|Come For the Swinging|
|Summary:||…stay for the drinking. Ser Jarod and Ser Bruce share another pint and reflect on the case of the murder of Jens Howard as it draws toward a short drop and sudden stop.|
|Related Logs:||How To Do a Fighting Man; Not the Killing Kind; Castiron|
|Town Square and Rockcliff — Terrick's Roost|
|An over-priced stable and a bar.|
|Thu Sep 08, 288|
Bruce is by the biggest stables in town, haggling with a sour look on his face with the proprietor. He's got his Nayland shield strapped to his back, and is armoured, but looks dusty from the road even in the pale torch and lamplight of the village. "Listen here, mate, you'll not cheat us out of our bloody coin just cause where we're from. I'll not hear it that we brought this down on ya, neither."
Jarod is mounted as he rides into the middle of town from the castle, though he dismounts when he reaches the square proper. Leading his brown courser stallion - a not particularly showy piece of horse-flesh, but he looks well-maintained and is sturdy enough that he can probably go for quite a distance if one has an eye for horses. He's not armored, for his part. Just wearing his sword, and the sash in Terrick colors at his belt which signifies the House he's sworn to. He heads toward the stables, and likely not just to settle his horse, for he nods in triumph once he spots Bruce. "Ser Longbough! You are becoming a familiar face in these parts, of which I generally approve, though I pray to Seven you'll have no need of the armor today."
"Always need armour on the road, though, Ser Jarod." Bruce quips briefly as he turns his torso to face the other knight, though is expression doesn't lighten. He continues the argument for a few more moments with the owner, before reaching into a pouch on his belt and clapping a few silver into the man's hands. "If you don't do your job… well, let's not go there." He grimaces and walks away towards Jarod, shaking his head. As he walks, he pulls off his gloves.
"I'd try and cut a deal for you, Ser Bruce, but I'll not begrudge the local merchants their right to cheat their customers," Jarod says dryly. "I'll cover your drinks for the night, though, to try and salve the wound. You come for the swinging, I take it?"
Bruce nods dourly at Jarod, his brow furroughed. "Aye, I did, and I appreciate that. I was like to give the man a good slapping, but as he's the only one in town to take what I need him to take, I've no choice. I brought Jens Howard's family with me." He jerks a thumb at the Rockcliffe.
"Which is why he charges what he charges," Jarod says with a snort. When the profitable stable master is done with Bruce's horse, Jarod gives him the care of his own mount. He pays his own coin over with a wince. "Best pay his taxes at the year's end, however." His gaze follows the jerk of Bruce's thumb, mood becoming rather more solemn. "Family? Aye. They'd want to see justice done. He got a wife?"
"Not just my horse, and my men's horses. Chaining up the bloody carriage, too. He does have a wife, yes." Bruce is unspecific as to the details.
Jarod nods to that. "Poor woman." He grimaces. Rather awkwardly. "Does she…uh…does she know the full tale of how he died?"
Bruce shakes his head, his frown deepening. He tucks his gloves into his belt and then rests his hands there. "No. I don't intend to tell her, either. Some things people do not need to know… and it's evil to speak such of the dead, they say. At least some times. Why cause grief if I'm not needing to?"
"I'll not either. That could get…yeah." Jarod nods firmly. "Some things, ones we love don't need to know about us, I figure. The Father and the Stranger - and perhaps the rest of the Seven, if they want to deal with their likes - can sort of the ills of Jens Howard and Amelia Millen both now, so far as I'm concerned." A pause and he adds, "I heard she told you quite the tale when you saw her in the Roost. Woman missed her calling as a bard, I think. Would've been a better life for her, but I can't imagine why some in this world make the choices they do."
"Let's go grab a pint to talk, I think." Bruce motions at the Inn.
Jarod nods to that. He'll follow Bruce for that pint, gladly.
Bruce grabs the closest seat to the fire he can, his strides quick and long. Once he's there, he kits down a bit - shield off, bracers off, helmet aside. He plops down into the seat. "Didn't she spin you some wild tales, too, Jarod? S'what you told me."
"She did at that," Jarod says, as he plops down across from Bruce. "Two pints of ale, please, sweetling." Ordered from the pretty brunette serving girl who attends their table. Jarod takes a moment to watch her walk away, before he gets his attention back on Bruce. "What you make of it? The guard who was there told me what she said to you. Jens Howard forcing her into a life of whoring and degradation, and all of that."
"I didn't know the man. Truthfully, would it really surprise me that someone, somewhere, took advantage of a young girl after her mother died during the War? No. Men are foul, unless you make them else. That's why I keep my lads disciplined. They stop thinking about that bollocks. But I only have her word to go on, truly… if she was lying, she's an accomplished liar. Which she likely is, being a whore." Bruce is concentrated on the conversation, mainly, and not the surroundings.
Jarod shakes his head, taking his pint when it's delivered and drinking deep. "I don't precisely disbelieve her. Not that part of it, at least. Not the bit of her having a dark history with Master Howard. Explains why she'd do him like that, if anything does. And, aye. There are men in this world who've done far worse. Like I said out there, Father and Stranger can sort them both out now, and the world's likely happier for it. It's the parts she didn't tell you that she gave to our sort that interest me, though."
Bruce rubs his hands together and takes a sip of the ale, his sleepy blue eyes regarding Jarod cautiously. "What did she give you sort, exactly?"
Jarod shrugs to that. "Before I go into it, you should know that this tale I don't believe. There's no proof, and my lord father's not pursuing the matter. It strikes me as someone trying to make a good deal of trouble between Terrick and Nayland, so there may be enemies to us both out there. But. It is what it is, Ser Bruce." He takes a drink before saying, dropping his voice some, "Amelia Millen claimed to me that Jens Howard was - among his many other nasty qualities - a Nayland assassin. In the Roost to kill Lady Anais Banefort."
Bruce's eyebrows slowly creep up at this assertation. He smirks at it, and chortles a bit. "That's… a bit rich. Not that I don't deny that the more I learn about my liege lords, the more uh… determined, they become. But as far as I know, that hasn't stooped to something that low. They're still noblemen."
"I'll put very little past highlord politics, Ser Bruce, but it frankly makes little sense to me," Jarod says. "They wanted Stonebridge. Stonebridge they got. We're all men and women of the Riverlands, why try and start a war between two Houses who, in the grand scheme of things, mean only a slight amount to Riverrun and very little to the rest of Westeros? And Lady Anais is a Banefort besides. Westerlands lady, and her father a bannerman to Tywin Lannister, his own fucking scary self. Who wants to rain that kind of trouble down on themselves? No. To my thinking, it was a lie to try and carry out sympathy and avoid the noose, which is where it'll end, so far as my lord father is concerned. Still." He takes another drink. "Figured you had a right to know, given you're very recently in Nayland employ. Take it back to your masters if you want. Keep it for yourself if not."
Bruce tilts his head slightly as Jarod imparts his wisdom, smiling more broadly this time. "I thank you, Ser Jarod, for being open with me. I don't know one way or the other, I guess, but I'm surprised you even shared that choice bit. So she said that the Nayland assassin Jens Howard hired her to whore… and she saved Lady Banefort? By killing Howard?"
"I suppose that's what she's aiming to claim, aye," Jarod says. "Though the way I figure it, she still murdered a man she had every reason in the world to hate, if her tale contains even a hint of truth. She still, rather than bringing the matter to me or my father or my fair lord brother, did murder on Terrick land, in a fine Roost establishment, and scared the seven hells out of the good people here. If she was doing us any favors, she went about it in a way that contained no honesty, and so I've little trust in it."
"Justice is justice. No matter why she did it, in the end." Bruce offers a shrug. "You should have seen her when she first found out I was Nayland, though. Terrified, and it wasn't no mummer's farce, neither. S'why maybe I'm inclined to believe there's at least some truth in the claim, though it wouldn't surprise me to know that good ol' Master Howard exaggerated things."
"And that's the beginning and end of it, Ser Longbough," Jarod agrees firmly with the first. "As for Master Howard? Who knows. The more I learn about the man, the less I grieve that he's left this world, but we still can't allow things like that to be done this way. Maybe she figured I'd be easier on her because I fucked her a time or…several." He admits it in a highly self-deprecating way. That's a lay he regrets now. "But I don't figure that's the way things should be done, either. You get away with murder just because you tickled the cock of the son of the Lord of the Roost. Not the way we do things here, I pray."
Bruce laughs harshly at that. "Aye, well, we're square then. Two people will be out of the world, and we'll be better for it, in the end. Cheers to justice, I suppose." He raises his cup.
"I'll drink to that," Jarod says, raising his cup to tap Bruce's. It's not a particularly happy toast. This whole affair has plainly left him at least a little sad. But he drinks nonetheless, with feeling. Finishing his pint. He sets the cup down, and doesn't motion for another. "I should be getting back to the Tower, speaking of. I'll leave you enough coppers to cover…well, another round or two, at least. I don't feel *that* badly for you being over-charged by our stableman." He cracks a grin.
"Course not. I'll make arrangements if you should ever come to Stonebridge. Which," Bruce raises his index finger to the sky, waggling it at Jarod, "you should. At your earliest convenience. Bring some of your Guardsmen, we can have wargames. Whatever this sillyness about house succession and holdings and such, it's all bollocks. In the end, when the banners are called by Lord Hoster, or we have to defend ourselves from something local, we'll be fighting alongside eachother. Best we know how we both fight, ya?"
"Now that you mention it, my brothers and I have been talking about heading down to Crane's Crossing for a drink for ages now," Jarod says. "See what the place is like under new management. Wargames?" His half-grin turns to a proper smile at that. "I think the men'd like that. Things're a bit tense now but…fuck it. Play war generally means one isn't concerned about real war. I'll see what my father makes of the idea. It'd keep the boys out of trouble, if nothing else, and it's a fun way to drill. And that's Seven's honest truth, Ser Bruce. The Naylands and Terricks are squabbling over tax coppers with this Stonebridge nonsense. I figure we all know it's not the end of the world however things fall, in the grand scheme of things."
"Well, let's not mince words here… one man on each side, at least, is going to get himself deep in the muck by beating somebody, stabbing somebody, goading… or a combination. Whatever. We'll plan for it accordingly." Bruce winks. "Aye, that's how I look at it too. Then again, I'm an outsider. Born to Blackwood lands, served with them and the Tullys. So… maybe I'm gifted with that, maybe blinded. But I figure we could all stand for a pint after. We could even, if we're feeling real saucy and things go well, combine the professionals and thrash the Stonebridge levies. They probably think they're good soldiers after two months of once a week drilling."
"I always had an easier time making friends with men who hit me," Jarod says. Jovially, though he doesn't seem to be joking. "Figured I knew what the fellow was made of after that. And, if we'd both survived it, we could quarrel as honest gentlemen. I've been a Roost man all my life, Ser Bruce, and I honestly can't say I understand it. My lord father hates Lord Rickart Nayland, and Lord Rickart hates him back. Strikes me almost as more personal than a quarrel over lands and taxes." He shrugs. "Though if Lord Nayland employs men like Howard…well. Maybe that's not judgment. There are good and bad in the pay of every lord and, like I think we said to each other before, we just pray we aren't too badly done by from those giving us orders."
"As I told Lord Ryker… I grew up on land from stock that's far older than these two houses, with a quarrel that's been going on, and off, since the Age of Heroes, before the Andals came. Sometimes it's hundreds of years of peace… but then it flares up between this Lord Blackwood and that Lord Bracken, and my sires, grandsires and before that have always been caught up in it. It… makes no sense. Started with some quarrel about River Kings, as the First Men." Bruce snorts, shaking his head. "All I'm saying is that these blood feuds, they don't need to make sense. They just exist, and they tend to be used for convenience. One Lord wants this town and its taxes… so he invokes the ol' blood feud. Seen it much where I'm from, which is why both Houses and all us smallfolk are all really mixed with eachother, and not so different. Other than we pray to the Old Gods and the New, and them just the New." He chuckles. "But, aye, I guarantee that there's folks your Lord Father employs who are just as big of turds as Howard. Maybe they didn't have the opportunity to flaunt it, because he's more strict. Dunno. Maybe they do it behind closed doors."
"Maybe." Jarod concedes the possibility of it, certainly. "It's no business he's ever involved me in but…I'm not the sort with the stomach for that sort of thing. Figure you aren't either. I can kill a man in an honest fight, don't get me wrong, but cloaks and daggers are things I'm unsuited for. Well, Ser Bruce. Whatever becomes of our masters, we can still drink together for the moment, and I'll take you up on that invitation to Stonebridge, one way or the other. Whatever Amelia Millen was, I figure we did as good an attempt at justice on the murder of Master Howard as men can do, and it was my honor to work with you."
"Aye, you did, you did. I think that the Naylands were pleasantly surprised by how civilly it ended, to be truthful. And I, for one, hope it continues. Send me a message and I'll set things up, provisions and the like." Bruce says, grinning again.
"We'll play at war together, Ser Bruce, whether it's at a tourney or of our own making," Jarod replies, matching that grin with his own boyish one. "And whenever our masters flare up at each other, I'll make a point to get down to Stonebridge and drink with you before it happens. My oath as a knight on it. Oh. Give this to Mistress Howard, if you would." He digs into his purse, placing four silver stags on the table. It's not a great deal of money but, from the look of the bastard knight, he gears himself out of his own pay rather than his lord father's purse. That's probably from his pay as a sworn as well. "If she has children…well, maybe it'll do a bit for them for a short time."
"Fuck a tourney. If we're going to teach our boys how to fight together, we're going to do it up proper, Ser Jarod." Bruce raises his cup to the younger, far better blooded knight. He arches an eyebrow at the silver stags on the table. "Are you sure? That's a lot of coin. She's going to be getting a stipend from Lord Rickard, though I don't imagine she couldn't use that."
Jarod shrugs. "It'll make me sleep a little easier at night, if nothing else. Drink well, Ser Bruce, and I'll see you tomorrow, when we swing our girl." With that, he offers the elder, stouter knight a half-wave, half-salute, and starts the walk out of the inn.
"Gods keep you, Ser Jarod, you're a good man." Is Bruce's response, with a deep nod.