|Page 048: Guardians and Enemies of Virtue|
|Summary:||Stragen tries to get fired so he can not worry so much about Liliana's virtue. Jarod throws him a curve ball.|
|Related Logs:||Crab Apples, Venting Frustrations|
|Armory - Four Eagles Tower|
|Behind a bolted door lies the Tower's Armory. Stacks of armor line the walls, each placed carefully upon shelves with their helmets. Spears, pikes, axes, and bows line one wall while on the other and also kept on racks in the center are dozens and dozens of swords of all kinds. These are all mostly identical with few variations among them except for design and size as the armory is simply a repository for defense arms. At the front near the door the Guards have their own personal storage space for their more customized gear.|
Stragen Stone, the common mercenary sword, with a reputation that stretches as long as the longest yarn and has many, many snarls. Reputable, honorable, disreputable, dishonorable; the tales are many. Yet, he is a man that was once employed by Lord Geoffrey Tordane - an honorable man, and honorable men often only employ honorable men.
The large blonde Northman, or Valefolk, or Ironblood - his visage suggests all three and none at the same time - stands idle examining a Terrick long sword. Gilded and fancy, it's far more ornate and far better a blade than he's used to. He tests the weight of the sword in his hand.
"She's a pretty one there, Master Stone, though I always fear I'm going to scratch the paint on blades like that." Such is how Ser Jarod Rivers announces his presence in the armory, though his heavy, loping footfalls probably announced his coming long before he spoke. "I keep putting coin aside for a redone pommel on my own only to wonder if it's worth the trouble. Plain or fancy, it'll work just the same."
"Aye, it will, Ser Jarod. That it will." The large man carefully replaces the sword on the rack, careful not to scratch the wood nor rattle the blade. "That's actually something I wished to speak to you, if you have the time, Ser. A matter of fancy and plain." Stragen turns to face Jarod, folding his hands behind him, and standing straight like a trained soldier might.
"At ease, Master Stone," Jarod says, a little uncomfortable by the man's formal manner. "Or…however one is supposed to put it. Relax. I've the time. You've got me curious. I get the feeling this isn't about wanting yourself a sparklier blade."
"Sparklier?" That causes the large man to chuckle, nearly laugh out loud. "Remind me to teach you the fine art of wordsmithing, Ser Jarod, if you'll have my tutelage. And if I still have my neck." The mirth quickly departs, and the man clears his throat. "I… ahh… maybe I can begin with a question. What are your expectations of me, Ser?"
"What's wrong with sparklier? It's a descriptive. You've got things that sparkle. Then things that do it…more so. Er." But Jarod does not continue to debate his choice in mangling of the Common tongue. "Expectations?" He crosses his arms along his chest, eyeing Stragen in a vaguely puzzled fashion. "I expect you'll put your blade - sparkley or not - to use on behalf of my lord father, as he's a need for it. And assist in keeping peace and harmony and safety of our persons by occasional brute force in the Roost, when more specific violence isn't called for. And the odd story, if you'll indulge me, you seem to have many of them, and one day I figure I'll manage to sort out the true ones from the pretty fictions." He grins.
Stragen nods slightly. Despite Jarod being in the thick of mature adulthood and a good ten years Stragen's junior, the blonde barbarian still seems nervous. "And what of my responsibilities to Lady Camden? Naturally she is my first priority? Protecting her person and her virtue, like any sworn sword would."
"Well…yes, at present, that's among your assignments," Jarod says. His green eyes narrow now. He's getting a vague inkling, or at least a suspicion, of the direction this is going. "There something of a personal nature you feel like sharing with me, Master Stone?
"I'm aware that your Lord father had a conversation with the Lady Camden some time ago, regarding appearances." There's a hint of persperation appearing on Stragen's brow. "Regarding virtuous behavior and the like. That a Lady is expected to represent her Lord well in all things. Even a ward like her must behave as if eyes were always upon her, because they… are." Still dancing around the subject.
"As I understand it, it had to do with her spending time with you without her lady attendants," Jarod says with a nod. "I don't blame you for that, Master Stone, and I'm assured nothing improper happened. You'd not have known better. The lapse in etiquette was hers, but so long as it's not repeated…" Jarod trails off. "Was it repeated? And was it…err…improper?"
Stragen coughs, covering his mouth with a fist. "Ser Jarod, I want you to understand that the Lady has comported herself with the utmost grace and civility since I've known her." Which Jarod may or may not know is a complete fib, as Stragen's been in her presence when she's been hunting boar and other menial tasks often best left for servants. Tall Oaks folk are strange that way. "It's quickly becoming apparent to me that the Lady suffers because I am her sworn bodyguard. I wish her not to suffer my presence any longer."
"Suffers?" Jarod sighs heavily. "All right. All right. I think I can imagine where this is going. Master Stone…Stragen." He clears his throat, and unsecures a waterskin from his belt. He carries wine in it. He takes a drink, and offers it to the other man. It's warm, but it's a robust vintage. He only nips the best from the kitchens. "Tell me what happened, please? So I can know the precise extent of the mess I'm dealing with? And don't worry. I'm not going to tell my lord father, nor chide the Lady Camden for a lack of virtue. I suspect I can sympathize with your current plight. Very, very, very…well."
Stragen blinks dumbly, accepting the skin without thinking much about it. Clearly Jarod is either making broad assumptions, or he is playing Stragen at his own game. Taking his own drink from the skin, the barbarian considers his words before responding. "I assure you the Lady's virtue is not in question, here. In fact, the fact that her virtue remains steadfast and strong is the reason why must ask you to choose another sworn, because I'm afraid that, should my assignment continue, she will come under scrutiny by your Lord father, and perhaps her family in Tall Oaks, and then all the allies and enemies of House Terrick would look down their noses in distaste, because Terrick employed a common barbarian with a sordid history. Me, Ser Jarod. Taking a Lady ward's virtue and having my way with it would be devastating for all reputations involved."
"There are very few men of high birth among the standard castle guard, Master Stone, including myself," Jarod says. "For though I am to the Tower born, I am but one of a thousand Rivers in the land, my kinsman in the Vale. I assure you, I don't think Lady Liliana is above having one such as you as a retainer. But if…things…" He does not guess what 'things' precisely. "…are becoming problematic, she can have another guard when she requires use of such. And you can man the dungeons, or take part in the regular town or border patrols or…whatever is required. If that'll…solve the issue. A pause and he asks, "Do you *like* Lady Liliana, Stragen?" The question makes him sound all of thirteen. "I mean…*like* her."
"It's not a matter of my likes, Ser Jarod," Stragen corrects lightly, his tone of voice shifting to a less declarative tone as to not offend the young Ser. "A common man such as myself, with the reputation that I have, cannot be trusted with the virtues of a Lady." Hogwash. Stragen was under employ by the Tordanes. He has Geonis' sword in his possession, albeit not here but with his belongings, a gift from Lady Isolde Nayland herself. "Ser, please. I am best serving your Lord father in manners where I can use my blade. My blade cannot uphold a Lady's virtue, only slice it to ribbons."
And, of course, he didn't answer Jarod's question.
"You were under the employ of the Tordanes, Master Stone, and as far as virtue goes the Lady Isolde…" Jarod kind of trails off, reaching for his wineskin again. Drink. Twice. "My own reputation is…well. You might've heard the song about me. It's sort of catchy, actually. But a lady's virtue is safe as a kitten in a basket with me, for it is my honor and livelihood if that is not the case. Men have their fun, Stragen. Nothing wrong with a bit of that, so long as its among equals and everybody's consenting on the matter. If my father tossed every man who wanted to be a man now and again out of his service, I'd be on the streets this very moment." He offers the wine to Stragen again. "Also, you didn't answer my question."
"But what if the woman is clearly above his station?" Stragen asks, taking the skin back, and taking another pull. The poor skin is nearly empty already. "Ser Jarod, I will share something with you that I have not shared with anyone. My mother was a common girl from a village near Flint's Finger. My father was a traveling merchant from the Vale of the Mountain. An Arryn, most likely, although I have no proof. I am a bastard through and through, with no hope of ever being more than I am: smallfolk. Aye, I have a blade, and I've made my life as a mercenary, but there's never any hope for me to be anything more than a sellsword. And the Lady Camden deserves so, so much better."
"You're an Eyrie bastard?!" Jarod actually grins at that, clapping Stragen on the shoulder. "Well, that's a thing there, Master Stone. You've got me beat, far as height of your making is concerned. Anyhow. I'm only joking. I thank you for sharing it. Touchy subject for some men of our kind, I know." To the rest, he sighs heavily. Grin fading as he nods. "I know very well what you mean, my kinsman in the Vale. I mean, take me for example." He points at himself, for helpful demonstration purposes. "You think I never got closer than was strictly proper or smart to a lady fair above my station?" He snorts.
Stragen grunts at that, stroking his beard. "I'm concerned for her, her family, your Lord father and your family. That's what you're paying me to do, to be vigilant. She wants a… a friend. An equal. To answer your question, Ser… I don't know. I… could easily love a woman like that. But a woman like that deserves a proper Lord husband." Suddenly angry, the would-be barbarian hucks the drained skin across the room, landing with an undignified splat by the door. Fortunately, empty, so no wine spill. "If I weren't her bodyguard, damnit, I could get away with what you're describing. What she wants of me. But I won't have Jerold causing her to cry again, damn it all!"
*Likes* her, indeed.
"I'm of a near age with my lord brothers and lady sister, Stragen, and my common mother died having me, so I was raised with them in the Tower itself," Jarod says, wincing at the thrown skin, though he doesn't seem precisely surprised. "I'm not even a year apart from either my elder or younger half-brother, so we were cared for by the same servants and the like. Just practical, I guess. Learned from the same maester, same master-at-arms, had the same friends…some of whom were of the girl sort." Jarod smirks. "First girls I took notice of, when I realized I wanted to do things with girls, were the highborn sort. Now tell me, what is a boy of thirteen…fifteen…seventeen…you get the idea - supposed to do with *that*?"
"It's different for you! You've a Lord father who shields you from harm. You've a coat of arms that protects you from the scornful gazes of commoner and highborn alike! Damnit, Jarod, you've privelege!" Stragen whirls, folding his arms across his chest, glaring at that gilded sword again. "All I have are my lies, my tales. Stragen Stone the Highwayman. Fjall the Cutpurse. Stragen Morder, the monster of King's Landing. What do they amount to? Freedom. I am the most free smallfolk in all of the Seven Kingdoms, but in the end I have nothing. Nothing that I want."
"Easy, Master Stone, I meant no harm by it," Jarod says, raising a hand. "And I'm well aware I'm a lucky bastard, and I can fake at being a lordling long enough to fool myself into thinking a few stolen kisses and conversations with a lovely, sweet lady could be something more than it is. But at the end of the day, I'm a bastard the same as you, and I've nothing to offer a woman like that but eventual ruin and embarrassment to both her and my lord father. All I'm saying is…I understand. I've engaged in some stupidities myself in my day. Though I will say, I never tarnished a lady's virtue. Came close a few times but…" He grins. Then shrugs. "Rounded the track but never finished the race, most subtle way I can put it. Anyhow…I read you correct, you're feeling like things're getting a bit too hot for your liking in this Tower, yeah?"
"If the Lady Camden's virtue is to be preserved, I cannot be her friend, or more. I cannot be what she wants." Stragen is grim and sullen now, continuing to stare at the gilded sword as if it will yield some insight or provide some course of action that lets him do his duty and keep the girl as well. "If I am not her bodyguard, then perhaps, maybe, I can be some sliver of what she wants of me. But I cannot be both guardian and friend. Honor… yours, mine, your father's… dictates otherwise."
"If you're going to try to be…seven hells, man." Jarod shakes his head, sympathetic, but also decidedly wary of that idea. "I'll continue my voice of experience routine and tell you no good'll likely come of that, for her or you. You might get a few warm memories out of it, but she'll eventually fall in love with the handsome prince. And even more eventually marry some asshole who can give her a castle and take care of her properly." He smirks. "Though I do like to think, somewhere, some lovely lady closes her eyes and thinks of me fondly while she's doing her duty by her lord husband. Certainly hope so, can't imagine it's much fun any other way."
Stragen snorts a dry chuckle. "Aye. She deserves better than me." He glances sidelong at Jarod. "You know, I was prepared to feed you the yarn that I had deflowered her and that I wished to be subjected to Lord Sarojyn's will and punishment. But I figured something that drastic wouldn't be necessary. You're a reasonable lad." Giving a soft huff of a sigh, he says, "Whatever your reassignment choice is, Ser, I'll take it. Won't matter. Just as long as she's protected." He shakes his head. "She needs protecting from her protectors. Isn't that a kick in the arse."
"I'll get her another retainer to act as her bodyguard, aye, that's a given," Jarod says with a nod. "No sense putting catnip before the nose of the cat. Somebody…old, I think. And married. Possibly a eunuch. I wonder if we have any eunuchs?" He ponders that. "Anyhow. But in service here you'll still likely be tasked around the Tower in some regard, some of the time. Can't keep men on border patrols forever. You think you and she can manage that? Women like her…they mean well, Stragen, but I don't think they really *get* it. What torture it is to be so close and look at something so pretty and not ever be able to make it yours."
Stragen levels a gaze at Jarod. "You have no idea." Giving another dry laugh, he offers his hand in friendship to the Ser. "This went far differently than I expected. Thank you."
Jarod reaches out to clasp Stragen's hand firmly in his own. "Got some rough idea, I figure. Anyhow. You can keep watch on the shifts at the gates and the dungeons, patrol the town, always need men for that. Let me know if you're able to…manage things with Lady Liliana that way. I'd hate to lose a man from my father's service, times being what they are, but we must be guardians of the ladies of virtue, Master Stone, enemies to it though we'd very much like to be."