|How Heavy the Seal|
|Summary:||Rowan seeks out Jacsen to confirm the identity of the captured knight at Stonebridge. What she learns is no surprise; what the Terricks have chosen to do about it, however, is heartbreaking.|
|Related Logs:||A Study in Peace, Unexpected Guest, Black or Death.|
|The Godswood, Riverrun|
|Beneath the scarlet boughs of a huge, spooky white tree.|
|21st Eleventhmonth, 288 AL|
It is not terribly hard to find the Young Lord of the Roost these days. If he cannot be found bent over some tome or another in the library, he is probably found in the suite Lord Tully has provided in the Wheel Tower. Should neither suffice, he can oft be found, as he is this afternoon, working over his thoughts in the Godswood. Never a terribly pious sort, Jacsen seems nonetheless drawn to the massive, bone-white weirwood, which he sits opposite now, his back against a far lesser tree than such.
Rowan comes up the trail to the sacred grove silently, pausing with all reverence before entering the scarlet circle, the fallen leaves seeming never to brown. Neither does she call out to Jacsen on seeing him, though she does offer a muted smile as she moves to sit beside him. "Jack. I hope I'm not disturbing you too much," she says, by way of greeting. Her voice is exceptionally soft, not quite a whisper, but certainly quiet enough that were something sleeping nearby, she'd stand no chance of waking it.
He's got his good knee drawn up and bent, that he might set his folded hands atop it, while the other is laid out straight and sure, the cane laying next to it. More than space enough, though, for the squire to take a place beside him, between one tangle of roots and another. "Rose," Jacsen greets, his smile, like hers, a less vibrant version of its usual self. "No, not disturbing. Well, not disturbing anything I wouldn't care to have disturbed, I suppose." His words, too, are of the softer spoken variety.
She looks down a moment, breathing a pensive sigh, then places her hand lightly on Jacsen's forearm. "Jack…" Her dark eyes lift to study his face, sadness and worry writ on her own. "I heard — some talk in town. That my cousin's taken prisoners at Stonebridge. A band of smallfolk… and a knight in full armor." Rose swallows, taking a breath. "The timing, and Jarod gone in the night — " she grimaces faintly, loath to ask. "Is it Jaremy?"
Of course, there was little else it might have been, with such events surrounding the last few days, but the smile he wears fades all the same into an expression that teeters on the edge of sadness, but for whatever reason does not quite make it there. "We suspected…" Jacsen admits after a moment, his blue eyes shifting from the hand upon his forearm to the woman that owns it, "And now I've it confirmed. It is my own fool brother, found at long last."
The girl-squire whispers a faint, emphatic invective. "Gods, Jack…" She takes another deep breath. "Fuck. Just — " she shakes her head. "I'm so sorry. I don't even know what to say." She looks pale and drawn and a little ill. "What will become of him?"
"Jarod went, not to beg for him, or plead, but to suggest the worth in letting him take the black," Jacsen shares with her, leaving a slow breath. Though not at peace with what he shares, he seems at least found an understanding with it. "But Ser Rygar and his Lady Valda are too eager to see his head on a pike, and well within their rights it would seem as well. Though, as is their way, it's been intimated that were we to concede the Stonebridge, he might yet spend the rest of his years upon the Wall."
Rowan's eyes close in a soft wince for that, nodding slightly. "As I said, the timing…" she nods again, exhaling softly. "I expected as much. They've probably known where he was all this while, and were just waiting for the most advantageous moment to fetch him." She pulls her knees up to her chin, hugging her shins. "What will you do?" she asks gently, though something in her resignation suggests a foregone conclusion.
Jacsen shakes his head, softly, before he rests it back against the tree and closes his eyes. "I will do nothing, Rose. Damn me, but I will do nothing…"
There's a moment of stunned silence. She stares at him, dark eyes wide, expression blank as she tries to process what she's just heard. Then she blinks, eyes wet, her expression crumbling to pity and sorrow. "How cruel and heavy, your father's seal," she whispers, placing a slender, calloused hand against his cheek. "Does Jarod — does Lu — do they know? What you've decided, I mean."
"They do. And they each, in their own way, make their peace with it." Jacsen's features only just resist turning into that once familiar palm, though he does not evade the touch. "In our own ways, I'm certain in time we'll each find our own reasons to regret it," he tells her, "But our love cannot override our duty, nor our honor."
She swallows hard, hands moving to take both of his, tears on her lashes — unshed, but unquestionable. "You're doing the right thing," she whispers. "I know — no," she shakes her head. "I can only imagine, I can never really know, how you must feel. How bitter duty and honor are in this moment… but you're doing the right thing, Jack. I promise you, on all the love I've ever borne any of you… you're doing the right thing."
He smiles the barest of smiles, but there is no light, no mirth behind it. "I know, Rose, I do," Jacsen assures her, when she takes his hands so, and his eyes again settle on her features. "I know now that my most fervent wishes, my most earnestly spoken prayers were for naught. My brother was, is, a fool, and will only bring harm to the rest of those I love, and to all those whom I owe my duty." He huffs out a breath. "There was nothing else to be done."
Rowan nods, her grip on his hands tightening. "There was nothing else to be done," she agrees, her voice still soft but rough with emotion. "I believe that. Jaremy… is simply not in the same world as the rest of us. It's like some kind of madness… and while in a normal man it might be benign, even droll, to be given to such delusions…" She shakes her head. "With Jaremy's charisma and lovely face and martial training — how many lost their lives in this one action? It's always worth it to him, somehow. He always has a way to justify the harm he brings about, and lament how misunderstood he is. He is dangerous — but I know… knowing that makes nothing easier. It's like putting down a sweet, stupid hound — you can never hope to make it understand."
That last might earn something of a wary look in Jacsen's eyes, as if he can only abide her taking the comparison quite so far. "Still. He is not without worth, and should be given the choice of the Wall," Jacsen affirms, shaking his head. "It's for the sake of spite and revenge that he'll die instead."
She utters an unhappy, mirthless laugh. "Oh, Jack — I know he's not without worth. If only you knew how much I love my hounds…" She shakes her head with a faint sigh. "Your hounds. I prefer them to most people. They're loyal and pure — incapable of evil." She shrugs, letting the disclaimer go. "No, Jack, my poor friend — he'll die because… because he wasn't made to live in this world, with its realities and consequences. If he went to the Wall, that wouldn't be the last of it. And I think we all know it."
Jacsen shakes his head once. "If he went, if he swore the Oaths… he'd remain. He's a fool, but not an oath breaker. Still, it matters little. Your kin are not going to permit that, and I am not going to bend to make it so." He glances at the bone-white bark of the weirwood, his eyes lifting up to the blood red leaves that hang from its branches. "And so my brother will die."
Rowan winces only faintly as she's lumped in with the Naylands, or at least made to own them. There's nothing in that statement she can refute, not without making this about her — so she simply, without fanfare, reclaims her hands. "I know there's probably nothing I can do," she says, barely audibly. "But… is there anything I can do?"
"When it's done, Jarod…" Jacsen begins, though it seems memory serves him not so poorly as to forget altogether what his brother's told him, and the words fade before they can continue. If not quite an apology in his expression, there is a touch of… something. "You've been a friend, Rose," he offers, after a moment collecting his thoughts. "That is something in itself. So, not nothing."
Her lashes lower and there's a flicker of a painful smile. She nods, taking his hand again and settling in beside him once more. Her head rests on his shoulder. "I'll always be that," she says. And for a long time, nothing more needs to be said.