|Along The Road|
|Summary:||Jac and Petra talk on the road back to Highfield. Still not dead.|
|Related Logs:||War is Coming: The Ride On Stonebridge.|
|The Road Between Stonebridge and Highfield|
|No dead bodies….for now.|
|23 Aug 289AL|
If the nobles are talking, or the knights are, it's nothing compared to what the few smallfolk, squires and retainers that went with the party are doing. War is a great and terrible thing. And if you're commonborn, it's usually more terrible than great. The murmur of sound is a buzzing of bees, though they at least manage to keep the horses going in the right direction. The only oasis of silence seems to center around Petra, the woman's hands still and steady on the reins of her horse, keeping pace, her expression not distant, really, but…blank, as if most of her thoughts were elsewhere.
The Songbird is brooding. It is quite evident as he says not a word, nor does he sing a song. His old, chocolate-colored warhorse strides heavily along the road back toward Highfield as if emulating his master's mood. He had been trailing the contingent for some time, looking after their rear as it were. It allows him to be closer to his own kind, his own common folk. Coincidentally, his horse has started to stride in pace with Petra's. He is silent beside her for a period of moments before he takes from his forward saddle pouch a flask. "I wonder if we truly expected their answer to be any different," he says idly, perhaps to himself, perhaps not, but outloud nonetheless.
"They are, as a rule, arrogant and self-important. I am not sure it would have been possible to have recieved any other answer." Petra keeps apace with the Captain, her voice low and smooth. Rarely does temper colour her voice. But her moods are not impossible to discern. It's the thickness of her accent that usually marks her mood. And now, it's heavy, clear sign she's unsettled. "They are ambitious, to be sure, not so unlike the Charltons. But they lack the ability to hold and maintain power, even though they covet it." A tsk of air between her teeth. "It's no wonder they live in a bog."
Jac chuckles dryly as his courser continues to amble along beside the courier's. He takes a swig from the old, heirloom flask before it is offered to the pretty woman with a silent arch of his brows. "The ever grasping harpies, claws too delicate to hold what they get in their grip," he says in agreement. "The moment Ser Rygar goaded Ser Gedeon into that duel, the moment the Naylands called the true Lord Tordane a traitor and a liar…" His jaw flexes. "A duel cannot unmake a Lord; if they wanted to contest the King's word, that they should have challenged the King." He sneers — such a foul expression on the Songbird's face. "I would haved liked to see Ser Rygar cross blades with the Kingslayer."
"And yet, they were able to get what they wished for without going to the King, because they were able to taunt him. You would think a bastard would have grown accustomed to such insults. And yet he allowed himself to be driven by mere words like a auroch into a slaughterhouse. It was the same trick they tried to play on our Lord today, but Lord Charlton is not a man given to allowing words to turn him away from his course." Petra seems to have no love for the former Lord Tordane, but then, she has never seemed a woman who had love for any Lord save her own. The flash she does accept, taking a sharp pull, before she hands it back. "And there is no hope of getting the King involved. It may be that he made the ruling, but his man did nothing and broached no protest, nor will the King likely turn his attention this way again. It was the Lord Tordane who acted foolishly, when he did not protest the manner of the duel. The King will not rescue his wife from his mistakes."
If his flask does not offer enough burn, Petra's words certainly do. Jac recaptures the flask and tucks it back into his belt. He offers her a small grunt, maneuvering the old horse around a bit of a pit in the worn road. It gives the pair a moment of wider berth, and a few moments of thought. He grunts. "How I disdain to agree with you, Miss Petra… but there it is. The King took his throne by force, perhaps he would expect no less from others." His somber brown eyes flicker over toward the woman briefly before he sets his gaze straight ahead once more. "They will burn that city to the ground before it is surrendered to our forces. Burn it down, salt the ground."
Petra lifts her head, studying the skies, still clear and easy, even on such a portentious day, before she looks back towards the Captain, that edge of humour curving her mouth, "Perhaps we should look to the skies, wary for the star about to fall and kill us both." So rarely so the two seem to be in agreement over anything, "It is a harsh truth, that few want to believe, and fewer wish to speak, knowing the Lord's support of what remains of House Tordane, but it is truth, none the less. As for the King, if memory serves he did not win his throne. He won battles. But was the Kingslayer who defeated the Mad King. It was Ser Jaime Lannister who won the war. And who did not take the spoils, when he could have. So, perhaps, it must be in this one. Only Lady Tordane has a wolf for a champion and not a lion." A lift of her shoulders, "And if they do raze Stonebridge, it will not stop us. Highfield was build out of nothing but a dream. Should Stonebridge come to us, we will build there as well."
Jac follows her gaze upward, his dark hair curtaining back from his angular, stubble-covered jaw. His eyes linger there for a period of time, listening to the woman and the ways in which her accent enhances those words. He chuckles a bit, shaking his head before his gaze settles back on her. "Fear not, lovely Petra, certainly I will say something that causes your scorn to be renewed." There is an easiness to his smile. His hands rest easily on the horn of his saddle now, loosening the tension on those reins. "You speak of Lord Aleister as that wolf, but I am certain that Lady Tordane has named her champion in that crass bastard of a knight that I am expected to shove into the dungeons once we return to Highfield." He smirks now, something light and playful in his gesture. "You would like him, Miss Petra, for he is so unlike me."
"You always do, Captain. It is part of your charm." Petra keeps the easy pace, seeming to enjoy the company. "It may be that she considers her knight her champion, but is it Highfield's levies that will fight her war, Highfield's money that will arm and feed them, Highfield's men who will die for her and whatever she carries in her belly, Highfield's Lord who will win her battles for her. She has no power, save what the Charltons have been willing to give her. Were Lord Aleister not backing her claim to Stonebridge, she would be traveling the road with her knight and her half-septon, hoping to find a barn or a bed to rest when the time came to birth her get." She does glance over at the comment, "What has given you the impression that I do not like you, Ser Caddock?"
"Imagine how romantic her tale would have been told," Jac comments as the woman paints the picture of the could-have-been. "Perhaps the bards will still sing about the widow of Ser Gedeon, fighting for her husband's right with her goodfather's sword on her belt." The Songbird looked positively amused by such a thought. "Though if I were to write it, it could stand side by side with the Rains of Castamere." There is a touch of ego there. Then he casts the blond a somewhat amused look. "Oh, do not tease such an old heart," Jac jests. "If you confess your feelings for me now, I will have to fall off my horse in shock."
"Such tales are always romantic in the telling, though…in truth, I find that romantic notions usually lead to hard and unwelcome realities. I imagine, as a knight who fought in the Rebellion, that you would know such things from personal experience. I don't imagine your time on the field was any less bloody and base than the days following the sack of the Landing." Which Petra is known to have lived through. "I have no feeling for you, Ser Caddock, and so you can consider yourself safe from such a shock. But if I found your company truly repellant, I certainly wouldn't be speaking with you.
"I was more concerned that it would possibly do harm to my armor, dearest courier," Jac disputes even as a sly, boyish smile threatens the corners of his lips. He bows his head gently to her words, hand pressed to his armored chest. "I do not find you similarly repellant, so yet another point that we can agree on." He chuckles a bit as he continues to ride alongside her with ease, his posture in the saddle a rather comfortable one considering moments ago he was brooding so nicely. "That is why you joined the Half Septon in discouraging young Arthfael from seeking a knight to squire under," he only half-questions.
"Isn't that why you have a squire, as unfit as he is? So that he can maintain your armor and leave you to your other duties?" Petra shakes her head, setting the comment aside, as she looks back to the road, adjusting the gait of her palfrey, who seems to have grown tired of such a slow pace, but is not yet bristling under her mistress' hands. "I sought to help him to see the truth. Being a knight is not romantic. It's hard and thankless and bloody and dangerous. A knight's job is to kill. He has no other function, though most would wish to think otherwise. And if a man, or a boy is willing to accept that and to choose that line of work with eyes wide open, then more power to his cause. But a boy running after a suit of armor with his eyes closed is more likely to find his guts spilled out on the road before he finds honour and glory." A moment passes as she holds a hand out, likely for the flask again, "And to see that there is no shame in being what he is. I have found, that many who are common born, seem to have this need to be more than they are. As if it were a shameful thing to be born without land or title. But we have a freedom nobles will never have. Until we give it away."
"You are far too hard on young Darek," Jac implores the woman. "He is a good squire even if he has much still ahead of him." Then he nods his head a bit. "I never saw the romance in it, mistress," he confesses. "I come from generations of knights. My grandfather nor father allowed such romantic notions to cloud my head, just as I'm certain my father never allowed them to cloud Darek's. He wishes nothing more than to prove himself to Highfield, to earn his spurs — though he does not want to be seen as merely a knight, and that is what gets him in the most trouble." At the silent request, he offers her a smirk — though the flask is loosened once more and slapped gently into her hand. "If every boy became a knight, we would have no carpenters. Though, I suppose we could not agree with one another for this long, as I believe there is more to me than a knight and thus more than a walking blade."
"Once he has earned his spurs, as you have, Ser Caddock, then he may have the freedom to be something other than what he is. In that he is no different than an apprentice, whose desires must come secondary to their studies. He and I were not much different, I suppose, after a fashion. There was a time in my life when I was content to spend my days stealing and hiding and whoring, making what living there was to be had in Flea Bottom. And when the Lord Aleister found me, I did not become a different person overnight. The reason I am as you see me, is because my teachers did not spare me when I did not do as I was told. There is nothing that teaches so well as being beaten bloody. Enough times and you learn your lessons and quickly." Petra does not seem at all upset by the memories of her training. "They did what was necessary. I would never have become what my Lord required if they had handled me like some strumped up noble woman. Held my hand and cooed soft platitudes in my ears." The flask she accepts with a soft thank you, but she does not take a sip, instead, tying off the reins on the loop of her saddle to study the bottle. "A man can have many aspects, and can be many things. But in his aspect as a knight, a man can be only one thing."
There is something in her story that tightens the knight's jaw. Once, so long ago, Jac would have flew into a rage at hearing such a lovely thing as Petra treated so violently — but he is not the same paladin he once was. He offers her a slight glance, his gaze dropping briefly to the flask before he looks away once more. "I do not know the person you were, but I find some comfort in the person you are," he says in an honest, serious note — a rare thing for such a joke-happy knight. "But, I pray that I never have to see you bloodied and broken." He rolls his shoulders, almost uncomfortably, under the pauldrons of his armor. He casts another glance toward that flask before he nods to it with his chin. "It belonged to my wife's father," the knight explains. "She gave it to me the night before I left to answer the call of House Bracken to join King Robert's forces. She was a wicked woman when it came to homemade spirits."
Petra turns the flask carefully, looking at the marks of wear and long use, the patina of an item well cared for through its trials, either not seeing or not acknowledgint the tension in the knight's body. "You would not have liked me. I was half a wild dog. Although…to be fair," and now she does look over at the knight, before she hands back the flask, "I would likely have charged you just a grout(4 pennies) instead of a star(8) for a tumble." And that's about the biggest compliment the courier has ever paid the knight. "As I find comfort in you, Captain." A soft smile, as she looks back to the road, "I think I would have enjoyed meeting her. She sounds like a woman of many facets."
"I would have paid the star," Jac responds without a second thought, and he looks down at the returned flask. He casts a glance toward her, his own smile softened, before his dark eyes settle into the trail ahead of them, marked by the line of journeying Charltons and Tordanes. He clears his throat a bit, trying to regain something intangible, undefinable as he keeps with her palfrey pace for pace. "She was a good woman, a strong woman. There were few in all the Riverlands that could bullshit her. It made her a pain in the ass to court," the knight starts to chuckle, almost fondly. "There was no winning her over with gifts and flowery words." The flask is tucked back into his belt now, as if he is stowing away those memories with it. "There is more than one way to leave someone broken and bloodied, dear Petra."
"Finally, a man admits my worth." A smile, full and genuine, before she reclaims the reins, tugging lightly to direct the mare around the bend, as the outer gates of Highfield approach, "You will find her again. I truth, when your days are done, but before then, you will find someone to match her spirit." A truthful as thing as Petra has ever said, as though the woman who holds no emotion for herself, did not turn aside from their expression in others. "It is the delicate blade that does more damage than the ax. But even the deepest wounds can heal, Jac." A tip of her head, "Come, we're almost home. And I owe you a visit to the Inn."
Jac meets that smile with one of his own, though he does dismiss it with a gruff snort. "I walked into that one," he says, not about to debate a woman's true worth with Petra. He does offer her the quickest smile that flashes those white teeth between sun-darkened lips. He sobers just a bit as his courser is spurred onward a bit, the horse lifting into a bit more of a trot. "From your lips to the gods' ears, Miss Petra," he says, voice riddled with politeness before he continues along side her, perhaps encouraging a bit of a faster pace, to home.