|Summary:||Jacsen Terrick wasn't born yesterday, and Rowan has the chance to be more honest.|
|Related Logs:||Less Honest|
|Rowan's Ex-Room, Above the Stables, Terrick's Roost|
|Stables. Stairs. A tiny room with a chest of drawers and a narrow bed.|
|20th of Eighthmonth, 288 AL|
The stables are quiet this afternoon — a rare respite, considering the near-ceaseless flurry of activity it sees in a typical day. The horses shift and whicker in their stalls, like old men and women murmuring to themselves about days gone by. The hounds are quiet, stretched out and drowsy in these last days of summer heat. Though for ears that listen and senses that are keen, there's something slightly amiss. A very faint sound. The occasional quick breath, little hiccups and sniffles. It sounds like a girl weeping, and seems to be coming from above.
Indeed, that sound is not something lost on Jacsen Terrick, a man whom is forced to be perceptive and attentive for the sake of his craft as much as his own survival, whom also happens to be in search of an extra bag for his horse's saddle, and near enough the steps up to the loft to pause.
He hesitates, stopping in place a moment to listen again. When the sound confirms his suspicions of a moment previous, the Terrick lord puts his cane firm in hand, and takes the wall in another as he climbs up the steps. Seven protect him from a scared child, that might think to dash /down/ those same steps.
Alas, one of the many things a man so wounded must sacrifice is stealth — even without his 'third leg,' his gait is distinctive on the stair. The sound of weeping abruptly ceases. At the landing, there are three doors — one for the quarters of each of the masters, and one which used to be a storeroom, if memory serves. All are shut.
Then, there's a frantic, hissed whisper — "Bekkah — no!" — followed by the scrape of a hound's claws at the storeroom door. Plaintive doggy whimpers follow, there's the thump of paws and solid weight — then the door opens. A huge, beautiful brindle bitch sticks her head out, looking at Jacsen with nothing short of full-on puppy eyes. She whines.
He stumbles back but a fraction, enough to save himself a fatal tumble down the steps at the unexpected sight, but not enough to keep the cane from falling and clattering to the floor. "Seven!" Jacsen exhales, though there is laughter in it, perhaps for how his heart pounds and blood races, how his chest thumps with each breath. "You startled me there, girl," he gently scolds, before reaching out to stroke the bitch's head. "But we're alright, aren't we?" He does, while dealing with the canine, looking further into the room from where she emerges.
The hound pushes her big, blunt head up into Jacsen's hand, lapping at his fingers and wagging her docked hindquarters shamelessly. Then, as though suddenly remembering her purpose, she utters a low whuff, whines again, and turns to quickly pad back inside the room.
"Fuck all, Bekkah," sighs Rowan, sitting against the wall toward the back. There's no question it's the squire that's been weeping, red eyes, wet cheeks and all. Bekkah the Bitch plunks herself down and licks at the tears, then looks back at Jacsen, hopefully. My person is leaking. Fix it?
"Rowan…" Jacsen murmurs as he pushes the door open a measure more, then holding fast to it as he takes awkward steps into the room. His cane, dropped before, still lingers on the floor outside. "Are you alright?" His brow knits together as he trades the door's leverage for that of another surface, making his way closer to the red-eyed squire. "What's the matter?" His tone is softer than it was otherwise wont to be, the slight frown he wears visible at that closer distance.
Bekkah settles down and pushes her head into Rowan's lap, heaving a great melancholy sigh as the squire mops his face with his sleeve. "N-nothing," the boy whispers, looking immensely chagrined. "I'm sorry. I — this used to be my room. No one… no one used to ever come up here, during the day." And indeed, it hasn't been converted back to a storeroom just yet — there's little of use in it but a chest of drawers and a narrow bed, stripped of linens.
Despite its lack of linens, Jacsen finds the bed a preferable seat when faced with the prospect of standing much longer. He grimaces as he lowers himself in a manner at once ginger and swift. "I could hear you from downstairs," he remarks, his mouth twisting in a look of discomfort as he uses his hands to shift the positioning of his right leg. When he looks back to Rowan it's with unconvinced eyes. "Well. All three of us," he suggests, including Bekkah in the statement, "Know that's a load of shit. My lord squire."
"I should have said, then, that it is nothing of consequence. Except to me." The boy fondles Bekkah's ears with gruff fondness, and the bitch rolls her eyes up to him, mournfully. "And perhaps this one. But I have a feeling she thinks I'm ill." He smiles without mirth. "And maybe I am. Heartsick. Or sick in the head. Both." Dark eyes lift again to watch Jacsen as he tries to find some comfort. "Does it always hurt like that?"
His lips quirk in a humorless expression. "You know, for a noble son, you're quite the insular individual. Secrets that matter to no one but you, moments that take you to tears over something that matters to none but yourself…" Jacsen glances down at his damnable leg again, his lips thinning. "It will bear little to no weight, no matter how I might have need of it," he offers by way of an explanation.
"I'm not going to be very fit to ride anymore, at least for a few hours," he explains without looking back at Rowan, "So I shall remain and see if I cannot be a balm for your obviously aching self. It is, after all, one of the highest callings we can pay to the fairer sex." His eyes do lift then, and hover on Rowan. "I needn't pressure my brother, with sanction or not, to unravel that bit. I daresay you might have wanted me to guess, and so don't take myself terribly clever for the discovery." He lets out a quiet breath and adds, "So take your pick. Questions about that other bit, or…" He waves a hand at Rowan and the dog, "… this. But you'll need keep me company a while either way."
Rowan doesn't look shocked or alarmed by the revelation, but she does wince. "Jarod is going to fucking kill me," she sighs. "We were only just speaking of this — why I didn't lie to you, and how he didn't want me dragging you in to this mess." She dislodges Bekkah with a fond nudge, climbing to her feet. "I suppose I did. Want you to guess. What I knew most certainly was I didn't want to lie. To you — or anyone — unless I had to. And you…" She frowns slightly, studying the youngest Terrick brother. "I knew I didn't have to lie to you."
She comes to sit beside Jacsen on the bed. "Rowenna," she offers, reaching to to pet Bekkah as the hound sticks to her like a burr. "I prefer Rose. But — just don't ever call me that in Jarod's presence."
"Rose." He smiles a touch at that, and nods, "I don't see why not." Interested blue eyes track the young woman as she makes the slight distance to his side, all the while escorted by her furry companion. "As for Jarod, I wouldn't worry too much. I'm half-convinced his reluctance in telling me is for his own sake as it ever was yours, as I'm apt to beat him around the head with my cane for letting you leave his service and go into that of another," Jacsen points out, shaking his head quietly, "Whatever the uncomfortable circumstances."
"But enough about my brother. To hear how much we speak of him, you'd expect Jarod to be the only person that exists in the world besides us," Jacsen insists, his attention firmly on the female at his side. "It's not an easy thing you've managed, though I must admit you've done it very well. So there is the very obvious question… Why?"
"Yes," says Rose, dryly, of Jarod's reluctance. "I expect it was. He's embarrassed and humiliated — and what's more, thinks he's broken some knightly code, compromising my virtue or some rubbish." She wrinkles her nose delicately. "It's fucking bollocks, the whole drama he's made of it. I swing back and forth like a wild pendulum, between remorse at having deceived him and wanting to punch him in the groin for being such a — a girl about it."
She laughs, then, and pats the bed beside her, at which point Bekkah jumps up and wags and squirms and dances. The big hound wriggles between them an licks Jacsen's face in paroxysms of joy. Obviously, the three-legged man fixed her person. She is very grateful. Rose laughs all the more, hauling the dog back before Jacsen drowns in adoring slobber. "Bekkah! Back off!" The dog slinks back over to her side at that, flopping down and rolling onto her back to present her belly for rubbing. The girl squire sighs and rubs obediently. "Would you believe she's my best hunter?" Jacsen's question still hangs between them — which she doesn't seem reluctant to answer, but allowed him a moment to recover from Bekkah's enthusiasm.
Whatever he's meant to say about his baseborn brother, the affectionate attack from Bekkah waylays him, and he cannot help but laugh at the canine's efforts. "Down girl!" Jacsen protests, though he's hardly putting any effort into the hand that pushes on the dog, the other hand behind him on the bed to keep him propped upright. He draws a sleeve across his face when the episode is done, eyeing the beast at Rose's assertion. "That does not speak well for your hunters, does it?"
But of course the question he's really waiting for an answer on is not that.
"Oh, she's fierce when she needs to be," Rose smiles, no small amount of pride in her voice. "And smart as a whip." She turns her attention back to Jacsen. "Why, indeed. Well, to begin with, I'm just absolutely piss poor at being a lady. Always have been. I've no hand for crafts or needlework, can't sing, can't play, can't dance, and the one time they left the administration of the Towers to my watch, the new stables burnt to the ground." She sighs. "None of the animals had been moved in yet, thank the Seven." Slender shoulders lift in a shrug. "But blade and bow, that I've always been good at. And fascinated with. Ever since I was little. I can say nothing more direct and true than — the Warrior calls me. To each their gifts, aye? I have followed the path laid down by mine."
"You'd not have been the first to find circumstance dictating a path not quite so determined by their gifts," Jacsen opines, as he listens to Rose's recounting of the calculations that went into her decision to pose as Rowan, the pretty boy squire. "But you've chosen a path as twisting and turning as anything else, and that you've come this far alone is worth noting." He chuckles a bit, shaking his head. "So what of your Nayland kin? I know your love for them, and theirs for you, runs thin, but how did you mask this subterfuge from them? Disinterest can only mask you so far, I'll wager."
"More than a bit of luck," Rose replies, smiling wryly. "Rowan and I — he's my brother, a bit younger, the one who's supposed to be here now — well, we knew the scheme was mad. But we were driven equally by desire and desperation. He was being sent to squire, a thing no sweet, sickly boy afraid of blood should be forced into, and I — I'd been engaged to a Frey." She shudders. "In any event, most of these years our families' antipathy have kept the Naylands away from the Roost. My eldest brother left the Mire when I was only three, and cousin Rygar… well, he's a very focused man. He never noted us at all. So that I look nothing at all like my brother, save being slender-built — who would know?"
The plan hatched and executed by the two Nayland siblings is something he listens to with unabashed interest, chuckling quietly at the end. "I see… but what of the Frey? Did the Frey not take notice that he lacked his promised bride?" Jacsen wonders, "And what of the real Rowan? Surely he did not take /your/ place?"
"Hah!" Rose laughs, smiling at Jacsen. "That would have been a trick — but no, I would have taken the affections of my loathsome intended rather than subject sweet Row to them, certainly. The missing bride was indeed noticed — by both families. She left a note saying that she'd fallen in love with a mummer and run away to become a minstrel. Quite ruined, you see. So Rowenna Nayland was disgraced and disowned." She smiles all the wider, with abundant warmth and fondness. "Rowan — the real Rowan — lives in King's Landing, now. He did in fact join a band of mummers and minstrels, which was always where his talents and passions lived. He goes by another name now, of course, but we write frequently, and he's very, very happy."
Jacsen shakes his head quietly, seeming honestly amazed at the scheme the two siblings concocted to be free of the drudgery of their lives, as determined by their betters. "It's quite the tale, Rose, remarkable for several reasons, and not least of all because you mostly seem to have pulled it of," he points out. "But surely, /surely/, there must come a time when you cannot keep to the subterfuge any more? There are oaths you would swear, and I suspect if you've learned anything from my brother, you'll not want to swear them falsely."
Rose's smile dims, dwindling to a more somber mien. "No," she agrees softly. "No, of course not. But there is quite a little sub-class of people who've come to know my secret. Which frustrates Jarod to no end, since it makes him — in his view — all the more a fool for not having seen it, himself." She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. "Ser Gedeon knows, as does Lord Anton. And Josse. When I take my vows, it will be before the three of them, and it will be in answer to my own name."
"Though I'm sure he'll not think to ever go an ounce easier on himself," Jacsen remarks, with a slight shake of his head, "It is not as if you were advertising your femininity for all to see, nor should it be the first conclusion one draws that his squire is actually a girl." He chuckles, lightly, then. "Though I knew you were too damn pretty."
Rose blushes at that, smiling and lowering her lashes. "Terricks are prettier," she retorts. "But — I agree. I have, in fact, taken some pains these past four years to be a boy. It's not at all easy, sometimes. And if I am pretty and do behave girlishly, time to time… well, most people think I'm sly. Which is fine with me."
"You mean to say that Jarod is," Jacsen remarks, his lips quirking. "That was what led to his knowing, I'll wager."
Rose snorts mirthfully. "No, my lord Jacsen, I'm afraid you're pretty, too. It's a curse you're going to have to bear." She drops onto her back and sighs at the ceiling, lacing her fingers across her middle. "I actually told Jarod. I — I thought I was going to have to come out entirely. To everyone. And just accept the consequences. It's a long story what led to that, but — in the end, it was all a terrible idea. Right then I couldn't conceive a worse one than continuing to lie, but…" She shakes her head. "It's all so tangled and the roots are so fucking deep. Sweet, sodding Seven, it hurts my brain, sometimes."
He leans back some when Rose lays upon the bed, using an elbow to prop him up on his side, the position ever mindful of his ruined leg. "So what do you intend, then?" Jacsen wonders, his eyes pondering the young woman's features, even as she stares at the ceiling. "Once you've sworn your oaths, and earned the right to call yourself Ser… though I suspect the right won't be respected by more than a few… do you do your duties as a Lady of the Mire? Live some inexplicably simple life despite the twist and turns that have brought you this far?" There is nothing of malice to his words, though they might not paint the fairest picture for his expectations of how this all might proceed, only the curiosity he makes plain.
She laughs at that — not a merry laugh, but not unkind, either. More as though he's suggested something unthinkable. "What?" She turns her head, dark eyes meeting those of piercing blue. "First of all, I am no longer a lady. I was disowned when I ran away to be a minstrel's whore — " which she didn't, actually, but… details " — and that's fine by me. But do you really think this is some idle fancy? That I've bled and fought and broken bones, poured sweat, pushed through agony, slept barely a wink, been beaten up and beaten others down," she starts laughing again as she rattles it all off, "swept a melee, lied and wept and loved and lost… to not see this through?" She shakes her head. "I've paid dearly as any man for the right to call myself Ser. Dearer. And I mean to live a knight and die a knight, after."
He shakes his head, laughing lightly. "Oh no, I do not doubt that you will wish to live every inch the knight you have struggled to become," Jacsen assures her. "But there is more to life than just that, Rose, being a knight will never be the whole of your being. Do you wish to be a mother? A wife? Do you wish to swear yourself to a lord and settle, or would you think to wander Westeros, the awe-inspiring curio that you would surely become?"
Rose tips her head, then rolls onto her side and props herself up on an elbow, as well. "I don't know," she admits. "I mean, I've never been in love, save for with your silly brother. I'm not sure I ever will again. And besides," she smirks, "every time I ever hear it discussed, everyone starts flailing and insisting marriage is not for love!" She rolls her eyes. "So I suppose, then, I'd only get married if I wanted children. And I doubt I'd be a very good mother, off gallivanting around and putting down brigands and tyrants and keeping the peace, all the time."
Jacsen's lips turn wry. "Just because he is your first love, does not mean he will be your last," he promises, with something that hints at the familiarity he might share with the topic. "You will likely always keep a fondness for him, and mayhap no other will quite match it, but… life is too short for us to be lonely too long." He lifts his free shoulder in a shrug. "Though perhaps you will simply seek companionship to fill those times, and go on loving the lout still. I'm no expert in the minds of women, least of all those that go out of their way to be men."
"Mayhaps," sighs Rose, closing her eyes with a faint wince. "Gods, I do hope not. It's breathtakingly painful." She drops her crooked arm flat and rests her head upon it. "So," she asks, opening her eyes to look at him. "What will you do? Now that you know?"
"What is there to be done? You have made your choice, and pledged to Gedeon Rivers," Jacsen reminds the young lady, "You do not belong to the Roost in name, no matter the contents of your heart." He lets out a long breath. "I might curse my brother for a fool, to have let you go, but beyond that… I would rather keep this to myself. I've no desire to answer a query put by brother, sister, or father that I "cannot say what I know, for it is not my secret" or whatever else Jarod is forced to parrot."
He shakes his head. "No, Rose, I think your secret safe with me."
"I knew it would be," says Rose, softly. "I don't know how. Maybe because you're a Terrick and — maybe because you're you. But I knew." She sighs deeply, smiling. "Thank you. I really don't need Jarod hating me any more than he does already. At least… if I avoid him, I won't have any more wounds to lick. If he knew about this, though, he'd certainly come after me for corrupting his little brother." She lifts an eyebrow with a dessicated smirk. "Because I am a girl, after all, and poison."
"Mayhap you've charmed me, or I feel some sympathy for the situation you find yourself in," Jacsen supposes, lifting that one shoulder in a slight shrug. "But whatever it is, you're welcome." Those blue eyes of his, warm at this distance, where otherwise they always seem so sharp, drift down the space of the bed between them, and down to where his legs dangle off the end. "While one could argue your reasons, and your choices, Rose…" It is clear what he says his does with some reluctance, and hesitation. "You've a dream. I've seen what happens to those who have their dream torn from them…" His voice grows a touch softer. "For your love of my brother, and his for you, if nothing else… I'd not visit the same on you."
Rose reaches across the space between them, settling a hand on his. "I'm sorry for your dream, Jack," she says softly. "Isn't the reason we dreamed our dreams in the first place, though, to make the world better? To uphold noble ideals, to help people, to see justice done? You can still do that." Her expression, made tender with sympathy, is absent of pity. "I know it's not the way you hoped, but never give up the heart of your dream. The Seven may shut a door, but never without opening a window. And so you've come home, when we most need you."
His hand turns and grasps hers, though it's one far too calloused and rough to feel as if it belongs to a lady, and draws it to his lips, placing on its back the lightest of affections. "You are kind, Rose." Jacsen says but that, releasing her slender digits, and begins to sit up, presumably to stand.
"I'm honest," counters Rose, then chuckling at the irony, sitting up as well, she adds, "when I can be. Which is now." Bekkah, who had been happily half snoozing, crawls over on her belly to lick Jacsen's hand, giving a soft whuff. "Bekkah says thank you, too," Rose translates. She pauses, rubbing the kissed-spot on the back of her hand with her thumb. "Huh. You know, that's the first time that's ever happened."
It might be her words, or the affectionate attention of Bekkah, that cause Jacsen to remain there, seated on the edge of the bed, his attention only turning back to the squire at those last few words. "Then I'll consider myself honored," the Terrick lord decides, "Though peculiar the honor might be." He cannot seem to quite summon his smile anew, though the barest note of it is there in his voice.
Rose gently nudges his knee with hers, a shyly affectionate gesture. She's silent a moment, glancing at his non-smile. She takes a breath. "So!" she says brightly. "A Northman and a Crannogman are traveling together, when they come across a sheep with its head stuck between the posts of a fence. Poor thing can't go anywhere — so the Crannogman whoops! "This is my lucky day!" he cries, and runs over and buggers it." A beat. "When he's done, he turns to his companion, all generous-like. "Your turn!" And the Northman frowns in digust, then sighs. "All right. Fine," he says." Another beat. ""But do I have to put my head in the fence?""
He's amused, the look in his eyes says it, though his mouth keeps a tight line. Tighter than it aught to be, unless he were holding back some laughter, truth be told. "Oh, just go fetch my cane, won't you?" Jacsen mutters good-naturedly, shaking his head. "Bloody Crannogmen."