|Brothers in Different Arms|
|Summary:||Jarod and Justin meet up in Stonebridge before they depart to Seagard, and talk on the growing tensions in the area and the parts they'll play - and not play - in it.|
|Related Logs:||The Ride on Stonebridge for the coming violence; About the Accord for the Terrick/Charlton deal; The Grey Gardens for the source of Jarod's war story|
|Crane's Crossing Inn - Stonebridge|
|31st August, 289|
Life goes on in Stonebridge, albeit at a very strange pace. Many of the women and children are already gone from the town, and the men are tasked to the levies, drilling and preparing fortifications. It is, unmistakably, a place bracing for war. If of a very different sort than the Riverlands faced from the Ironborn some months back.
Business still continues where it can, however, and one of those places is Crane's Crossing. Ser Jarod sits at a table with a good view of the window as evening falls, waiting for his half-brother. Who he's arranged to meet, while Justin was passing through the town. There aren't many other customers. Impending possible doom makes Stonebridge a less obvious tourist destination.
There are, however, a few who have arrived from Terrick's Roost on their way to Seagard. Those few who wished to stop over in Stonebridge for the evening and continue on in the morning, rather than having started earlier in the day and pressed through to their destination. Justin is among these, coming down the steps from upstairs. He has changed out of the steel breastplate and clothes with the dust of the road upon them. He wears now a muted purple surcoat edged discreetly with golden embroidary, his silver spurs cleaned and polished to gleam against the dark of his boots.
When those boots touch the floor, Justin turns to walk over to Jarod's chosen table, "Now here is a man I have seen far too little of for my liking. And here he is about to likely get himself blooded or killed, fighting for Naylands. I rue my father's words that drove you away from us, Jarod." The Terrick Sheriff comes to a stop behind one of the seats, laying both of his hands upon the chair back. "How do you fare, Jarod?"
Jarod is dressed down, save his sword and the dagger at his belt. No maile this evening, just one of the green tunics he seems to favor. Not even any sign of his allegiance to Stonebridge. Not that he's really required to wear such at all times. "Pessimist! I'm not quite dead yet." He springs to his feet, grinning broad and extending to clasp his half-brothers. "That's about the beginning and end of how I fare. How're you Justin? How's the Roost? How's…everyone and everything. Has been too long indeed."
Justin bares his teeth in a broad smile, "I shall hold you to it to stay lively, damn you." The hand clasp is firmly accepted, "I fare well enough, busy. Father's .. about the same though he's shaken the cough, I think. The Roost is a happier place these days, with hope, food coming in, and seed waiting to plant." When the hand clasp is broken, Justin draws out the chair to take a seat. "Please, sit and have a drink with me. I did not buy you as many drinks as I ought to have at the Seagard tournament as I agreed to owe you."
A hint of his smile that came more easily to him fades as Justin asks, "And how fairs your wife?"
Jarod claps Justin's shoulder with his other hand before he releases his half-brother. He then flops back in his chair, comfortably slouched, and waves for a serving maid. There's one headed to the table in pretty short order. They aren't near as busy as usual. She informs them that there's ham on order for dinner tonight, and all the usual fine beers, wines and spirits the Crane boasts.
"I'll take a plate of the ham, sweetling, and a mug of that sour Mire beer." That done he turns his attention back to Justin. Smiling some, albeit wistfully, as he speaks of better times in the Roost. "I'm glad of that. Even if I hear it comes from Lord Aleister Charlton's hand. Careful with that one. Even before all this mess, I got all the measure of his honor I needed to on the Pyke." His dislike for the fellow is decidedly personal, whatever partisanship in the quarrel over Stonebridge it might also hold. His wife is a decidedly more pleasant subject. "Rowenna's well. Though I think she still finds it odd being among her family. She's been back at the Mire these last days, to see her lady mother. Who'll likely ask her to stay there while the mistletoe fuckers point their spears at us." He sounds less than optimistic about the success of that.
"Porter for me, please. I supped earlier." Something dark and rich, Justin doesn't care if it's also bitter. He gives a slow nod and leans back into his chair as well, "I know she's a fighting woman. I had been curious if she would stay by your side in this matter or if you'd somehow succeed in sending her to a safer haven." Justin's mouth thins slightly, "Yes, by what I hear, Lord Aleister is a man to be very cautious of, and we are, I assure you. On the other hand, he made us very reasonable offers, almost too good to be true. Mostly he wished to be assured that we would not come up behind him to join the fighting against him. I'm certain it comes as no surprise to you that we had no intention of aiding the Naylands, though … surely it rubs many, the legality of their claims this early."
"Have you heard the tale of what he did with the squid who yielded to Ser Kell on Harlaw?" Jarod asks, as to Aleister. When Justin speaks of him keeping Rowenna out of the upcoming fight, he smirks. And speaks not on it, save, "We'll see how that plays. As for the Charltons, when something's too good to be true it tends to be. Though I figured the Naylands had their chance to court Terrick aid, and they squandered it, so little be done for it. I'm just grateful I've not heard of our lord father given swords to the mistletoe fuckers. I didn't figure he would, but I don't know what the Charlons wanted from you lot in exchange for feed and seed."
Jarod's younger half sibling gives a negative indication of his head, "No, we would lend him no blades in this matter even had he asked. It would not gain us Stonebridge back into our vasselage and so it is not our fight. It is a matter to be settled among Frey vassels." Justin thanks the barmaid when she returns with their drinks and a trencher of ham with sides for Jarod. It smells delicious and likely it will be. "I did hear something of that, how he took Ser Kell's prisoner and slew him? I hear also that since that time, Lord Aleister paid Ser Kell gold as recompense while he was our guest at the Roost. I do believe Ser Kell accepted it, and has pitched it in with other funds we have scraped up." Jerold's younger son smiles faintly, "Ser Kell is a knight I am much pleased to have with us."
Justin picks up his beer and indicates the meal and drink are to be on his tab, not Jarod's. The barmaid curtsies and smiles, going off to leave them be until wanted. "What the Charltons wanted besides our assurance not to give the Naylands aid in arms, was craftsmen. We agreed to a very small number of journeymen and apprentices to travel to Highfield for a given time. Any who do not return to us we are to be compensated for, should they choose to stay in Highfield. They are however allowed to travel back and forth to see their families though we allowed only volunteers to go."
"Those seem good enough terms too good to believe, though be wary of a hook in them you don't see right off. Perhaps they figured if it kept any chance of one more party aiding the Naylands off, they could buy Terrick neutrality at a loss." Jarod frowns, though none of it seems aimed at Justin. "It was just a day or so after we'd landed on Harlaw. Cape forces were scattered. We'd landed off from the main band, so no one really knew who was in charge. Each from every house was just seeing to their own forces until we could regroup. Squids pressed us in a night raid. I think they just stumbled on our lines and decided to make a push for it, we dispatched them easy enough. An Ironer yielded to Ser Kell and he took the man prisoner, promising the man he'd live, if to be our prisoner. Lord Aleister didn't like that much. Not sure why. Perhaps just because a common knight had shown more valor on the field than he. Anyhow, he had a few of his Charlton men hold Ser Kell's arm while he slit the squid's throat. Just because he could. Just because he figured being highborn and well-monied gave him a right to. And then he returned from the war and his lord gave him lands to call his own, because money and might can buy you all the honor and power and right to things you like. I don't figure he wants Stonebridge for any better reason, because he thinks he can take it, and because he's somehow convinced the Lady Danae to let him use her to get it, more fool for her." He sounds more sad, than anything else, when he mentions Danae. He shrugs. "Anyhow. I'm glad Ser Kell was paid out of it, though I don't figure money buys Lord Aleister anymore honor. And I at least won't forget it. At least it went to the Roost's coffers. Just…know the man you've made deals with. For he will expect to profit by them, at your expense likely enough."
"Not at a loss. We have to pay back the food we are getting, but at very reasonable rates and under a reasonable time period." Justin adds quietly. He drinks some of his dark beer and listens to his half brother. There are other lesser details to the Accord but they don't really matter so he doesn't mention them. Justin gives a slight nod to what Jarod tells him about what happened on Harlow, "I see. I am curious as to his reasons. I suppose he did clearly outrank Ser Kell in the matter. So we shall see how he holds to his own deadline, if he refrains from engaging until the date set or comes in early." There is something more Justin refrains from mentioning about Lord Aleister. Instead, he sips his beer and allows his bastard brother to eat some of his supper.
Jarod doesn't press for more details on the accord, just drinking his beer when it's brought to him. "I got all the measure of him I need, and I'll expect precisely that. About his promise on when he'll engage, much as anything else. His reasons are that he wanted to show himself more powerful that night, and he could, and that it was cruel and no business of his mattered little. I have thought on it much, and I can find no better." Jarod's confidence in Aleister's promises are plainly low. "Anyhow. We're securing the town as best we can, and it's given the women and children at least some warning to evacuate. Little else to do but see to our defenses, and see that Stonebridge isn't so easily gotten as all else that man decides he wants on a given day." He releases a long breath. "Let's talk on more pleasant matters. I heard you were sheriff in the Roost now. How're you taking to it?"
Yes well, time will tell in all things. Justin sets his beer tankard onto the table, not yet finished, "We'll take any refugees who come to the Roost. Do what we can for them, but you know we lost a lot of people. I'll wish to offer them incentives to remain with us and settle, if we can feed them." Of course there's lots of other places they'll go to, Kingsgrove, Seagard, the Mire, Heronhurst and elsewhere. Justin sips his drink once more. "Aye, Jacsen made me Sheriff and I study law. Jacsen and I do not see eye to eye on many things but it gives me some purpose, and I think I needed it. So I'm doing all right. I have an affinity for hunting bandits, at least."
"The Mire's taking as many as they can. Most who aren't taking that refuge're going to Seagard or Kingsgrove, or the less contentious Frey lands. I appreciate you trying to do for those smallfolk who come your way but…" Jarod doesn't speak on the still-strained state of the Roost. He does seem to figure it a given some of those leaving won't come back. "Sorry things aren't all well between you and Jacsen. I wish…part of me feels I abandoned him, even though I don't see any way I could've stayed at the Roost after how things went between father and me. But we've always got on. We're very different men now, but we squired together in Seagard, and saw the Rebellion together, and spent a good bit of the last year running about to pick up the mess left behind when Jaremy was sent to the Wall.
"Well, you needn't worry that he's abandoned. We all try to do whatever he and father needs done. It is our duty, both to family and to the Roost. Though … if he continues to take Milk of the Poppy, I do not have a great deal of faith he will ever recover, or indeed survive it." To this part, Justin keeps his voice very low for Jarod's ears alone. "I think Anais will try to ween him off of it now that Lucienne has departed for Kingsgrove." There is more Justin might say upon the topic of his elder brother but that too he leaves off. He only shrugs instead, finishing off his first beer and turning his head to see if the barmaid will come over to refill it.
Justin looks back to Jarod, "I have envied you that closeness with the family. I've given up on having it myself. I get along fine with Anais though sometimes she needs someone to draw her back a little if she strays too far."
"Anais…tries. I know she does. I wish…" Jarod sighs. "It matters little now what I wish. I'm glad she's done as well by the family as she can these last months. I've sorry I've not been able to take a proper part in the rebuilding." He frowns at what's said of Jacsen, and Lucienne, but again it's not something he presses on. "I saw Luci a little when she passed through to Kingsgrove. She seemed…not happy, exactly, but hopeful she might find happiness there. I pray she does."
Justin picks at a callous on his hand and waits to give reply while his drink is refilled. Once she's gone, he thins his mouth somewhat, "Lucienne is very angry with me. I tried to keep her from doing something dreadfully stupid that could have dragged us into this fight against our will. Father gainsayed my orders, but he did refuse to let her ride onto the Mire as she had planned and into Ser Rutger's all too willing hands." Justin twists his mouth somewhat before he adds, "At least she's safe. I too want her to be happy, though I wonder at who's expense."
"Lord Rutger wanted to continue treating with the Terricks," Jarod says. "Which that was likely about. I know he sent word to the Roost not long before she passed this way. Though I figured nothing came of it, once matters with the Charltons were settled."
There's a huff of breath, "Ser Rutger wanted to keep treating with /Lucienne/, not with us, Jarod. I do not know what was going on between them, she never would say a word of what he wanted to speak upon. I think he made it fairly clear that he had great distaste for us and wanted no betrothal, Jarod. The efforts Ser Riordan began that seemed to be in good faith, Ser Rutger clearly and intentionally sabotaged and gave us insult. After which, no one in our house was interested in treating with the Naylands further, except for Luci. By which point I don't think anything he offered was going to be accepted by either Jacsen or Jerold, not when we were getting close to finishing deals with other houses. Lucienne knew this, but was eager to rush to the Mire at Ser Rutger's invitation even when she knew forces were on the march to head for Stonebridge." Justin eyes his half brother, "How very advantageous if Ser Rutger had taken Lucienne as his 'guest' and held her as leverage against father to force Jerold to commit troops to the Nayland cause. You /know/ father would do just about anything for Lucienne while the rest of us piss in the wind."
"I know Lord Rutger was interested in offering some of the Groves food for considerations from the Roost and Seagard, touchy as things were getting with the other Freylings," Jarod says. "I think he wanted other things, too. Or was willing to offer other things. He's not my close confidante in politics, exactly, but he's interested in making inroads with the Mallisters especially. I think Lord Patrek may've made it known what would earn him goodwill in Seagard, and what wouldn't. In any case, it's done now, but I'd not presume you know his motives, anymore than you know Lord Aleister's."
"Maybe I don't, but I certainly don't trust the man. If he was so eager to offer the Groves harvest, then why was he so stingy about offering a more reasonable quantity of it as Lady Roslyn's dowery?" Justin shakes his head faintly, "I'd be curious what was discussed between him and the Mallisters." As said, it's finished now either way. For now. "Whether I was right or wrong, it was too much to risk with that timing, Jarod." Justin sips his beer, relaxed despite their not agreeing upon motives. Instead he asks, "So, are you coming to Seagard for the wedding, or are you pinned down and dare not leave here? We'll understand if you aren't going. If you aren't, are there messages you might care for me to pass along for you?"
"Not saying you should trust him. Just that he might've given terms not so different from the Charltons, save that they got their first. I'm just relieved the Terricks seem to be staying out of it. Anyhow, I'd have cut his throat if he tried to hostage Luci, which I figure he knows." Jarod doesn't seem to doubt his ability to have done that, not that it's really a threat. It's not something he seems to think would've had much of a chance of happening. "Aye, I'm headed that way on the morrow. I don't want to miss Ser Kamron and Lady Saffron's wedding. And I've some other business to see to in Seagard. I doubt very much Lord Aleister'll hold his attack until the date he gave, so I don't intend to linger, but it'll be good to see those folk before…whatever comes."
"If he had terms to offer simular to the Charltons, he had many months and opportunities to make those terms known, Jarod. We were hardly going to put off the Charlton offer to hear him out yet again." Justin nods to what Jarod says, "Nonetheless, father would have commited troops to the field to get her back, had it happened. Men we can't spare." He makes a dismissive gesture to drop that subject.
"Be good to have you come to the wedding. I am curious to know… Did Lord Aleister say he would not attack before that date, or merely that Stonebridge had until then to see folk evacuated? Depending on his precise wording, it could make his meaning entirely different."
There's plainly more Jarod might want to say on the matter of the Charlton deal, but he lets the matter drop with a shrug. "All I'll advise, brother is to share your distrust among all the Freylings. The Charltons will expect more from you than you expect. Be ready when they press." As to the last question, "I believe it was that Stonebridge had until tht day to evacuate. I full expect him to come sooner. I've said what worth I give the honor of his promises, such as they might be."
"Your warning won't be forgotten, Jarod. I take it to heart, already." Justin muses over his drink. "I had heard that his wording was about sending noncombatants away. If that is the case, then he hasn't given any promise at all that he wouldn't attack before that time. Lord Aleister could do so and still allow folk to flee until that date, then stop any who try to leave after to lay a siege, or to try and put everyone who remains to the sword." The Terrick Sheriff watches the very few who work in the inn or the rare patron but the two of them nearly have the place to themselves. Justin adds low, "All this, and the lady Danae or her child may well not survive birthing. Foolishness."
"Foolishness Lord Tully won't stop and Lord Frey doesn't seem to care about, as whoever lives still bends these lands to his knee." Jarod shrugs. "Well, it's the bed I seem to've made when I swore to the Naylands. And I do think, whatever's happened, Lady Isolde has more right to Tordane Tower than Lady Danae." Of that, at least, he seems quite sure. Though he doesn't say why. "But, aye, if they're taking it so far before it's known if she'll even bear a live child or not…well, I'll defend the town and my neck. All I can do. Was good to see you, Justin. We should drink more in Seagard. While the drinking's still good."
Justin gives a nod in silent agreement to Isolde having more claim, because if nothing else she was at least born here and bore that house's proud name first, before ever this mess blew up. He finishes off his beer and moves to stand, "Yes, we should and I hope we will. Ride with me tomorrow to go to the wedding. Alas, I will but overnight in Seagard only the wedding night for I must ride at once upon errand of my own, elsewhere. I would have one merry day with you and our friends ere we part." Justin opens his coin purse, not quite so empty as it has been, and pays for Jarod's meal and drink, as well as his beer. "Seven look after you, Jarod. I would rather hunt, joust, and drink with you many more times yet, in the coming years." Justin smiles at his half sibling, "Until, I'm for bed and an early morning ride to Seagard. If you can't ride with me, I'll look for you there."