|Bindings and Lances|
|Summary:||Rowan takes a midnight swim, only to find he's not as alone as he thought.|
|Related Logs:||The Price of Secrets, Secret Admirer Of Your Corpse, Settled Stomachs|
|Secluded Lake (TP Room)|
|A little lake surrounded by trees near The Four Eagles.|
|6 August 288|
It's a beautiful summer night — not oppressively hot, but sultry enough that a swim sounds like an attractive alternative to the standard basin and bath. The sky is clear and the moon, the fingernail paring of a waxing crescent, provides just enough light to see by. Rowan Nayland doesn't get to slip away for such indulgences very often, but the squire's had an extremely trying day. Breeches and shirt, tabbard and boots, sword and belt are all left on the shore. Normally, he's fairly vigilant about listening for anyone's approach — but tonight… he's preoccupied, and the breathakingly cold water isn't clearing his head as it normally does. In the center of the lake, only head and shoulders visible above the black mirror of the water, he treads water and gazes up at the sky, as though trying to read something written in the stars.
Curiosity killed the cat, or at least compelled the cat to follow one small squire as he slipped from Four Eagles and off to a nearby lake on this dark, summer night. Gedeon spotted the boy slipping away from his window, having cause enough for sleepless nights, himself, and it was not so very hard a thing to leave his own room and trail Rowan as he made his way towards his secluded swim. By the time Gedeon reaches the shore, the squire's already out in the water, staring up at the sky. The blond knight sits himself on the shore, peering up at the stars, himself. "We had a maester at the Tower that knew much of the stars and their trip through the heavens, though I cannot say much of his teachings ever stuck in my head."
"Oh fuck!" Rowan gasps and wheels about in the water, disrupting the mirror-surface with his flailing. He stares at Gedeon a long, horrified moment. "How — what're you doing here?" he demands. "How did you even find this place?" So much for pleasant greetings.
Gedeon blinks several times, leaning back a little in mild surprise as Rowan flails and curses and generally looks horrified. "I, well, I suppose I… followed you." He clears his throat. "I apologize, I wasn't sleeping either, I thought a bit of company might do us both good."
Looking decidedly worried, the boy remains mostly submerged, treading water at a good distance. "I — you —" He takes a breath. "Sorry," he says at length. "I… you just gave me a turn, is all. Half the folks raised at the Roost don't even know this place is here, much less the guests. So…" he shrugs. "Welcome, I suppose." He frowns, obviously conflicted by — something. And nervous. "How… how are you feeling?" he ventures.
"I suppose you'l have to count me among the ones who do, now," Gedeon opines with a sheepish smile. "I'm much recovered, thank you," he says, easing up into a stand. "And you, ser squire? Back to walloping all you face in battle?" He falls quiet to peel off his shirt, dropping it to the ground before working on the ties of his trousers. Opting to join in the swimming, it seems.
Eyes like saucers, the lad gapes for a moment at Gedeon as the young knight starts to disrobe. "What're you doing?" he demands, voice suddenly a whole octave higher — one of those unfortunate types, it seems, for whom manhood only opened the lower vocal ranges, effecting no permanent shift in timbre. "You shouldn't — I don't want you in here!" So Little Lord Nayland owns the lake, now, does he?
"It's a fairly large lake," Gedeon points out with a little laugh, "and after three days of rolling in my own sick, something more than a tub and washcloth would feel wonderful." Even as he talks, he hauls his breeches down, kicking out of them before he begins to walk into the lake, shuddering a little for the chill of the water. "Are you… shy, ser squire?"
Rowan coughs, looking abruptly elsewhere. He swims backward, maintaining the distance between them. "Yes, actually. Quite. Ask anyone," he replies quickly. "It's why I come out here alone in the first off." He darts a quick glance at Gedeon and — even quicker — away again, blush visible even in the pale moonlight.
Gedeon watches that blush as he makes his way further into the water. Only it laps up to his hips, he leans forwards and pushes off so that he can swim a little further out, though he keeps a polite distance from the mortified squire. "Oh," he says, treading water, "You're one of those sorts of lads."
"I am not," snaps Rowan, shooting Gedeon a look. "Why does everyone think that? Ask Amelia. She'll tell you." He goes on treading water, keeping a wary and sullen eye on Gedeon.
"Well, I thought that because you're blushing and squeaking like a maid and don't want to go swimming, except without company," Gedeon points out as he makes his way a little closer to Rowan, "whereas most lads don't do any of those things. Who's Amelia?"
Rowan stays put, though his watchful wariness remains. "Well, I'm not most lads," he makes the understatement of a lifetime. "She's a whore," he says of Amelia. "Very pretty. Very expensive. Jarod's been giving me money in hopes I'd squander it on a woman pretty much since I came to the Roost, but I've been saving it for my knighthood. When I won such a fine blade at Stonebridge, though, I thought I could afford to squander a little in celebration."
"No, you are not," Gedeon agrees with a small laugh. For Amelia's description he makes a small sound of understanding. "You are taking love advice from Jarod Rivers?" Gedeon asks, brows lifting. "Unless he's changed greatly from when he was fifteen… no wonder you're going to whores. Seven's blessings, lad, I think you were the smarter for saving up your coin."
"Hah!" the squire smirks, relaxing a little — so long as there's a length or so between them. "Love, I'm told, has nothing to do with it." He crosses his arms over his chest, hands on his shoulders. "I told him I meant to save it for love, but I suppose… he may have been right. Best to get the first time over with. The first time's always a mess." He looks rueful and a little melancholy. "Not that she wasn't good. She was exceptional. It was just…" He shrugs. "A bit empty, after."
"Well, that can be true enough," the knight agrees for what love's got to do with it, "Certainly the heart isn't always required, if another body part is keen enough." Then he blinks slowly, watching as Rowan crosses his arms over his chest. It's not until the squire's final words, though, that Gedeon's mouth opens and his eyes widen. "Gods above us," he murmurs, "You're a girl."
Rowan's eyes widen for a moment, and he — she? — draws breath for a stinging retort, heated denial, or… flight, actually. Flight seems to be the best option, just then. So the squire darts — or attempts dart — past Gedeon Rivers, intent on swimming fast and hard for the shore. Going in the other direction, while safer, would put Rowan on the opposite shore from the pile of clothes. And there's no going anywhere without that.
And Gedeon… let's the squire go. He backs up a little as Rowan flees past him, and simply stays in the water, kicking slowly, keeping his head above the surface as the boy… up-until-now-presumed-boy… flails for shore.
What's been seen cannot be unseen, as they say… and so it is with the Nayland-was-a-boy. Everything that was too pretty and slender and delicate — the full lips, the long lashes — it all makes sense now. And though she's scrupulously careful to keep her back to him as she emerges from the water, there's really no mistaking the subtle differences of her body. Slender as she is, there is still the slight flare of narrow waist into hip, the sweep of her spine into a shapely backside — and then the long shirt is pulled over her head, falling to her upper thighs, obscuring further consideration.
The knight waits until Rowan at least gets herself covered before he swims to shore. He's a bit quicker to haul his own breeches on over wet skin than he might have otherwise been, watching the squire in silence as she dresses.
Rowan stops in the middle of reaching for her breeches, snapping up to stand straight shouldered and tall as she's able, eyes flashing. "What," she demands, damp shirt — a lighter fabric than the ones she wears under armor — clinging to her body. "What are you staring at?"
Gedeon smiles faintly as he hauls his shirt on, pushing rough-cut blond hair from his face once he's dressed. "At a melee-winning squire, of course. Does Jarod know?"
The girl-squire's eyes fly wide at the very suggestion. "Of course not. And he's not going to." Her fists clench and unclench at her sides, pulse racing visibly in her long, slender throat as she waits for him to agree. She swallows, adding in a smaller voice. "He can't. He can't. Ever. Know."
Gedeon nods, sliding his hand through his hair a second time and taking his turn staring up at the stars for guidance. "That's quite a dangerous game you're playing, ser squire."
Rowan shakes her head, turning her gaze out over the lake. "You don't know the half," she murmurs. She's silent for a moment, then drops to sit on the shore. "Fuck," she sighs wearily, scrubbing a hand through her hair, ruffling out the dark, wet curls. "Well, it seems I'm growing accustomed to getting outed. Though it's happening with alarming frequency. My heart nearly stopped for fear and shock when Amelia guessed. Now you…" she lifts a slender shoulder, tugging the shift back up as it slides down her arm. "I suppose I'm becoming resigned. It was easier to hide, once."
Cautiously, as if moving too quickly might send the girl running again, Gedeon seats himself beside the squire, knees draw up loosely, elbows resting atop them. "I suppose a whore ought to be able to tell a girl from a boy, if she's doing her job right," the knight muses. "Why?" he asks after a moment. "Why do it at all?"
The girl shrugs, resting her weight back on her hands, curling her toes in the silty sand and grass. "It's what I've always dreamed of doing. I'm not…" she rolls her eyes. "I'm not pleasing or mannerly, like a girl should be. I've no patience for handcrafts and less for idle talk. Gods, Gedeon, being a girl is boring!" She laughs, shaking her head. "Soul-killingly tedious. I don't know how they live, the rest of my sex. But what I am…" She lifts her chin a bit. "What I am is quick. And nimble. And strong. And unafraid. I'm not the first female ever to do this, you know — and I hope I won't be the last."
Gedeon listens quietly, but to his credit, he is listening. Interested, attentive, perhaps still a little shocked to realize he's spent two days sparring with a girl. "You intend to become a knight, then," he asks, though the words don't sound much like a question, "to live as one."
"I do," replies Rowan, glancing at him sidelong. She smirks faintly. "This would be a funny scheme if I were husband hunting."
"Oh yes, most men find the idea of a wife who could beat them in the tourney ring most appealing," Gedeon laughs, "it's a wonder more maids haven't taken up the sword."
Rowan grins. "Well. Someone will, someday. I hope." Another wry smirk. "I am still a girl. That is the one thing about myself I cannot change, however ill-suited I am to the task." She tucks a lock of damp hair behind her ear, looking down at her knees. "So. Now you know."
"You cannot be knight and wife, both. The duties of each conflict too greatly," Gedeon points out. He nods slowly, studying the girl as she studies her knees. "Now I know," he agrees. "Who else has learned your secret?"
"Bollocks, I can't," retorts Rowan, wrinkling her nose. "Might as well say I can't be a knight and a woman. Being a squire's an awful lot like being a wife, you know. I'm good at squiring." She sighs, shrugging. "Not like I think I could ever be with anyone normal, like a baker or a farmer… but another warrior, perhaps." She lifts her chin. "Besides, if I were more keen on being a wife than being of actual use, I'd have stayed at home any married that Frey boy." As for her increasingly ill-kept secret, she replies, "Amelia, of course. And Josse's known for years. And you. I pray the Crone this madness stops at three."
"Squires are not expected to birth or raise children. Nor are they expected to stay behind to run a home," Gedeon argues. "You cannot serve your lord with a blade and serve a husband properly as a wife at the same time. It's not possible. Taking a lover is something different, but a man looking to wed is thinking of his lineage, not of romance." He arches a brow as Josse's name is spoken. "That's well done, then. Having someone who can tend your wounds will help keep your secret longer."
"Well perhaps the man I marry won't be interested in children or a household," Rowan argues, stubbornly. "Perhaps he'll be a fellow warrior, a soldier, like Ser Kevan. Now there's a fine figure of a man with no noble family to boss him about." She lifts her chin again. So there. At Josse's name, her tension eases and a fond smile crosses her lips. "He's been a boon in far more ways than that. No one could ask for a better friend. He and my brother are all that keeps me sane, sometimes."
"No, I… no. The purpose of marriage is legitimate heirs, be you a Lord or a miller. It's a union to ally families and continue them on. If Ser Kevan wed, it would be for those reasons, don't you see? I'm not suggesting some comely and open-minded knight or soldier wouldn't welcome you as a lover or a friend, once they got past the shock. But a wife?" Gedeon shakes his head a little. "Neither you nor your would-be husband would want that. Your brother," the knight muses, "where is he, then, if you're playing at being him? Is he the one writing plays?"
"We shall agree to disagree then," says Rowan, so primly that seeing her as anything other than a girl in that moment is downright laughable. "I think I will make someone a splendid wife. Someone of the right mind." She tucks a curl back behind her ear, fond smile returning at the mention of her brother. "Yes. The actual Rowan Randulf Nayland is in King's Landing, a smashing success of a playwright going by the name of Eustace Rivers. Who sits with you now…" She breathes another sight, tipping her head back to consider the moon. "She was born Rowenna Rose Nayland. I prefer Rose Rivers, these days, though. When I have occasion to be myself."
"So we shall, my lady squire," Gedeon teases around a small smile. "It's quite a thing you've done. Not many poeple get to reinvent themselves so completely. Though now that I've seen what you are, I find it hard to imagine nobody else realizes. How long have you served as Jarod's squire?"
Rowan — Rose — glances sidelong at Gedeon and curves a faint, lovely smile. "Lady squire," she repeats, sighing and resting back on her hands again, stretching her legs before her. "I rather like that. I hope to be called Lady Knight, some day." She lolls her head to the side, relaxing into the conversation, regarding the knight beside her languidly. "More than four years on now. I tell everyone I'll be ten and eight on the end of the ninthmonth, truth is actually that I'll be ten and nine beginning of thirdmonth. So I'm more than of an age to take the title, when I've distinguished myself."
"And he never once suspected…" Gedeon huffs a soft laugh. "Well, then again, why would he? Who would imagine such a thing? And I should hardly judge, I accepted poisoned wine from an unknown admirer, so there's my wit and cunning for you. You are of age to be a knight, indeed. One who will pledge him… herself to House Terrick?"
"If my Lord Ser Jerold will have me," says Rose, bending a knee up slightly so she can better wriggles her toes into the silty soil. "I would bear his banner with the utmost pride." She smiles with a touch of melancholy and no small amount of rue. "But I must prepare myself for the eventuality that he will not. And that all I love — save Josse and Rowan — will reject me when I am true to the world." She frets with a curl, tucking it again behind her ear where it seems to refuse to stay. "And if that's the case — perhaps someone else will see fit to elevate me. Not all the world can be so narrow of mind."
"The edges of pride and honor can cut as sharply as treachery, if you are on the wrong side of them," Gedeon murmurs, watching that curl tuck and then bounce free with a quiet fascination. He's quiet a little longer before he offers, "I would have you, if it were in my power to elevate anyone. And, perhaps my Lord Valentin might be swayed to do the same."
Rose rolls her head onto her shoulder again, gazing at Gedeon without speaking. Finally, she says, "I would see you in the seat of Stonebridge, Gedeon Tordane. But not for that reason." She smiles, a dimple on her cheek. "Though it is sweet that you offer, and I — thank you. For the thought. Rather, I would see you there because it's where you belong. You are the legitimate heir — I believe that. And that your father's wishes be upheld is what's right. Plain and simple." She bows her head to him slightly. "Whatever I can do to aid you in that office, Ser, so long as it does not go against the Terricks, you have only to ask."
The blond knight is silent for a long moment before he offers Rose a sudden and vibrant smile. "Thank you for that, Rowan Rose Rivers," he says, holding his hand out to be shook. "I may yet call on you for that offer, if there is need. You have the heart of a Terrick knight, that's true enough, whatever else may come."
The girl-squire clasps his arm just beneath the elbow, in hearty warrior fashion — and leans across the space between them to kiss his cheek. "You are welcome, Gedeon, son of Geoffrey," she replies, smiling in return.
Gedeon ducks his head, his smile going a little softer for that kiss. "Well, then," he murmurs, "finish getting on your disguise, and let's see our way back to bed. Long days lie ahead of us. Best to be rested for them."
Rose rolls nimbly to her feet, wriggling into her breeches and hopping from foot to foot to don her boots. There's an odd bit in the pile of clothing, though — a wide, very long swath of fabric that is somewhat like a bandage. She stuffs it into her pocket, explaining, "I'm not flat chested enough to get away without binding, anymore, alas." She tosses on her tabard. "But no one should be about at this hour, and the tabard hides things nicely." She girds on her belt and scabbard, running a hand through her — now mostly dried — hair, breathing out. "Well. It's been… interesting."
Gedeon tugs on his shirt and boots. He has no need of any special clothes or bindings and he smirks a little as Rowan explains hers. "Unfortunate for you, but pleasant news for your husband-to-be," the knight opines. "Interesting, indeed." He begins to walk before pausing. "You're a girl," he murmurs, "who saw me naked. In very cold water." He huffs a soft breath and shakes his head. "My fortune runs poorly when it comes to the women of The Roost."
"Hah!" Rose yelps a laugh, clapping a hand over her mouth to stifle her mirth in the still darkness. When she's quite sure she can speak without giggling, she offers, "If it's any consolation, I've seen a lot of those in my time as a boy." She glances down at the knight's lance, then up again, dimples deep. "And you've nothing to be ashamed of. So fear not."
"Ah, well then," Gedeon says as he resumes walking, "I suppose my manly pride is somewhat salved, in that case." He sniffs, tipping up his chin, though his eyes twinkle. "Certainly, I've never had any complaints."
Rose falls into step alongside him; there's a faint, mirthful snort. "Yes, yes. So all men say. It's not just the length of the lance that counts, you know."
"Well, what man would say otherwise?" Gedeon replies with a laugh, "You need to work on your swagger, Lady Squire, if you ever want to convince Jarod you've tucked some delicate little thing between the sheets. Boys don't return from a tumble melancholy and introspective. Those are decidedly female inclinations."
"My dear Ser Princess, if years of resisting his attempts to get me deflowered by insisting I was saving myself for love and marriage didn't tip him off, I don't think anything will." Rose clasps her hands behind her back as they walk, matching his longer stride. "Jarod will never see me," she says — with melancholy and introspection. "But… that's a good thing. A very good thing. He's serious about little in this world as he is about the honor of being a knight. And he would cast me aside. So." She nods. "Noted. Improve my swagger."
"Sweet seven, you didn't…" Gedeon murmurs, eyes widening, "You're right, if that failed to do it, nothing will." For that melancholy, he glances over towards Rose thoughtfully. "You fancy him."
Rose doesn't bother denying it, only rolling her shoulders in a shrug. "Hopelessly in love," she reports. "Nothing to be done about it. Can't ever have him — " she flashes a quick, bitter twist of a smile. "I'm not his type. Even if I weren't a boy."
"Jarod has a type?" Gedeon asks, "He's become more discerning in his maturity. Still, I expect you know more of Ser Jarod Rivers's mind and heart than any girl he's yet met."
"He does. There's the type he fucks, and the type he moons after but would never dare sully with his bastardy." Rose blows out a breath. "I am neither." She laughs, shaking her head. "But that is, as I said, just as well. I've found the type I moon after. Perhaps I'll have a type I fuck, too. Seems half a life, in a way, but it's better than none."
The Oldstones knight arches one brow at that but, perhaps wisely, holds his tongue. "Half a life is a starting point, and there's no law that says you need to follow in your knight's footsteps in that respect."
Rose snorts. "And what would you recommend, Ser Princess?" she asks archly.
"Well, lady squire," Gedeon answers, "as you seem set on something more meaningful than simply bedding a bevy of men for the sake of bedding them, I'd recommend a compromise. Find one or two you can at least respect, perhaps whose company you enjoy, and take a proper lover. Either that or wait until Jarod is deep enough into his cups and blindfold him." The last, at least, is very likely a tease.
"Almost tried that, once," Rose banters back, smirking. "After a fashion." She declines to elaborate on that, however, and mulls his saner advice over in thoughtful silence. At length, she quips, "Are you volunteering?"
"Now there's a story to hear, one day," Gedeon murmurs for that almost-blindfolding. As for the other, he blinks slowly, his steps slowing again. "I already said I'd have you," he points out softly.
Rose stops, blinking in turn. She's rendered speechless for a moment, then points out, "As a knight." The words come out breathy; she clears her throat. "You said you'd have me as a knight."
"Well," Gedeon allows with a small nod, stopping as Rose does, "Yes. That, too."
"Oh," says Rose, softly. She bites the corner of her bottom lip, hands nervously fretting another recalcitrant curl behind her ear. "It… doesn't bother you? That I'm… you know. Boyish. And rough. And in love with someone else?" She tilts her head, brows pensively knit.
"I could hardly expect you to be in love with me, you've only known me a handful of days and in them you beat me in a footrace and saw me upending my stomach more times than I care to remember. As for the other, well…" Gedeon shrugs, "no. Suppose it doesn't. Bastard mercenaries just returned from Braavos have funny tastes, like that."
Rose's lips tic up at one corner. "Bastard mercenaries just returned from Braavos," she echoes, mirth in her eyes. "How specific. I can't imagine there are many of you." Her smile widens. "Are you all so pretty?"
"You could go on a quest to find out," Gedeon replies, his own lips curling up into a small smile, "but perhaps I should be just very clever and say 'no. I was the only pretty one. All the rest were fat. And smelly. And missing teeth. Or eyes. Or both.'"
Rose snickers, then giggles, putting a hand over her mouth. "How very clever it would be of you to say that," she agrees, grinning. "If you were to say that. Doing away all your potential competition in a single sweep." She tilts her head. "Then if you were very, very clever, you might kiss me."
"Oh, hmm. I'm not sure I could manage that much wit all in a single night. I'm a simple man, am I." Still, Rose has tilted her head forward, and so Gedeon leans his own down to see if he might, indeed, brush his 'pretty' lips against hers.
"A simple man," Rose scoffs merrily, clearly not buying that. "I was born at night, you know. Just not last — " And then his lips brush hers, and she reaches out a hand to steady herself, placing it flat on his chest. Her eyes are closed and her lips parted when she finishes the thought, barely whispering, " — night."
Gedeon draws back a little, studying Rose's face with eyes gone a little darker. "Clearly not," he agrees softly. Then he leans in again to see if he might steal a second kiss beneath the sliver of a moon.
This time, she rises up to meet him, not that she need rise terribly far, tall and slender thing that she is. Her fingers slide into his hair, lips sweet and searching, parted for him. It's not a kiss stolen, but one yielding and willing, her breath and body trembling just a little — the full flower of a woman's passion tempered by the wonder of girl who was not long ago a maid.
She is tall and slender for a girl, he not so tall but slender for a man, so they fit pleasantly when Rose presses up against him. Gedeon settles one hand at the nip of her waist and the other against the curve of her spine as he takes up the invitation of that kiss, deepening it and savoring that delicate surrender. It's a long, luxurious stretch of time before he finally lifts his head, eyes dark and breath coming a little roughly. "Are you sure this is what you want?" he asks softly.
Rose draws a shaky breath, hands sliding slowly down from his hair to his shoulders, and over his chest. She studies them there, feeling his heart beneath them, then looks back up into his eyes. "Yes," she whispers. She tilts her head to kiss the corner of his mouth, speaking softly against his skin. "Are you?"
"Yes," the blond knight answers, leaning a little into that kiss Rose bestows on the corner of his mouth. Then he turns his head just a bit, just enough that their mouths can meet properly again.