|Summary:||Or something like it. Rowan flees to the Rockcliff for breakfast and…general fleeing. Jarod reflects on some old promises.|
|Related Logs:||A good bit of the Jarod/Rowan and Rowan/Oldstones stuff. See What We Confess for specific promises.|
|The Rockcliff Inn — Terrick's Roost|
|Sausage. Eggs. Tea. Whiskey.|
|Wed Dec 14, 288|
Morning at the Rockcliff. Which means it's sparsely populated. It doesn't get much townie traffic until afternoon. Most who take there breakfast there are either drunks who couldn't be dislodged the night before or, more properly, guests of the inn. And Ser Jarod Rivers. He's seated at a table by the window he tends to favor, making short work of eggs, sausage and strong black tea. He looks more mussed than hung-over, not yet shaved, in last night's clothing, some fresh marks on his neck. Which probably explains the lack of hang-over, as he wasn't using his money for booze the previous night.
Rowan's presence is announced by the scrape of a chair being pulled back at his table. She dumps herself into said chair with a superb lack of grace perfected in her years of boy-practice. She, too, looks mussed-but-not-hungover. Travel weary, still dusty and wind-blown from a hard ride. She wears a simple, long-sleeved scarlet tunic instead of her Oldstones squire livery — which could merely indicate she has a day of liberty — and reaches over to help herself to a bite of his sausage without so much as a good morning.
Jarod doesn't notice he's being joined until the joining occurs. He looks up from his eggs. Squint. Blink. "Fuck my life," he mutters. Though he does add an actual, wry, "Good morning, Rowan." He snorts when she starts picking at his sausage, but his response is just to wave for the serving girl. "Another plate of the same for him, if you will, sweetling. And…whatever he wants to drink.
"Same as he's drinking, but with whiskey in, beautiful," Rowan tells the serving girl, flashing a debonair smile. Once she's off to do that, Rowan props her chin in her hand. "Really? I thought we parted on friendly enough terms that my showing up to breakfast wouldn't fuck your whole life."
"Friendly terms." From Jarod's tone, he isn't sure he quite agrees with that definition, but he doesn't disagree either. "And fear not. It's fucked in a variety of ways. This is just part of the overall tapestry." It's tossed off as a joke, though. Whatever he's thinking about this, and there's still that guarded quality in his green eyes as he regards her, he's not unwelcoming of her company. "What brings you to the Rockcliff at this hour? Bit early for the interesting drinking crowd."
Rowan shrugs, looking away. "Right. Well. If not friendly terms, then — I don't know. You were my best friend, once, before I went and fucked everything in the ear. I — " she breathes out. "When I count my friends — and I'm learning I can do that on one hand, with digits left over — I still think of you. And I need you, right now, Jarod." She swallows hard, meeting his eyes. "You said, once… there'd be a place for me here. If I needed it." Her gaze drops to the table; she picks at a splinter with her thumbnail. "I need it now. Just for a few days. Until — until figure out what the fuck to do next."
"Best friend and boon companion to all. That's me." Jarod sounds a mix of sad, and a little bitter, about it. But it's more aimed at himself than her. The look he gives her across the table is neither of those things. "Though I figure I can count my real friends on one hand, too." An odd statement, perhaps, hard as he works to be popular and how easily he accumulates comrades to drink and laugh with, but he seems to find a lot of truth in it. He says that while her eyes are on his. When she drops her gaze he just watches her a beat. There's a lot of questions he has. And they'll probably be asked. Though the first thing he does is reach across the table to try and take her hand. To assist with evicting her splinter. "Let me. Just buries it in deeper if you try and do it yourself."
Wordlessly, she gives him her hand, letting him do as he will. Her knuckles are busted up, too, though the blood's dried long since. She keeps her gaze on the little bit of chiurgeonry, still not looking at him. "I would have gone to the Sept, but — " she rakes her hair back with her free hand. "I just… Josse is so… honest. And right. Always right. I'm not sure I could stand that honest an assessment, right now. Maybe… in a day or two."
Jarod is no physician, but he's good enough at basic 'I hurt myself doing squire things' injuries. And his big, calloused fingers can be surprisingly gentle when he wants them to. Her splinter is fixed. Though he doesn't let go of her hand, briefly clasping it, thumb pressing into her palm. Then he raises his eyes to hers again. "If you need a place to collect yourself, of course you've got it." He says it like it shouldn't even be a question. She's here, even after everything, so perhaps it's not. "Your old room above the stables is still empty. Most of the hands barrack together, so there's no rush to fill it."
Maybe it wasn't. But the answer still brings a flood of relief and gratitude so sudden and strong she's not quite prepared for it. She shuts her eyes and swallows, nodding when she can't immediately find her voice. "Good." That was a little shaky. Let's try that again. She clears her throat. "Good." She finally looks up, her smile weary and sad. "It'll be good to be home again."
Jarod makes a soft "Huh" sound when she calls it 'home.' Though the sentiment just makes him nod. It has a right sound to it. "You're welcome to stay as long as you need to. I'll see to that. Lord Jerold'd be pleased to see you about again, anyhow. He's still not quite forgiven me for releasing a Nayland ward." He sounds less-pleased about it himself, as he says it. He regards her, still clasping her hand, but he still stows any questions he might have about this.
"M'too old to be anyone's ward, any longer, much as I love your father," Rowan says with a faint smirk. "I'll be ten and nine in a few months' time. Awfully long in the tooth." She suddenly withdraws her hand — which is given context by the arrival of the serving girl with her breakfast. "Thanks for that. That splinter was a son-of-a-bitch." Manly men remove each other's splinters, make no mistake. She downs the black tea and whiskey in two swallows and hands back the mug. "S'more of that, lovely." Misery has never dented her appetite, so she tucks into her eggs and sausage with an appreciative grunt. "Fuck, this place makes good breakfast."
"Ten-and-eight, so far as he knows," Jarod says with a half-smile. Pulling his own hands back and busying himself with his food again as she withdraws hers. Makes him look down at the table, and get rather overly interested in his eggs. "Anyhow, we'll figure it out. Aye, it does. Sausage is a bit greasy this morning, but I kind of like it that way. It's good for a hang-over, if you're of a mind to get yourself one of those."
"I might do that," says Rowan, sparking to the idea of being hungover — or, well, the stuff that comes before it. She chatters on with her mouth full, just like a growing boy should. "Fuck, I might do that and sleep in tomorrow. Until fucking noon." She looks a little dazzled by the concept.
Jarod gets a laugh out of that. "There you go. At least you've got a plan." He looks up to offer her an easy grin, attention returning to his own food. "You ride up on that big red horse of yours? That's a damn fine animal. Better than the nag I had after I rode home from the Trident." He's content enough to keep the conversation light while they eat.
"Dragon," Rowan supplies the horse's name, nodding and pressing a hand to her heart in thanks as the serving girl brings another spiked mug of tea. The girl giggles at the pretty boy's moonpie eyes, ruffling Rowan's hair before going on her way. Rowan pffts a curl out of her face and drinks a generous swallow of tea. "Bought him with the ransom I got for that Frey's armor. He's a magnificent beast and he knows it, evil tempered shit. I find it sort of adorable, so we get along well."
"How's he fare at the lance?" Jarod asks. "Been trying to work on my own jousting work of late. Maybe we can take a turn or two while you're here. Lord Ser Anton tells me it's better to have a proper opponent rather than just tilting at dummies, and the men of the Roost lean more heavily on blades than tilts. Except young Caytiv Hill, come to it. He's better than I was at that age, near as good as I am now. Boy could make some money in tourneys some day, if he wants to."
"He's better'n I am," Rowan chuckles, taking a big bite of sausage and egg. "Probably wants to knock the other guy down even more'n me. So aye, let's do that. I could use the practice, too." She pauses just a moment in her chewing, like the minstrel playing their conversation jangled a string, at the mention of Lord Ser Anton. "Aye, well, he's good," she says, a touch terse, and drinks a bit more. "He'd know."
"Aye." Jarod considers that jangled string, between bites of sausage. He washes them down with some tea, looking across the table at Rowan. "There anything I need to know about your break with the Oldstones?" For he assumes there was one. "As Captain of the Guard, I mean."
Rowan shakes her head. "No," she says. There may be plenty he needs to know, but none of it falls under that auspice. "They're no threat to the Roost. They're the enemy of your enemy. Makes them as good as your friend." She stabs a sausage and takes another large bite.
"Didn't figure they were a threat. Not so long as Lord Ser Anton courts Lady Lucienne, or so long as my father and brother desire Stonebridge under Terrick rule again," Jarod says. "We've what they want, they've what we want. Best sort of ally politically, really. At least you know where you stand. Just wondered if they'd come calling for you in any way I'd have to…object to." Jarod gulps his tea.
"Nothing that overt or direct, I imagine," Rowan offers, dryly. "I've been released from my service as squire. I'm sure Lord Valentin will figure out he no longer has a ward, thereby. He's bright that way." She shrugs, returning her attention to her plate. "Coope still owes me a beating, in his stunted excuse for a mind, but I'm not sure he'd come all the way here just for that."
"Huh." That muttered as Jarod sort've absorbs the news that she's been dismissed as a squire. But, again, what questions he has - and he likely has many - aren't asked. "All right, then. Tell me if you think the security of the Roost needs seeing to. Apart from that, it's no more my business than you want to make it."
Rowan nods at that, pushing her eggs around thoughtfully before shoveling another bite into her mouth. She chews, swallows, then looks up to ask, "It's still worth striving for, isn't it, Jarod?" she asks, dark brows knitting. "Knighthood, I mean. As an ideal. I mean… none of us can live up to it, really. Not a one of us's perfect. But honor, justice, sacrifice, protecting the small — trying to make the world better — that means something." She swallows, her voice soft and small as she asks, "Doesn't it?"
"It's like the Seven, I figure," Jarod replies to that, thoughtful. If the framing of the question gives him yet more questions…well. Again, he's not asking just now. "I don't know if they're real or not. Some days I doubt it. But…world's better if they are. As for the knighthood…it's a good way to be. Not the only way, but it's about things that would make the world a little better if everyone managed them. I try. Don't know if that's enough, but I feel like…it's better than not trying."
She listens intently and in silence, and is silent a while longer, even when he's finished. Finally, her lashes lower, eyes searching the table as thought she might find the words she's seeking there. "Thank you," she says at last, looking up at him again.
"Not sure what I did, but you're welcome," Jarod says, as to that, plowing through some more eggs, looking back at her and offering an easy grin. Though his green eyes remain rather harder to read than they once were. "If you want more food best order it now, before they clean out the kitchens for lunch." He doesn't seem inclined to do much more than clean his plate, though he'll stay and drink with her as long as she wants to remain here.
Whatever he did, she doesn't elaborate, but brings a fist up to her mouth and belches. "Seven smite me, no, I'm stuffed." She pats her belly and drains her tea. "M'smaller'n you, remember. Can't quite put it away like you can." She smirks, but goes ahead and cleans her plate, too.
Jarod chuckles at that. "Not quite. You want to linger and drink more, or just head home?"
She curves a faint and wistful smile at that. "Home, I think," she replies. "But drinking — there should be more of that, later." She heaves a sigh. "I'm going to need it."
"I'm always up for a pint," Jarod says with a shrug, leaving enough coppers on the table to cover the food and drink for the pair of them. "Should ask Lady Anais to let you raid her liquor cabinet. She's got this Westerlands…brandy? Rum? I'm not quite sure what it qualifies as. They make it out of some kind of…tree sap, I think. Or something. It's good. It's a kick in the balls." Shrug. "Or whatever."
"Augh, the pine tree stuff!" Rowan laughs, nodding. "That sounds like just the tonic. Had some with Jack, once." She sobers a little at that. "How's your family? With… Jaremy and — that utter bullshit folks're saying about sweet Lu… When it rains it fucking pours, doesn't it?"
"It's Nayland agitation, I figure, about Luci," Jarod says. He's reluctant to talk too much on that. "Or agitation from Lady Valda nee Frey. Don't figure there's much difference anymore. Just slights to take us down a notch for supporting Ser Gedeon in the matter of Stonebridge, try to discredit our position. I'm spending some time down in Stonebridge these days looking for the man who started that. Haven't much to go on, save he began poking the matter at a dockside tavern. We'll see what else there is to see." As for Jaremy. He sighs heavy, motioning for the serving girl. "I'll have one of what Lord Rowan was having, if you please, sweetling."
Rowan nods. "Lord Rowan will also have another of what Lord Rowan is having," Rowan says, magnanimously drinking on Jarod's stag. She laces her fingers together and props her chin on her knuckles, elbows on the table. "I'm so sorry it's come to this, Jarod. Lord Jerold and Lady Evangeline… they have to be absolutely destroyed. And I know you always loved him."
"He's my brother," Jarod says, as if that says it all. "Aye. Even disowned I know my father and Lady Evangeline hoped…well. He's their firstborn son. Whatever he's done, blood is blood." He waits for his drink before saying anymore. He gulps it. As much as he can. It's mixed with hot tea, and so it calls for more sipping than chugging. "I saw him briefly at Stonebridge. I should go again, when I'm there next. When I went to search for him, when he first went off, I requested of Ser Rygar that he do me the knightly courtesy of telling me if Jaremy was found. Which was done, as I did receive word from Ser Rygar on it at Riverrun. Though I see now that was less about knightly bounds and more about…" He drinks again. "…leverage."
She nods, drinking slowly, listening and intent once more. "I knew it would be. As soon as I heard you'd ridden out of Riverrun, I put it all together." She sighs, shutting her eyes and shaking her head. "Such a fucked situation. So very, very fucked." There's a moment's hesitation, not wishing to touch on anything too raw, before she asks, "Did you get to see him?"
Jarod nods to the last, though it's not the part he replies to right away. "I begged, well as I know how, harder than I've ever begged for anything in my life, that Jaremy be allowed to take the black and go the Night's Watch rather than die. It should be his right, as a knight, and it's still justice. But I saw quick I was not called there to talk on justice. Ser Rygar just wanted Lord Jerold and Ser Jaremy's favored lap dog…" Drink. "…to ride out and fall on his knees in their hall and promise I'd plead my lord father and young lord brother give them anything and everything the Terricks are to save Jaremy's life. Well. I did not give them that, at least." Any pride he takes from that, and there is a touch there, is the bitter sort. "The Naylands seek to use Jaremy's life to beggar my family, or his head would have been lopped off straight away. What they get out of keeping him alive down there so long as they have…I do not know."
Rowan closes her eyes, swallowing at a lump of sympathetic sorrow. "I'm so sorry you had to go through that," is all she knows to offer. "They must… still think he's of some value." She winces. "I mean, of course he's of — you know what I'm saying." She rubs between her eyebrows with her thumb, attempting to smooth a furrow that's there more often than not, these days. "Political machinations make my fucking head hurt."
"He is still my father's son," Jarod says. "Perhaps if Lord Jerold were a different sort of man, that would mean less. My father is who he is, though." And he sounds nothing but glad of that, albeit a little sad. "I would like to think, in Jaremy's place, I would have the courage to fall on my own sword rather than be used as a bargaining chip to lessen the Terricks. I think…I think Jaremy would if he could. You never know what you're made of on that score, though, until it comes to it."
"Don't say things like that," Rowan says, frowning the more, distinctly uncomfortable with the idea of anyone falling on their sword. "Maybe someone's made a deal for him, after all. Your father might've. Jack said he wouldn't negotiate, but Jack's not Lord. Not yet." She chews on her thumbnail. "It's a fucking impossible situation. You can put him in black and on the Wall, but he'd never stay."
"Part of me thinks. If we bend to this…it will never stop," Jarod says gravely. "The Naylands will keep taking and taking and taking and chewing away at our edges, reaching beyond their grasp and into ours, until we are nothing. Until we are on our knees to them. That there has to be a thing - one thing - we cannot bend on. And that Jaremy did what he did, and this is justice, and that he should have it in him to face like a man and a knight." He takes a long drink. "And another part of me…he is my fair lord brother, Rowan, and I love him. Even with all he's done, what he is. Part of me loves him more for not…wanting it. Any of it. Though seven hells knows what it is he actually wants."
"I know you love him," Rowan assures him, reaching for his hand. "I know you do, Jare. And so does he. Whatever happens to Jaremy, whatever delusions he might have, there is no way he can fail to know that he was abundantly well-loved. Fuck, he never said two words that didn't make me want to punch him in the groin, but you loved him so much that I bloody had to. And I did."
Jarod lets her take his hand. Physical gestures are something he accepts very easily. And are generally easier for him to believe than words. "He is a bit of a condescending ass to me, isn't he?" He snorts. "I think if I would've been…different with him. More honest. Less…agreeable. Things might've been better between us. Perhaps even better for him. Jaremy and I are as we are, however."
"The way's always clearest when we look back where we've been." She takes his hand in both of hers, giving it a squeeze. "Wondering how you being less agreeable would have been for Jaremy is just you being agreeable again," she points out with a soft smirk. "Watch that you don't wind up trying to be less agreeable in hopes it will be agreeable."
"I will try to do as my conscience tells me." There's a note of disagreement in Jarod's tone with what Rowan says, and withdraws his hand from hers, ostensibly to finish his spiked tea. A few more coppers on the table. "I shouldn't have another. I've work to be about. And I'll need words with Lord Jerold this afternoon on a few odds and ends. You're my guest at the Roost for as long as you feel the need to be."