|Summary:||Rose's dedication ceremony to the Mother.|
|Related Logs:||Three Invitations|
|Behind the Sept is a small garden that runs nearly to the edge of the cliffs that fall right down into the forthing sea more than two hundred feet below. The ground has been tilled and turned to help the soil produce a small amount of vegetables as well as fruit-producing shrubberies. Flowers have been encouraged to grow up trellises along the back and side walls of the Sept.|
|Wed Aug 24, 288|
Early evening. The sept itself has few people inside, quietly doing their end of the day devotions. Out back is where the three young men are directed, into the depths of the silent garden beyond where Josse is leaning against a tree, waiting.
The sun's light is fading enough to allow the light of candles to shine out here in the Sept's garden. A few benches have been moved together to allow guests to sit during the ceremony, facing an area of stone flooring with the familiar seven-pointed star etched into the face. Set up in a half-circle around the benches are three small baskets, each holding a small variety of breads. Between the baskets are waist-high pedestals with bowls of dark golden honey and wooden spoons, rested on a covering of red cloth.
Jacsen is a slow arrival, by dint of his impediment if not a choice to linger over the Sept's interior, contemplative of a place he so rarely finds himself. When he does emerge into the quiet garden it is with a grateful breath of the fresh air, and a tip of his head towards Josse at the tree. "Septon."
Jarod arrived a bit early, for his part, shaved, bathed and moderately dressed up for the occasion, in a tailored white tunic embroidered with some fairly intricate green vine work. He's waiting in the back garden when Jacsen arrives. Which prompts a blink of surprise. "You…err…here for daily prayers, little brother?" he asks, with slowly creeping suspicion mingled with dread.
"Lord Jacsen." One of Josse's brows raises slightly, his mouth opening…and closing again, for a second. "Well then. What's life without a little surprise." His head turns as Jarod comes in, eyes flickering between the half brothers as he processes Jarod's reaction. Double surprise, making the one word a little wry. "Really?"
The blond knight of Oldstones arrives last, scrubbed clean and if not dressed very fancily, he's at least dressed in clothes that seem clean and fresh. If Gedeon's still weathering a hangover from the adventures of the night before, he hides it well enough. He walks into the Sept's cheery garden, making his way towards the baskets of bread and the benches and the pedestals with honey. And then he blinks, slowly, to see that, beyond the septon, he's once again in the company of last night's drinking companions. Both of them. "Ah," he murmurs. "Well, then. Evening, everyone."
"He's here for me," says a familiar-yet-feminine voice from the entrance to the garden. Rose — Rowenna, Rowan, whatever one prefers to call her — steps out between the benches, hair up in a circlet, sword girded to her hips over a long, blue-silk gown. She looks at Jarod, stating firmly, "He guessed. I guess the smart one does take after his mother." Seems like everyone's heard that song, by now. She softens her words with a smile for the bastard knight. "Are we going to fight? I'd rather we didn't."
Gedeon's arrival causes Rose to blink. She turns, looking more than a little surprised to see him — but after a moment, she recovers, and smiles at him as well. Though this one's a little on the sad side. "Welcome."
"Not quite, Jarod," Jacsen admits with a slight shake of his so similar features, lips twisting a bit wry. He opens his mouth to say more, but the woman of the hour makes her appearance known, and he turns to face her instead. Not that her comment does anything to dismiss the wry expression he wears. "You look lovely this evening, Rose," he offers by way of compliment, bowing his head to the woman for who's benefit they've all come together. "And worry not, my good brother is in no mood for fighting, I'm certain." His glance aside to Jarod is either an instruction or a plea, or somewhere betwixt both.
"Evening, Gedeon. Surprised to see you up and about today. I figured Rowan might have to wheel you here in a cart, the way you were goin on last night." Jarod's preliminary banter is still an attempt at lightness, narrow look exchanged between Jacsen and Gedeon. It's all very, 'Does he know? Does he know if he knows he knows? Should I know something?' and so forth. Mercifully, that doesn't continue to long until Rowan's voice more or less explains things. He gives Jacsen a sidelong look. "So, about that thing I was tying myself up in knots not telling you, little brother? This is it. Glad we had this open and honest heart-to-heart. Also, fuck me to seven hells." He glances at Josse, abashed, then up at the heavens to the gods in general, it seems. "Umm…sorry about that. Actually, don't, please, that was not a request." Jacsen just gets a head-shake in response to that last. He looks a lot of things, but not in the mood for fighting.
"Rowenna." The use of the name toward the squire is a little pointed. Attention off his half-brother, he finally has a chance to get a look at her. Which prompts a blink. And widening of his eyes. This might be the first time he's seen her dressed up like a girl. "Huh…" He shakes his head. "Uh. No. I'm good. You look different." He is, of course, staring at her chest more than anything else.
Josse smirks slightly at Jarod. He pushes his shoulder off the tree, sandals meeting stone as he steps closer to the little gathering. "Well. Since we're all here, obviously we all know. I didn't quite expect this exact guest list either, but whatever." He lifts his hands, gesturing to the general populace. "If there's anything else to be gotten off various chests you might as well. Nobody can hear you out here, and if you interrupt the service to call each other names I'll throw you right over that wall."
"Course there won't be fighting. This is a holy place and a sacred ritual. We're all gentlemen and men of honor, here," Gedeon says, his gaze drifting to Rose as she appears so that he can offer her a bow. Jarod gets a slightly pained smile, and the blond knight touches his still-aching head. "It was a near thing, I'll admit. But, I was invited. I'd not miss this for a hangover." To the septon he says, "I think we can manage to be on our best behavior, can't we?" Brows lifted, he looks to Jacsen and then to Jarod.
Rose watches Jarod get cagey, trying to figure out who knows what, and folds her arms beneath her bosom. It emphasizes those modest assets, whether she means to or not. Her attitude is not precisely one of displeasure, more betwixt amusement and consternation, as one might adopt watching a dog chase its tail. Jacsen's greeting gets a lovely smile, however, and her arms drop to a more relaxed posture. "Thank you, Jack." And then Josse's warning-slash-pre-ceremony-disclaimer has her biting the inside of her cheek, snorting as she tries not to laugh. "My love for you is huge," she says to the Septon.
Jacsen raises a hand at the warning from Josse, and shakes his head. "For my part, I'm terrible at fighting, so I'll be good," he promises, turning a smile on the Septon. "I know I'm a bit of the odd man out here, but when such a woman asks you to attend her ceremony," he turns that warm expression on Rose, "How could I say no? Pretty, /and/ can hit me with a sword." Though his brother and Gedeon might seem to nurse rather strong hangovers, he seems rather chipper and clear-headed himself.
Jarod offers Jacsen a very rueful half-grin and shakes his head. There's no real sense of anger about him. Embarrassment, but he's not angry. "C'mon, let's sit down. Warrior's waiting, I presume, and he's not the most patient of the Seven." He plops down on a bench on that note, leaving room for his brother to sit next to him if he's so inclined. "We'll talk after."
"You're such a girl," Josse informs Rose, gravely. To Jacsen, he waves a hand. "One needs offer no excuse to be in the presence of such a beautiful woman. And honorable men." His eyes flicker between Gedeon and Jarod, the statement bearing sincerity. "Ser Gedeon please, sit. If it's a hangover all that's bothering you, I'll thank you for coming later with a tea that'll help that head. For now…" For some reason Jarod gets an amused look before he continues. "…Rose. We'll begin. Please." With one hand he motions to the pedestals and bread. "Take up bread and honey and offer it to your witnesses, that they may share in this with you."
"I'd be grateful, Septon," Gedeon says with a wan smile towards Josse. He walks over to the benches to seat himself near the one and a half Terricks. He's quiet as he watches the ceremony begin.
The sword-girded, gown-wearing creature blushes at Jacsen's compliment. "I'm better at the latter part," she quips softly, and all over again at Josse's praise. "Stop it, all of you," she murmurs, looking caught between pleasure and acute embarrassment. But then the ceremony begins in earnest, and she bows her head to the septon, turning to follow his directions. With reverence, but a warm and heart-full smile for each, she serves her witnesses bread and honey. Gedeon, then Jarod, and finally Jacsen, the faint scent of lavender and sweet clover lingering in her wake.
The service is made easier on Rose for the sake that Jacsen does take that seat beside his brother, setting his cane within reach beside him. Whatever else he might have to say, compliments or the like, he keeps them to himself once the Septon instructs her to begin handing out bread and honey. He receives his with a quietly murmured thanks, accompanied by a smile.
For some reason, it's Josse's calling of Rowan by the name of 'Rose' that earns the Septon a hard look from Jarod. Still, if he's any comment on it, he bites his tongue, though he does offer the lady herself a long, rather weighing eye. "Thank you," he murmurs when he receives his serving, head tilting as he sniffs the air a little after her.
Josse stands at the back of the etched star on the floor, giving Rose time to hand out the food. Once she's done, his soft-spoken voice begins again. "No aspect of the Seven is in exclusion to the rest. Many times we find ourselves guided by more than one at once. Sometimes we struggle with that. Sometimes we realize that the aspect that we most beseech for help…isn't the one who most often whispers to our soul. This is true most certainly even for me. Tonight this young daughter of the Seven stands in this holy place, before us all, to acknowledge the whispers that she has indeed heard. Woman, the gods are listening. We are listening. Tell us to whom you wish to make a pledge this eve."
Gedeon accept the bread and a bit of honey with a small nod and a soft "thank you," for Rose. He glances at Jarod, frowning in mild confusion for the way he scowls, and then returns his attention to the ceremony itself.
Rose turns to answer Josse, her reply simple, clear-voiced and certain. "I come to pledge to the Mother."
Jacsen's brows lift ever so slightly at that bit of news. It would seem he might have expected differently. A glance is spared his brother and the man who is now Rose's knight, but he honor's Josse's request to keep silence while the ceremony progresses.
"As the Father shall judge us with his strong and steady hand, it is the Mother who bears witness to our testimony. Her voice is the call to courage that makes us yearn for the day our Father sees us for who we are." Josse's blue eyes pause on Gedeon as he speaks that part. "She is an inseparable part of the path that the Maiden begins. Innocence not lost, but refined into a love that a Mother's wisdom imparts. Her encompassing love touches the work of the Smith…" His attention settles briefly on Jacsen. "Whose armor shields sons in war and whose work heals wounds both flesh and not. She smiles her pride when Her children take their first steps, explore their world for the first time and every time after, entrusting them to follow the lantern light of the Crone throughout their days.
"In the Stranger she reflects when she bids us weep for our losses. We who often wrestle with the fear and pain in death might find ourselves anew in the sound of Her grief, the peace she bids us make with the departure of souls. And to the Warrior…" Josse meets Jarod's eyes a moment. "She is the fury that gives strength to the arm that shall lift the sword in battle. A fierce love that cannot be denied, that burns in us to protect our lands, our families, our homes, our souls. If you would doubt the ferocity of a woman, you need but threaten who she holds dear."
He looks now at Rose, gesturing for her to stand nearby. "The Mother's love is a way to profound revelation. Be known to her. Why do you do this?"
"Though I am called to the Warrior's craft, and yearn for the Father's justice," says Rose, standing slender and tall, shoulders set and posture perfect, "I have learned it is the Mother who sings in my soul, though I've long ignored — " she pauses, and shakes her head, "though I've long lacked the wisdom to recognize Her voice. It is compassion and love that compel me to defend my homeland, to cast down the tyrant, to champion the small. With the Warrior's blade and the Father's writ, I am the Mother's instrument. It have come to give thanks and praise to the aspect of the Seven that claimed me long ago, and in whose service I shall live and die."
"She is anchored in the world," Josse's voice is low and lends the words the rhythm of of recitation, a well-known prayer. "She anchors the world within Her. On the tongues of those who love Her, they are a promise to Mother: to this luminous unfurling of sacred leaf and limb, this root drawn from the depths of earth, this blossoming toward the sky."
He takes a breath and takes a few steps away from Rose, addressing the three on the benches. "Lord Jacsen, Ser Jarod, Ser Gedeon." His tone shifts, gaining a slight edge. "Faith without challenge is as weak as a sword that has seen no battle." He lifts a hand towards Rose, directing their attention. "The Mother would have this woman's heart be true. Question her faith. Question her soul. Ask her what you will of this decision." Clearly this is a stage of ritual, but the request is quite real.
Rose turns to face her witnesses, meeting the eyes of each for a steady moment — Gedeon, Jarod, Jacsen. She bows her head slightly to them, as though inviting an opponent in a tourney to deal the first blow.
The invitation is made for the men present to put Rose's faith and dedication to the Mother to the test, and glancing aside at the two men whom sit with him - both of whom enjoy a more profound connection to the woman in question that he can claim - he decides to push up to his feet and speak first. His standing is a shaky thing, propped up by the bench's arm. But when he stands, it is to match Rose's gaze, and consider her a moment.
"You claim to hold dedication in your heart to the Mother, Rose," Jacsen recounts once he is standing, his hand remaining on the bench's arm. "And you speak with tender strength of the compassion, the love that you see flowing from her into you… But that is not all the Mother is, compassion, and love." His eyes remain fixed upon the woman as he speaks. "The Father holds love, in how he protects us with the rule of law, the rule of justice, seeking to abjure us from the worst abuses of man. In the Smith there is compassion, for how he fashions us with such delicate thoughtfulness that should we be broken, we are still of use. Of worth."
He takes a slow breath, looking at Gedeon and Jarod, considering them both, before he looks back at Rose and speaks once more. "The Mother is the hearth of the home, she is giver of life, and she is the warm embrace that shall never abandon us, no matter how much we have failed in the eyes of any other."
"I ask you this; what shall you give the gift of life to? What hearth shall you make into a home? What shall you look on with unfailing love? Will you be the mother of a family, you who have forsworn your own kin to seek this radical life? Shall you be mother to a cause? An ideal?"
Jacsen wavers slightly in his stance, but he finishes without diminishing himself. "I ask you this because of the friendship I bear you, and out of respect for the trust you have so placed in my hands. For the love I know you have for my name, and my kin," because that is /not/ completely all one and the same. "Would you tell us what you shall be called mother to, I will know in my own heart that you are certain."
That said, he lowers back onto the bench with the faintest of winces, though his gaze never quite leaves the squire in a dress.
Rose smiles as Jacsen stands, listening to him speak, nodding once — very slightly — as he speaks of the Smith. Her smile turns faintly sad when he finally frames the question, and remains so as she gives her answer. "Thank you, Jack. It's a good question, and one I know has my happiness at its heart." She shakes her head slightly then, going on, "Who among us can see the future. A day, a moment, a glance across a room can change everything. I may yet, one day, make a home. Nurture a family. That shall be as the Seven will. But until that day comes, and for how long I can only guess, I will make possible other lives, other loves — other homes, other families. In preserving life and liberty for others, in creating and maintaining a world in which people may live in prosperity and peace, I will be the mother of possibility. Of second chances. Of tomorrows that might otherwise never have come. Let me be the mother of hope, and if I am never a mother in fact, it will be enough."
Josse watches in silence, his expression unreadable as the questions begin. If anything, the slight raise of his head at Jacsen's question might be approving, his eyes flickering to Rose for her answer and then back to Jacsen for his response.
There is quiet respect, and admiration, in Jacsen's eyes when he gives a satisfied nod at that. "I am satisfied," he tells Josse, and simply that. "My eyes and heart shall watch you Rose, and seek that hope you wish to birth."
The idea of Rowan committing herself to the Mother draws a surprised "Huh" from Jarod. It is becoming a favored expression of his. He takes a moment to absorb that, green eyes watching her askance. Still, the question he puts to her is serious enough. "In battle, Rowenna, for you still seem to insist upon girding yourself for battle. One prays one is guided by the Mother and Father both, as they are hands of compassion and justice. It cannot always be so, however, for it is ugly work swords do at times, and it shall perhaps simply be your life and that of another's one day. Another who is quite innocent of any quarrel with you, save that you find yourself on the opposite side of the field with him, and serve a different lord and master. What shall the Mother's heart say when you are driven to kill him, for he shall not hesitate to do so to you? Can it do this work, knowing that it means sometimes to destroy simply that which would destroy you, and holds no other evil, and is perhaps good in its own part of its small life outside the Warrior's grasp, with a family and children of its own? For we do not always face black villains, Rowena, much as we might like to imagine we shall."
Josse's acknowledging nod to Jacsen is almost imperceptible. Other than his eyes the septon remains stone still, watching and listening as Jarod steps up to this now.
Once again, Rose listens, smiling slightly — equal parts tenderness and exasperation — as Jarod calls her by her first name. Her expression resolves into far more serious consideration, however, as he goes on. She lowers her lashes and bows her head to him, then lifts her eyes to meet his once more. "Thank you, Jarod. I appreciate all you've done, and all you still do, to prepare me for what's to come. But there are some things for which we can never be prepared. I think taking another man's life, especially the first time, is one. It's a grave and terrible necessity in war. The Mother's heart weeps, I think, when one of Her children kills another. I know mine will. And I know I can only imagine the extent — the guilt, the grief, that one carries the rest of one's life. The day a man dies by my hand, a part of me dies as well. I know you'd spare me that if you could — but there are things we are called to sacrifice, whatever god or man we choose to serve. I know innocence will be one of those things. And I do not relish it," her voice is very soft now. She takes a breath. "But I will do what I must."
"You take a harder and uglier road than life requires you to, Rowenna Nayland. But I have said this to you before, and it doesn't seem to make any difference, so it's a path one has to go down for themselves, I suppose, and you can't figure out what you're going to be until you've been down it. Fair enough. Mother help you, Rowenna. I pray She helps me as well." He says her real name with no rancor, but there is a sort of insistence in his voice each time he speaks it. He looks to Josse. "I am satisfied."
Josse gives Jarod the same slight nod he did Jacsen, saying nothing. His eyes flicker to Gedeon, waiting on the man's choice to ask or forfeit the chance.
Ser Gedeon stands slowly, watching Rose as he comes to his feet. The last of them to speak, he draws in a soft breath and turns his head to offer a nod to Jacsen, and then to Jarod, for their worthy questions. "As one with the mother in her heart, you would create hope for others. As one with the mother in her heart, you would offer righteous fury in the defense of your beliefs and the ones you love. You are strong, Rose, and brave. But you are also proud and stubborn and rash. The mother is our compassion, when we have no one, our forgiveness even when it is not deserved. She listens without judging and she loves without requirement. What I ask of you is this: How will you be the one who listens, the one who offers compassion and forgiveness, when you take upon yourself a life that demands judgement, violence and discipline? How can you serve the mother and remain true to your own heart's calling?"
Rose tilts her head slightly as Gedeon speaks, smiling ruefully — and once again, sadly — as he speaks of forgiveness and unconditional love. "Judgment and discipline are actually, I think, the key, Gedeon. I am proud. And stubborn. And rash. I will learn to temper those things, to control them, even as I learn to control a blade. With judgment, I will know when to listen, and when to act. With discipline, I will spur myself forward past my fears, continue on when I wish only to rest, and stay my hand when rage demands I strike. I may exercise compassion in a way that's unlike other women, and forgiveness in a way that's different than a septon, but I will hold them in the highest, still, and let the Mother guide me so that they are always my first choice, and violence always my last."
The blond knight is silent as Rose speaks, his pale gaze resting on her face. He is silent, too, when she finishes and then offers a small nod. "I am satisfied," Gedeon says to Josse before lowering himself back down to sit.
Josse smiles, the expression breaking so suddenly on his face that it must have been waiting ages to smash that stony expression. "The Mother's blessing be on you all…praised be her love. We invite Her into our chambers, where the touch of our lips and souls brings Her joy. But it is not enough to take love. We must also give it. She reaches out not only as One who loves us, but as One who wants us to love in return. A reciprocal love - the love desired by She who awaits us - is a love sourced equally in the joy of self and beloved. The act of bringing joy, the celebration of love awakening love, unites us with the Other. When we truly enjoy - we infuse joy into another; our own delight kindles the delight of another."
"Rose, these witnesses have chosen to share in your blessed joy. And now last, before we do, you will lay before our Mother what you have brought to honor her name. Tell us what it is, and why you choose to take it with you on your journey."
Rose draws her blade, the steel singing a sweet, clear note as it clears the scabbard. "I bring the sword I will use in Her service," she says, taking a knee and holding the blade before her, hands on the hilt, tip touching the ground. "My sword is an extension of my arm, of myself — it moves only by my intention. I bring it to be blessed by Her wisdom, Her compassion, Her love, and Her courage, that all done by me, through it, will be righteous in Her sight."
"A good choice, and very well. From this day forward this sword is Hers through your hand." Josse doesn't drop so far that it no longer carries, but as he speaks it's directly to the young woman. "Six years ago I stood where you do now. Finally understanding that while I spoke the most to and listened hardest for the Crone, it was the Smith whose voice I heard over and over again. And on that night in the garden he bade me study medicine, that I might serve him the rest of my life."
"Tonight you shall sleep in this garden and open your own heart to what the Mother has in store for you. With the sunrise your path will begin anew. For tonight…" He smiles, turning and gesturing around the garden and to her guests. "Hold your head high, Mother's daughter, and be blessed. Share wine, share food, and praise her name in joy."
He'll admit, he's never been to a dedication ceremony such as this before, and so Jacsen is a bit at a loss as to what one is supposed to do when it is concluded. But he's fast on his feet, in the figurative sense if nothing else, and reaches for his cane so that he can get up to his feet. "Congratulations, Rose," he calls, with a warm smile. "May the Mother keep you close, and Her voice be clear in your heart."
Gedeon stands next, stretching a little and reaching for another bite of bread to help settle a slightly disgruntled stomach. "It was well done, Rose," he agrees, offering the woman a gentle smile, "Congratulations."
Jarod gives Josse a side look when he comments on the 'good choice' Rowan/Rose/Rowenna is making. He doesn't look like he agrees. And he looks more than a touch sad. He stands a little after Jacsen does, waiting until his gimpier brother is on his feet before he straightens. "Seven watch over you, Rowenna."
Her sword dedicated and sleeping once more in the scabbard, Rose approaches Jacsen when he calls out to her. She smiles and leans up to kiss his cheek. "Thank you so much for coming, Jack. It meant a great deal to have you here." Then, sotto voce, "Sorry I didn't tell the others to expect you."
She returns Gedeon's gentle smile gently, close-lipped, bittersweet. "Thank you, Gedeon. I'm glad you came."
And Jarod, disapproving and evincing a sadness of his own, makes her sigh. She takes his hands. "They will need to watch over me no more, and no less, than when I was a boy, Jarod. But thank you. For everything." She kisses his cheek as well, giving his hands a squeeze before letting them go.
Josse meets Jarod's eyes, but if there's to be any discussion it'll wait. "I'll get you some of that tea to take back with you before you're off, Ser Gedeon. Jarod, Lord Jacsen…I'll see you tomorrow." More rearranging of Jerold's study no doubt, among other things he finds to fuss with around Four Eagles.
The kiss on his cheek is well-received by Jacsen, his smile warming on the other side of his mouth. "Oh, I'm sure they'll both understand," he wagers, straightening and glancing between the two men. "I'm no Septon, sworn to keep secrets… but time was short, and this certainly better than some long discussion on the topic." He lets the girl go to offer her words to the others, and offers a bow of shoulders and head when Josse says he's off. "Seven walk with you, Josse."
"Not even close to what I meant," Jarod says with a shrug. "But I'm not going to argue with you tonight. Congratulations. Hope this brings you some peace. My dedication to the Warrior did, or at least helps find it." He blinks when she kisses him, flushing a little, though he does squeeze her hand in return. A nod to Josse. "Aye, I'll see you on the morrow. We've got get soon on the matter of Septon Amery, Seven help his soul as well."
The blond knight of Oldstones nods to Rose. "So was I." To Josse he offers a smile that's a bit more relaxed and, certainly, far more relieved. "My thanks, Septon," Gedeon says for the tea.
The corner of Josse's mouth moves when Jarod brings up that long-past dedication, though it's not quite a smile. "His room hasn't been touched. I'll come see you in the morning." He makes a random motion at all the bread. "Take a few, all of you. The rest'll stay as offering." And some to feed Rose overnight, no doubt. "Now, tea…" Hangover tea. The Smith works in damn good ways.