|Summary:||Ser Jarod Rivers dismisses his squire.|
|Related Logs:||All that's gone before.|
|Courtyard — Terrick's Roost|
|The courtyard of the Towers just before dawn. Nobody in their right mind is about at this hour.|
|Tenth day of Eighthmonth, 288 AL|
Early morning in the Roost. Earlier than Ser Jarod Rivers likes to rise when he has some choice in the matter, but he had business to be about today with his squire. Well, former squire now. He was up at the crack of dawn to track down Rowan, find the nearest available retainer to serve as a witness, and drag them out of the grounds to have it done. The retainer, a ginger-haired sworn sword named Payte, just looks sleepy and confused. It's entirely possible Jarod interrutped his breakfast (or nabbed him just after he'd finished in the privy or something). He is yawning throughout.
Dismissing a squire is a perhaps surprisingly easy thing to be about. I Jarod Rivers release you Rowan Nayland from my service, blah, blah, blah, and then it's done and they're parted after four years just like that. The knight states no reason, and though Payte looks puzzled no questions are asked. Once that's finished, Payte shakes Rowan's hand and wanders back to the castle, leaving the pair of them. The grounds are quiet at this hour, and it's early enough that there's still some of night's coolness in the summer air.
Rowan Nayland — or that person so-addressed — stands straight and tall through the brief formalities. Dressed in a boy's clothes, she still looks like a girl in boys clothes. Though no different than Rowan ever did. It's a confounding paradox, an optical illusion that shifts back and forth, discontent to settle on either identity. She shakes Payte's hand firmly, clasping just beneath the elbow, meeting his eyes as she's met Jarod's throughout. She watches the sworn depart and says softly, "That's done, then."
"Aye, that's done." Jarod looks at Rowan a beat, then looks away to watch Payte depart. And just to look away in general. There's a tiredness about him, and it's unlikely he slept the previous night, though he is cold sober. Well, he broke his wine. His anger has turned into a quieter and cooler sort of mood rather than yelling, but whether it's precisely lessened with the night is unclear. "So. What're you going to do now, then?"
"I don't know," whispers Rose, looking in the same direction. It's hard enough to stand near him; looking elsewhere, she can pretend he's not close as the length of her arm. She breathes deeply. "I know… what I should do. But I'm afraid." It's a bleak, raw statement — unvarnished and unsparing.
"And what's that you should do, then?" Jarod asks her. He sits in the grass with a grunt, one leg stretched out, the other bent so his knee's up and he can fold his arms on it. "'Cause it's not clear to me, Rowan, so if you'd grant me that wisdom I'd be appreciative." Still Rowan. Even if she's not really, she is to him, and he won't be able to get that out of his brain anytime soon.
Rose kneels, legs tucked up beneath her, hands resting on her knees. She studies the length of her fingers, lashes veiling her eyes. "I should tell your father. I should tell — everyone. Anyone to whom I've lied. I should tear this deception out of the world roots and all, and burn it." Lashes brush her cheekbones as her eyes close entirely. "I've so rarely been afraid in my life. I've been lucky, that way. The lucky squire of a lucky bastard. I was afraid of losing you… the only thing left to be afraid of is losing myself." She finally looks up at him, with an exhalation that implies that — just that — took some courage, as well. "Do you know what they say Walder Frey's sons do to their wives?"
"Make babies by the dozen?" Jarod answers, shrugging. He doesn't. "What's all this about Walder Frey, anyhow? He's got naught to do with you. As for my father…do what you like, Rowan. My honor's satisfied, and you're no longer either my responsibility or my problem. If you think I'm going to run to him for you, you mistake me. Maybe I should be glad you do." He sighs, tilting his head up at the pale sky. "I figured that mess with Iz and Gedeon's letters taught me a lesson. Guess not, though. If I had it to do over again…well, this is my chance to do it over again, and I guess I'd just do it the same." His chin dips down again, to look at her. "Rowan Nayland was my friend, and I can't ruin him. That's what my conscience tells me, anyhow. And your cousin says a knight's conscience is his own, so that's where I'm at with this, then."
"They share them. With him." Rose swallows, jaw tight. She looks away. "And do the same with their daughters. I told you they were going to marry Rowenna to a Frey — and if I return to the Mire, they'll make sure of it." Her brows knit again. "I don't think I could live like that."
She cuts a quick look at him, and away again. "If I do what my conscience demands…" she searches for words to frame the consequence. They fail her. "You father will have to tell them." She looks up again, frowning. "Was I ever really your problem?" The faint emphasis on the last word is a delicate breath of sadness.
Jarod makes an "Ugh" sound. "That sounds like one of those night tales people tell each other about grumpkins and snarks and White Walkers. Anyhow…you seriously think the Freys would want anything of you?" He blinks, staring at her as if she was rather mad. He shakes his head. "I sometimes think nobles don't bother to learn any of the rules that keep them in power. Jaremy barely did, love him for it thought I do. Guess it shouldn't surprise you didn't, either. You have no *value* to Walder Frey, my Non-Lady Rowenna, and that's what marriage between nobles is. It's an exchange for something of value. Whether it's money or power or an alliance or prestige. Love and hate are just accidents. The Freys have more money than your family. The Naylands are bannermen, so they gain no allies by it, or power over your House. As for prestige…you were *disowned*. What? You think your father would make you get married as…what? A punishment? Lad, it doesn't work like that, he likely couldn't if he wanted to now. The Freys might've wanted to get rid of a son easy with you, but if Rowenna Nayland is disgraced and disowned they can find a better match." He narrows his eyes at her. "This what got you so panicked over this? This Frey business?"
Rose narrows her eyes right back, visibly piqued by the lecture. "You don't know my father. He's a vindictive man — not a smart, but vengeful. Do you think we've languished in the swamp all these generations because we're a well-thought and considered people?" She speaks as a Nayland now. "No. It's because we're petty. And full of spite. If I thought for one minute I'd remain disowned and free, I'd have nothing to fear in the world. My family won't leave it at that, Jarod. It doesn't work like that."
"That's not the way the world works, lad," Jarod says, sighing heavy. "Like I said, whatever your father wants - and I'm not so sure as you are that he wants what you say - the Freys wouldn't take you. But if you're set on thinking you're of such grand importance that your father will do an insult like that to his liege lord, nothing more I can say to an idea that's entirely wrong."
"Gods, how can you be so naive?" Rose whispers fiercely. "So naive and so… so smug. You know two worlds, Jarod Rivers. You know Terrick's Roost, and you know the fields of war. There is a whole wide world in between of which you know nothing. Walder Frey has enough putrid, incestuous children that he can well afford to throw them willy-nilly on whatever whim strikes him. You have no idea the capriciousness, the cruelty, the complete raving illogic of which small men are capable. And you have no idea what it is to be chattel with your life at such disposal. Do not speak to me of how the world works. You know. Absolutely. Nothing."
"All right, all right, seven hells!" Jarod throws up his hands. "You know who's fault *none* of this is? Mine! I do not understand why everyone is always yelling at me for things that aren't my fault. Anyhow, I'm the one who was lied to for *four years* here, so I don't think you've cause to yell at me ever again. So there." He completely thinks he won the argument there, so he moves on. "All right. Let's say you're right, and you'd still be shipped off to the Freys if your father realized you were a girl. I still don't understand why you went off about all this now. As I said, the lying went on for four years. I didn't have a bloody clue. My father and brother certainly don't. Your cousin was in this house for days and he didn't."
"Well you're wrong!" Rose snaps. She glares, then adds, "Again." Her nostrils flare, her jaw tense. When he at least allows the point to be considered, however theoretically, her ire dwindles just a little. It's still there, smoldering in her eyes, but at least it's not about to blast him again immediately. "My lies — my lie — " she says, speaking more softly but with perfect enunciation, " — was going to ruin an innocent girl. And still might. That… knowing that I was actually hurting someone — for I never suspected in a thousand years I was hurting you — made me… evaluate just what I thought I was worth. And just how far I would go to achieve my ambitions." She looks down, visibly wracked with guilt. "And I thought I could spare her if I finally did what was right. But now on the verge of so doing… I can't. I can't! I'll sacrifice knighthood, but I can't become the Freys' pass-about whore."
"What innocent girl? What are you talking about? You are not innocent, so that can't possibly be it," Jarod says.
"Fuck you, Rivers," Rose sighs, wearily. It's almost obligatory. "Igara Frey. They wanted me to sign a contract promising to marry Igara Frey when I became a knight. And it's my understanding that she has… very deep and very real feelings for me. Or who she thinks I am."
"Igara Frey?" Jarod blinks at her. Mouth slightly open. "Your were going to be betrothed to…" He has to stop. Deep breath. He does, to his marginal credit, make an effort not to laugh. "…you and that girl…" His mouth twitches, and a chuckle escapes. No, he just can't. He doubles over, first making token effort to snigger quietly, but finally descending into big, braying laughter. He does honestly wonder why people are so frequently mad at him.
Rose watches Jarod twitch and dissolve into mirth, her affect flat and glacial. She breathes in, slowly, nostrils flaring again, and voices almost exactly that — though a shade more tooled to how she's personally feeling. "And you have absolutely no idea why people want to punch you in the groin, do you?" If her expression is tundra, her voice is the arid wastes.
Jarod is on his back now, gasping for breath between laughs. It takes him a minute to get it under control. With a grunt, he sits up again. He still looks highly amused, despite himself. "Well you've got to admit, lad, it's a damned fine farce, isn't it? Like one of those comical mummer's shows. I wish you'd talked to me about this before you went all…stupid. I mean, lots of things over the years've been bigger deals than this. I don't see why you think it'd be so hard to set the lady down easy without ruining yourself in the process. Seems simple to me."
Slowly, watching him gasp for breath like a landed fish, her features thaw. It ends with her looking down again, though a faint and rueful smile tugs the corners of her lips. "Idiot," she whispers. It could be meant for either of them. Or both. She sprawls out beside him, propping herself up on one hand and heaving a sigh. "It wasn't just that, addlepate. That made me examine things, no more." She sighs, flopping over onto her own back, staring at the sky. "I had to ask myself what it would really mean, becoming a knight based on a lie. And I thought… it would cheapen it. That… if knighthood were… were a golden chalice, it would turn to lead if I touched it. Because I was… I hadn't come to it justly. Honestly. Because I was impure." She turns her head to the side, bringing him into view. "And I had been lying to people I'd come to love. More than knighthood. More than life." A beat. "More than anything."
"Why didn't you just tell her you liked boys?" Jarod asks, like it's the most obvious thing in the world. With another chuckle, but the suggestion is entirely serious. "I mean…it's true, isn't it? If not quite in the way she'd take it. And she'd believe it. *Nobody'd* have trouble believing it. Seven hells, Rowan, I've been half-convinced you're a bugger for two years now. That's why I spent so much time trying to get you with a whore…" Green eyes widen, as he really contemplates all the time he spent trying to get Rowan laid. Face meets palm again. "…oh sweet Seven…" He's actually blushing.
She choke-snorts — a quick spasm of her chest, a soft chuff of a sound, lips pressed hard together and dimples deep. Then it's her turn to burst into laughter, though hers is less braying, more a cascade of giggles, bright and delighted. "You see?" The reason behind all the squire's foot-dragging, all the protests about love and marriage — lady parts. Including the heart. Her mirth subsides into a rueful smirk. "You were right about the first time, though. It was… it wasn't what I'd hoped."
"Anyway." This seems to remind Jarod that he's still mad at her, and he rolls on the grass away from her to stand. Running his fingers through his short dark hair. "The Frey girl is…what? Sixteen? And she's seen you…what? Once, since she came to Stonebridge? And spoken to you for…a minute? Three perhaps? I know from having stupid fancies at sixteen based on more than that, lad, and I can tell you that's not love. Not really. Might've been embarrassing for the pair of you, but it'd not have been the end of anything." First time? He blinks at her. "Oh seven hells." And he looks away again. "Oh, fuck me so much…" He'll need a minute.
Rose sits up, propping herself up on her palms, shoulders lazily hunched as she squints up at Jarod against the brightening sky. "It ceased to matter what she wanted when my father and cousin drew up the contract, Jarod. You love your simple, pat solutions for things, but nothing is that simple. Proud men seldom reverse their intentions. When I spoke with Ser Rygar, he made it very clear that will she or nil she, I would marry Igara Frey in a year's time." She raises an eyebrow. Chew on that. But that's not what he bites on, and she watches his brain snag on her virginity — or lack thereof — with bemusement. "What?" Baffled, she is. "I mean, I would've preferred it be you, but that wasn't going to happen. So I got it over with as soon as seemed practical."
"Oh sweet seven stop talking about that!" Jarod practically shouts, staring at Rose in horror lest she further explain her deflowering. It's way less fun to talk about sex with girls. Ladies besides. That you've encouraged to the path of sluttery for four years. Deep breath. "Anyway. You have a year to figure out how to handle Lady Igara Frey. Or you had one. What're you going to do now?"
"You're being ridiculous," Rose sighs, but stops talking about That. Mercifully. She climbs to her feet and brushes grass off the seat of her breeches. "Well, I managed to avoid signing the sodding contract. If only by telling another lie. There's no fucking end to it, is there? And in the end, it doesn't matter." She rakes a hand through her hair. "My options are remain as I have been, or suffer whatever horror my father can devise. If not the Freys, he'll find their loathsome equal." Dark eyes contemplate the ground beneath her feet, then rise to meet Jarod's. "I'll go on as Rowan, Seven forgive me. And pray they show me some way to… to live. Some way better. Though I little deserve it."
Jarod shrugs. "Rough choices, when you put it like that. Well, like I said, you aren't my problem anymore, so it's no longer on my honor. And you weren't…" He seems to realize he didn't answer her question before, so he goes back to it. "…you were no more my problem than I was yours. Rowan wasn't, at least. I loved Rowan Nayland like a brother and you - whatever you are - has made an end to him and me." It's this, strangely, that he seems most angry at her for. "I still don't quite understand why, lad? I mean…why didn't you and your brother just run away together? Your parents *did* disown Rowenna Nayland, and they haven't gone looking for her. Why the farce?"
"He's right here, Jarod," says Rose, very softly. "He is right. Here. Still. And always will be." She swallows and looks away. "You're thick, sometimes, you know?" she murmurs. "I've told you. Again and again. I'm not a lady. I'm not a minstrel or a mummer. I wasn't just running from something, Jarod. I was — I am what the gods made me. Man or woman, I'm a warrior. And to be a knight, was the highest honor of which I could possibly dream. It was never a farce. It was…" She pauses, taking a breath and closing her eyes. "It was the only thing I ever wanted for my own. Except you."
"No he's not," Jarod says, softly himself, but his tone's still firm on that point. "Rowan Nayland was my friend, and for the love I bear him, I'll tell no one of this, my word on it. But I don't know what you are, and I'm not sure I want to." He sounds more sad than anything else. Though his green eyes do look at her on those last points. Both of them. "Men want what they can't have, Rowenna Nayland. Guess women do as well."
Rose lifts her chin slightly. If his words pain her, she breathes through it. Just as she was taught to do with sprains and cuts and broken bones. "You don't really believe that," she says. "If he ever lived, he does still. If he never lived, you owe him nothing. Nor me." She meets his eyes steadily, though the flash of her throat betrays a painful swallow. "You know full well who I am." She seems about to say more, but closes her eyes and breathes an aching sigh. "Gods, but I'm going to miss you." Another swallow. Then, quick and succinct, "Goodbye, Jarod." She turns on her heel and strides away.
Jarod doesn't look at her while she's walking away. "Take whatever time you need to get your things together. And then…go wherever you like. Not my problem anymore." Not that he can manage to sound like he means it. Pretense isn't a skill Ser Jarod Rivers can manage to any degree. But he says it and lets her go and heads back to the castle in the opposite direction.