|Hedging the Bet|
|Summary:||Rowan has questions. Ser Kevan has answers… and an offer the squire finds hard to refuse.|
|Tournament Camp, Stonebridge|
|Early evening the day after the Grand Melee. The tents are coming down and the sun is low in the sky.|
|31st of Seventhmonth, 288 AL|
After his early exit from the melee, Ser Kevan had stormed off the field in disgust, and had been seen only by a few since. He's reemerged from whatever hole he was hiding himself in, however, and has returned to the small, ramshackle tent he'd rented on the field. The black armor that had been everpresent for the past few days has been replaced by his riding clothes and a dark leather jerkin; currently he's gathering the last of what few things he'd brought with him from the Roost and packing them away in preperation for his next journey… to where, only Kevan himself knows.
Rowan Nayland has been seeing to the last few details of striking Ser Jarod's camp, diligent and dutiful — if a bit sullen. Strange, moody boy anyway, it's generally said. With the main tent down now, he can see clear across the field, and in so gazing he sees the fair-haired hedge knight making his own preparations. There's a moment's hesitation, then the slender lad makes his way across the space of flat-trodden grass and mud. "Ser Kevan?" he asks softly. "It… is Ser Kevan, yes? I'm… Rowan. Rowan Nayland. Jarod's squire."
Moody boy, meet moody knight. Kevan's expression is rather sour as he finishes packing, and the sudden interruption doesn't seem to make him any happier. He'd been about to re-enter the tent when the boy speaks; standing in front of the open flap, Kevan turns to face him, his face thin-lipped as he stares at the squire. "I know who y'are, boy." His raspy baritone sounds a little raspier than usual. "Aye, so you've found me." His greatsword is resting against the opening to the tent; he picks it up and studies Rowan for a moment before slamming the blade back into its sheath with a metallic whine. "What of it, then?"
The boy drops his eyes, girlish lashes shadowing his cheekbones. "I… I'm sorry to be a bother, Ser," he says with deference. "I… I just… I wanted to know…" He marshals his wits and banishes his nerves. "Sorry. I wanted to know… you're a hedge knight. And I don't know much about that. How does that… how does that happen?"
At the question, Kevan looks at the boy again, and studies him a little more thoughtfully than before. He doesn't answer right away, first strapping his sword to the saddle of Leviathan, who's tied up to a post outside the entrance to the tent. "Happens easy enough," he replies, finally. "I've a knighthood and no lord to serve. Plenty of commonborn knights out there as can say the same." His brow furrows. "We usually prefer the term 'free lance', though." Another saddlebag is attached to the saddle, and then he quickly ducks back into the tent, reemerging with a large red-tailed hawk perched on his gloved fist. He runs a hand gently down the bird's side before turning back to Rowan. "But why the hell are you asking about that, anyway?" A good little blue-blood boy like you. His mouth doesn't say it, but his expression seems to.
The lad looks away, seeming to search elsewhere for the answer to that. When he glances back, it's to admire the hawk. He doesn't immediately meet Kevan's eyes. "I just thought… a body needs to know all their options, don't they?" He shrugs, hooking his thumbs in his belt. "I've got this set of skills, and I want to put them to use, aye? But… what if no lord wants me, say?" PURELY hypothetical. Honest. "So… did a lord knight you, in the first place? Even though you serve none now?"
"Options? What options?" Kevan snorts, rolling his eyes. "Aye, you may be a scrawny one, but you can fight, I've seen that much." He folds his arms, leaning against a nearby pole as he squints down at the younger man. "You carrying some deep, dark secret, Rowan Nayland?" Kevan shrugs. "If you can swing a sword well enough, there's always someone out there who'll take you on. Hell, you could be a eunuch and it wouldn't matter, not really. In fact, I hear there are places beyond Westeros where they actually raise armies full of them." He shrugs. "Any knight can make a knight, with reason," he reminds Rowan in a lecturing tone that would make a maester proud. "I was made by a… well, by another hedge knight, myself. Sworn to Tully when he took me in, as he was until the day he died, but his beginnings were little different from my own.""
Rowan blinks. "Truly?" The news that one knight can make another seems news to the lad. Probably thought that power was solely invested in Lords. He looks a little heartened. "That's…" he frowns slightly, pensive and worried again in an instant. "Good news. I think." He scuffs the dirt with his boot. "It's… deep, I suppose. Not dark. 'Least I don't think so." He glances again at the hawk, as though he were carrying on a conversation with the bird, or at least including it. "Ever… feel like there's something about you that… other people just wouldn't understand?"
Kevan stands silently a moment, considering what Rowan's said. "Not really," he responds, his hard expression finally twisting into something resembling a smile. "But when you get down to it, I'm really not all that complicated." And again, he promptly sobers, exhaling softly. "But I do understand a feeling of not quite belonging," he continues, "and, as it sounds, so do you. For whatever reasons you might have." He's still watching Rowan as he moves; the bird had moved up to his shoulders when Kevan's arms folded, and now the knight moves her over to a perch on Leviathan's saddle.
Rowan follows the bird with his eyes, then looks back to Kevan. His smile is faint but sincere. "Aye. That much I do. A Nayland in House Terrick, for one. And honestly," he shakes his head, chuckling. "That's the least of my worries." He pauses. "You know… you don't have to go. I'm sure the Terricks'd have you back."
Kevan sighs, shaking his head. Now it's his turn to kick at the grass in frustration. "Yes, I do. At least… for a time. Jaremy Terrick would look the fool if he gave me my badge back a few days after taking it. And the Greyjoys'd like as not take it personally, the touchy bastards." He shrugs. "Something tells me I'd be best suited to put as many leagues as possible between me and here." A faraway look settles into Kevan's eyes as he considers the thought, but it fades almost as quickly as it had come. "But I don't see my prospects being any better in the Vale or in the Westerlands."
The boy shrugs. "I don't know much about politics, that's certain. But the way I see it, the thing he needed to decry was the duel. That's done. He didn't need to distance himself from you, just from the action." Rowan ghosts another faint smile. "I get the impression that's not something you do a lot — if it were, aye… I'd say that might be a problem. But as it's not likely to come up again…" Another shrug. "Anyhow… Seven go with you, wherever it is you decide to wander, Ser Kevan. And thank you for taking the time to speak with me. It's… Maybe someday my name'll be famous, and you'll understand why you've given me some hope today." He flashes a wry grin.
"I'm not going to go beg at Jarold Terrick's door." Kevan speaks with no small amount of finality as a hint of steel creeps into his tone. "If House Terrick desires my service once more, I'll not spurn them, but I'm no common sellsword, to abase myself so." His head tilts to one side. "You know, you could come with me. I've no squire of my own, and these past few days I've felt the lack. And getting away from all this sounds like it might do you well, too." He looks at the boy speculatively. "It's not as easy a life as what you likely had in the Roost, but — " he looks critically at Rowan's slight frame — "you'll be the stronger for it."
Stronger, of course, meant both literally and figuratively.
Rowan looks a bit taken aback at the offer, blinking, but the smile that follows is wide and warm. "Ser, I hope you understand how sincere I am when I say you honor me with the offer." He inclines his head… but even as he does, he's shaking it in — somewhat regretful — refusal. "Ah, gods, but it is tempting," he laughs, looking out over the field with its last few tents and setting sun. "To just… leave it all behind. And I don't doubt I'd learn a great deal." He looks back at Kevan, sighing. "But I'd be running away, Ser. And I owe Lord Ser Jerold and especially his son — " by which, apparently, the boy means his bastard, " — better than that."
"So be it," Kevan replies. "As you will, then." He follows Rowan's gaze, squinting in the early evening sun. He sighs sharply before turning away. "Your loyalty speaks well of you. I certainly understand obligation… and you could do far, far worse than Ser Jarod. In your place, I'd probably do the same." He looks back to the boy. "But if you're not coming along, then off with you. Can't hardly get under way with some damn nosy squire bending my ear well into the night." After a moment, a thin smile pulls at his lips, belying the teasing in his last words.
The lad grins, ducking his head in a quick bow as he steps back. "Gods speed your journey then, Ser Kevan," he says. "And your return. I regret we weren't able to be better acquainted — you seem a fine man. And I wouldn't mind learning a thing or two from you in the practice yards." He salutes, cheekily. "Next time. Warrior watch your way, Ser."
Kevan returns Rowan's salute with a lazy gesture of his own. "I have a feeling the Riverlands haven't seen the last of me, Rowan Nayland," Kevan replies with another slight smile. "Perhaps you'll yet have the chance. In the meantime, Seven keep you and your House." The way he says it, referring to Rowan's House isn't the same as referring to the young man's actual family. It's doubtful Kevan cares much for the wellbeing of House Nayland, anyway. With that, he nods to the boy and moves away, going back to the tent for one last check inside.