's not become lost in the thoughtfulness that takes him. "Most lords would hold no worth to the Iron Isles. They respect strength, and what is earned, taken from others by strength. A knight raised to lord for his prowess in battle would suit well enough, one might think… Still, do the Ironbron really have it in them to attempt such treachery?"
He frowns a touch, and seeks to match his sister's gaze. "Can you trust Isolde, Enne? Surely she is not innocent in this betrayal of Jaremy, this blight against our House. Why should we trust her?"
It's that hand on her knee that finally draws her eyes to a stop, lingering there for a moment longer before she sets them to Jascen's own. She breathes deeply, and the beginnings of movement see her head cant to the side. "I… she… is not, no." Innocent. "And yet… I… don't know, Jace. I took tea with the Lord Valentin just days ago, and found him to be most pleasant - disarmingly so. It wasn't until I took his leave that I realised that despite my efforts, I'd learnt nothing of import about him."
"Would it be any different were he just an unsavory brute, too close to baseborn, come in the hopes of a Terrick bride?" Jacsen wonders aloud, his brow knitting in some concern. "This… we must find some way to put the truth to. By what means does she claim to have come by this very knowledge? Surely she has shared it with her new lord husband?"
"The -" There it is again, that hesitation to reference that most unsavoury of professions! "Miss Amelia. Had overheard a conversation indicating that Valentin was a house of commoners, never properly declared noble by the King." A pause. "She believes the letters are fake, and that Oldstones seeks to take advantage of the seat of Stonebridge returning to - a disgraced - Lady Valda nee Frey." Lucienne scowls with conviction. "I'm not sure whether the Young Lord Ryker is aware of all this, but Issie wrote of his genuine affection for her. And now he's here, Jace - under the guise of bringing a bride for his brother. Did that really require a trip?"
"Genuine affection for her." The words are nearly spat out as Jacsen, despite his leg, rises from the bed to pace a few steps away. "As was our lord brother's, no? I will tell you true, Enne, I hold no love for Isolde, nor any kindness in my heart. She and her Lady mother have brought shame on us. And our shame is Seagard's. I do not trust what word she brings." He stops, reaching for a nearby surface to brace himself. This pacing is nothing unusual, though with the pain he must be feeling today, it is evidence of his ire at persons beyond the private chambers. "There must be more… if any of this is true. Does House Valentin stand to gain should Ironmen rush ashore and ravage our lands? They remain unscathed, true, while the rest of us lick our wounds and heal our divisions… Balon Greyjoy did not even offer the pretense of loyalty to the victor that Walder Frey had. They could be a threat, but what should a son of the Riverlands stand to gain? I cannot fathom that the Ironborn would simply hand him lands claimed with their own salted blood."
"Alright," says Lucienne, only rising from the bed as her brother dearest finds need of pause in his pacing. She moves just a step toward Jascen, wringing her hands in front of her and offering a wide-eyed expression of submission. "Alright. I bear love for Isolde where you do not, but my loyalty is with you, my brother. It is." She nods, trying to reassure. "No Ironers, then. Isolde fabricates the claim. The Naylands want… Oldstones under their banner, considering our new ties with Banefort, also to their south. You think the suit with Lord Anton is wise, then?"
He frowns a touch, and releases his grip on furniture to step closer to his sister, and take her face into his hands. A man of pen and word he might be, there are the callouses there that speak to the profession he once pursued. "Forgive me Enne… I'm shorter than I mean to be, and none of it directed at you, Seven help me," Jacsen stresses. "You are a balm to an otherwise racing mind, and all of this…"
He seeks to match her eyes with his own. "I do not think it wise to discount the threat of the Ironmen, nor to court Oldstones. If Nayland is so eager for such meagre scraps…"
"It is too soon to decide anything, too soon I think to choose any path beyond learning more. Your heart was ever as much an advantage to you as your mind, and I think you wise to not cut out this woman from your heart. And I do not doubt, for a moment, that your loyalties lie with your kin and blood. I know the moment you must choose, what you would decide." If she lets him, he puts a kiss to her brow. "I have no greater partner in this than you, Enne. I will not soon forget that."
Lucienne urges forward to meet her brother, brushing her hands affectionately over his on her face before they lead to his shoulders. Holding his gaze, she assures him, "There's nothing to forgive, Jace." She accepts the kiss to her forehead with a small smile, lashes fluttering closed for a brief moment. When they open, she's compelled to add (in a rare open moment of ire): "They stole Stonebridge from beneath us. Nothing would feel more gratifying than wrenching something back, don't you think? Anton… strikes a nervousness, nay - a /fear/ - within me. The rumors, as much as the man - a slayer of thousands that sits with a Lady and drinks tea as though he were born to do just that." A rather chilling picture, to her mind. "But I would wed him, if it meant the upper hand was ours."
"You would, I know this with every fibre of my being," Jacsen says, his voice quieter, his mouth still hovering so close to his sister's brow. "And never would you turn and say that you had given what might have been for the sake of Terrick's Roost. You would wear your duty as firm as any set of armor, wield your influence against our foes keen as any blade. Oh, Enne, I would hate to be the one to cross your path." Her brother draws her close again, keeping his face from her sight, and his words too soft to carry far. "But I know what it is to see what you wished to be taken, and have only cold duty in its place. If I could spare but one person in the whole of this world from that, it would be you."
"But it grows late, and I fear I cannot endure my leg much more. I should find some rest and clean before I am to see father."
So close, it's more comfortable to slide her hands down a way, hanging on at the tops of Jascen's arms. Lucienne rests her eyes closed again, but behind lids they shine with admiration, and affection that runs deep. A tender moment between brother and sister, one that she enjoys unashamedly for the first time in so very long. And then: broken. "Of course, Jace," she says, withdrawing by way of a step backwards. "Take your leave, refresh yourself. It is selfish of me to unload this upon you the very minute you step back home! We'll have plenty of time to dwell upon these matters - I would that you meet Ser Valentin and form your own opinions, even. But go, now. I'll meet you on the morrow, if not before, dear brother."