|Death Before Dishonor|
|Summary:||Rowan reports in.|
|Related Logs:||Night Ride Out, So Close, How Heavy The Seal|
|Guest Quarters — Riverrun|
|Common room in the Valentin suite.|
|21 November 288|
The walls of this room are becoming, perhaps, more familiar than Gedeon might wish. Still, he's seated in a chair in the Valentin guest suite's central room, looking again through the copies of the documents given to him by a messenger of Lord Tully's. The fluttery maid must have come and gone, as there's a tray with various offerings to make for a light dinner.
Rowan has, it seems, been out in the yard, probably having goaded the squires of Stonebridge, or the more novice Sers, into sparring with her. The dirt, the sweat, and the pale, drawn pallor visible beneath the flush of exertion — they clearly tell the tale of a willful creature who's gone and overdone. Thus she enters with slightly less vigor than is normal, making a token attempt to dust off her tunic and breeches before sitting on any of Lord Tully's finely upholstered furniture. "Seven, she keeps us well-fed, doesn't she?" she remarks, setting eyes on the new tray.
"I think she was just hoping you'd be about," Gedeon replies without glancing up from his reading. He doesn't, though, after a moment, to peer over at his wan squire and frown faintly. "Rowan," he murmurs, "I will be most put out if my squire ups and dies on me or manages to break himself twice over. You can't push yourself so hard, yet."
"Oh, sodding gods, I'm not going to die on anyone," huffs the squire, though she does manage to look a little guilty. She cuts a look to Gedeon and guilt becomes contrition; her words, apology. "I'm sorry. I didn't push it that hard. Or hard at all. I promise!" She sits at last, having rendered her clothing as inoffensive as possible, though she lowers herself gingerly rather than throwing herself into the chair, as is more her wont. "I just needed to blow off some steam. I took a bit of a beating because I'm weeks out of practice — just bruises. Nothing broken."
"I'd hope not, when you're so close to being mended from the last time you broke," Gedeon points out, though there's a faint, fond smile for that contrition. "The news was that poorly, was it, that you needed to dash yourself against a battalion of squires?"
Rowan nods unhappily, then frowns and quickly shakes her head. "No. It wasn't. I mean — it is. It's awful. But it's…" She takes a breath, scrubbing her hands over her face. "Yes, it's Jaremy. And yes, my cousin and that Frey slut tried to bargain his life for Stonebridge and a dozen other things, besides. But…" She closes her eyes, pressing at the corners with her fingertips. "Jacsen means to give them nothing. And so Jaremy Middleton dies."
There are small nods for each of these facts and a soft breath as Gedeon steels himself for a truth… which does not come. "I…" he blinks slowly, mildly bewildered. "I would not have expected that," he finally settles on.
Equally bewildered, Rowan nods. "It's absolutely horrible," she whispers, elbows on her knees, dropping her face into her hands. "Beyond horrible. It's the right thing, but — it's cut Jack to the quick. I can only imagine how Lord Jerold, Lady Evangeline — Lu and Jarod… Seven," she laments softly, her voice thick with tears, "especially Jarod. And I'm — " She looks ill. "They're better and braver than I thought."
"Harder, certainly," Gedeon murmurs, "Harder than I remember of them. That's… well, I don't even know what can be said of it. It's a plight Jaremy brought on himself, but that does nothing to sever the love his family must still hold for him. It's miserable that it's come to this, that he forced such a decision on them."
She can only nod. "I hate Jaremy," she whispers. "He was never kind to me, except in a — a pantomime sort of way. When he decided that this was the scene Wherein Jaremy Terrick, Champion of the Smallfolk, is Magnanimous Even to the Nayland Swamp Rat. And then he'd turn right around and imply I was a spy or a traitor — even while he was fellating my eldest brother. All the grief and trouble and shame he's caused his family — and sweet Anais — and now this?" Rowan grinds her teeth. "Stranger take him, I hate him so!"
"The gods protect us from plague, famine and family," Gedeon intones softly. "I don't remember him much from when I was young. He was always off, busy with important Young Lord things whenever I visited. Isolde thought he'd personally hung the stars. I thought he was a right ass for mooning over the Kingsguard, instead."
"His mooning over the Kingsguard cost us Stonebridge in the first place, and he learned nothing then. Just as he's learned nothing now." Rowan rubs at her eyebrows as though there's a rather splendid ache gathering behind them. "I didn't — couldn't — ask Jack to about what he means to do about Stonebridge, now. Considering. I'm sorry."
"No, of course not," Gedeon agrees with a small shake of his head. "When I speak to him, perhaps we'll come to it. The question won't need to be asked to be present, if we're both in the same room." He closes his eyes and shakes his head. "If Jaremy had only wed Isolde, we should never have come to this place. I am not sure, any longer, how I feel on that."
Rowan breathes a soft, melancholy sigh, shaking off the bitter specter of Jaremy Terrick. She raises her gaze to Gedeon, dark lashes damp and matted to spikes. "Why is that?" she asks.
"It was a burden I ran from. Let the Terricks manage Stonebridge, Jaremy had been raised for it, he and Isolde loved the place as Jaremy loved the Roost, and I could just just… be as I was. And now I find, sitting in Riverrun and waiting for Lord Tully's ruling, being as I was feels like so much less."
She reaches a hand across the space between them, seeking his. The bandage is gone, but the mark across her palm is vivid, the healing skin violet-pink and new. "You'll never be as you were," she tells him softly. "All that you've done to come this far, and all that's happened to you as a result — it's been an epic journey. So… whether you're Lord of Stonebridge or Ser Gedeon of Oldstones or whatever else the gods call you to be… you'll never be less again."
He takes her hand, turning it a little so that his thumb might rub softly across that fresh and mending wound that mirrors the one he carries. Gedeon's smile is soft and a little sad. "Perhaps that's so. Perhaps I'll never be quite as I was, again."
Rowan tilts her head, her smile a little sad in turn, reflecting his. "And it makes you sad?" She shakes her head gently. "Gedeon, you might have fled from your duty at first — but coming to face it, especially knowing the aspersions that would be cast on you, the mortal danger you'd be in, and not knowing whether anyone would believe or support you… that took courage. You're doing what your father would have wanted — just… now, perhaps, in the time-frame he'd imagined. You should be proud." Tenderly, she adds, "I am."
His smile grows a little. "Yes?" he asks her. "I doubt they would have believed me, if it had been Jaremy wed to Isolde. I would have been a knave and a villain, then, just as the Naylands call me now. Instead, I am a chance for the Terricks to gain what they lost and have become infinitely more convincing for it."
She nods. "Yes." She bends to kiss the back of his hand, then settles into her chair, toeing off her boots and tucking her legs up beneath her. "I don't think so," she says to the latter part, her expression a thoughtful frown. "Yesterday, I'd have thought — maybe. Maybe that. But having learned what I did today, I think that those who believe the Terricks would put sentimentality or even blood before honor, duty, and justice… are very much mistaken. Perhaps to their peril."
"Mmm," Gedeon murmurs softly, his tone remaining unconvinced of that. "Well," he breathes out, "it is as it is. Exercises in 'what if' will do little to change that."
Rowan unfurls her legs and rises, leaning over him to place a soft kiss somewhere in the no-man's land between his cheek and mouth. "You have a great deal to think about," she murmurs, "and I have ribs to soak. I'm going to see if my favorite chamber maid is around to draw me a bath."
He tilts his head, the better for his cheek to be kissed, eyes closing briefly. "Just don't let her linger when you start to undress," Gedeon teases, "and let's hope those ribs heal quickly. I've plans, for when they do." His gaze flicks up to meet Rowan's and make it clear enough he's not speaking on sparring.
"I'm sure soaking in a nice, hot bath will do them a world of good," Rowan chuckles, leaning down to steal a proper kiss. "Now that I think of it, though, maybe I should have her draw a bath for you, instead… and you can join me."
"Small tubs," Gedeon points out, "and over-interested maids may risk your secret if we indulged in that. Tempting though it is."
"Close quarters was rather the point," Rowan smirks, but sighs and acquiesces. "Fine. I shall bathe alone." She kisses the tip of his nose and pushes away from his chair, loping off to find the maid.