|Not the Killing Kind|
|Summary:||But someone is. Ser Jarod and Ser Bruce shake down an interested and chatty party about the murder of Jens Howard, and they learn more than either of them bargained for about a potential killer.|
|Related Logs:||Murder at Rockcliff; Quick and Dirty; How To Do a Fighting Man|
|Rockcliff Inn — Terrick's Roost|
|RoThe Rockcliff Inn is one of the better inns within the town and it shows with the well-lit interior and the relative cleanliness to the other locations in Terrick's Roost. The tables are polished with oils and the floor regularly swept. A set of booths towards a darker rear of the Inn's bottom floor, just beneath the staircase, are where whores generally socialize and eye prospects from when not waiting tables. Signs over the undersized bar area advertise prices for ales and wines as well as several different choices of food to be served at the small eating area by the bar or in the main open area in its comfortable seating. A door behind the bar leads to the kitchen and cellar while another near the staircase leads to a private room that would appear to be off-limits to the 'wait staff' except for food and drink service.|
|Thu Aug 18, 288|
Ser Jarod Rivers, in the company of Ser Bruce Longbough, has found his way to Rockcliff for a word with a piece in the puzzle of the murder of Master Jens Howard. That piece happens to be a barmaid Master Howard had reportedly spent a few nights with during his time at the Roost, before someone with a knife brought his time there to an unfortunate end. One Mistress Ruby. They've been granted a private room in which to work her over - figuratively speaking - and Jarod has just entered it.
The look Ser Bruce wears on his face is not his usual jovial smile. Instead, his mouth is pressed in a hard line, just a step above a frown. He wears a boiled leather cuirass over his padded jerkin and tunic. He told Ser Jarod, before they left, that he felt it made him look more serious and martial without wearing real armour. In truth, he looks a bit ridiculous, as he himself conceded. He enters behind the bastard born knight, scoping the room out.
Ruby had been working the common room, prior to the arrival of the two knights, and thus is still dressed for the tavern as she enters the back room: a plain linen dress of light green, laced up tight at the waist over an unbleached chemise and green slippers. The woman's curly red hair would fall to mid back if it weren't gathered up to the back of her head. She has a winning, if slightly vacant smile, and a merry tone to her voice as she greets Jarod with, "Ser Knight," dipping in a curtsey that does nothing to show good manners, and everything to show the contents of her neckline. A grin aside to Bruce, after.
Jarod is still in one of the the well-made green tunics he favors, for his part, little touches of blue waves embroidered on the sleeves of this one. Terrick sash wrapping his belt - the only real indication of his office - at which hangs his sword and a knife. "Mistress Ruby." Jarod offers her a nod of his head, though there's none of his usual good cheer or easy, joking manner the woman might know today. "Sit down, please. This is Ser Bruce Longbough, who's in sworn service to Lord Ryker Nayland of Stonebridge. We're here to speak with you on the matter of the death of Master Jens Howard."
"Aye, that we are, Mistress Ruby." As of now, it appears that Ser Bruce doesn't have much to say. His hands rest on his swordbelt, one at the pommel of his arming sword, and one at his dirk. He doesn't bother to soften his expression for the wench's benefit, but his eyebrows do lift as she curtsies. Eyes wander, a bit.
Ruby's eyes get a bit wider, as the topic is raised. "Oh," he murmers in a smaller voice, nodding twice and settling into the chair she is directed to. "A proper shame, it is, Ser. Sers, that is-" she corrects herself, looking again aside to Bruce, lest she be rude.
Jarod pulls out a chair for Bruce next to one he seems to mean for himself. Then he settles in to sit. Across from Ruby, so he's got a good view of her face while they talk. "To start, I want you to tell us of the nature of your relationship with Master Howard, and what you knew of his character. And speak plainly, Mistress. We're not here to judge you or besmirch your conduct, but a man's life is gone, and it's a matter requiring all facts. So we can't be too gentle over details. We already understand he'd kept your company some nights during his stay here."
Bruce produces his smoking pipe from a pouch at the back of his belt, and a pouch of some brown stuff that he sprinkles into the pipe. His attention is directed towards the pipe as he does this, and then to a nearby tallow candle, on the table. He raises a stick that he's carried with him to light on the flame, then lights his pipe with it. The smell is mild, a bit woody. As he's going through the procedure, it's as if Ruby isn't there in the room at all. His dark green eyes flit over to the other knight. Still, he says nothing, and takes a seat. He seems more interested in the smoke coming out of his pipe, now, than anything else. In truth, he is still listening.
"Oh aye," Ruby nods to Jarod's last, managing a bit of a grin again as she answers, "He did, at that. Favored me the last time he came through as well, Ser. And the time before at that, a few months back, I think?" She thinks visibly for a moment, before nodding, satisfied with her recollection. "Jens- Master Howard, that is- was one of them forceful sorts, Ser.. but not in a bad way, mind. And with all those scars?" Ahem, back on subject. "Always left good coin, and didn't tell me to shut up like some menfolk do. Was a real good listener, Ser."
"He'd come through town before?" This gets Jarod's interest. "Do you recall how many times, Mistress? And the dates - even rough ones - or occasions connected with them? We're given to understand he was often in the service of Ser Rygar Nayland." His nose twitches as Bruce lights his pipe. Curiously, more than anything else. He has the general air of someone trying to place the sort of stuff being smoked.
Ruby nods twice again, setting curls to bouncing at Jarod's query of Howard having been through before. "A few times, aye. Umm…" Thinking, thinking, "Well, two week ago, when the Stonebride Naylands first came. Before that? Three months before, I think?"
The smell is something that comes from beyond the Narrow Sea, to be sure. And probably pricey, too. Why Bruce, a knight of rather modest means compared to some, smokes it, is anyone's guess. He decides to play the silent man role, right now. With a stern look still on his face and his features somewhat obscured by the smoke, he stares directly at Ruby.
Ruby nods twice again, setting curls to bouncing at Jarod's query of Howard having been through before. "A few times, aye. Umm…" Thinking, thinking, "Well, two week ago, when the Stonebride Naylands first came. Before that? Three months before, I think?" The woman's answers sound more like questions, the words ending in an upward inflection. On the subject of Rygar, the barmaid winces. "Oh me- I thought poor Amelia was going to faint of fright."
"Two weeks ago and three months ago." Jarod nods. The first of those dates doesn't seem to surprise, though the latter makes him frown, a little puzzled. "I don't suppose you'd know what the Naylands were up to three months ago, Ser Longbough?" he asks of Bruce, though he sounds doubtful. New as the man is to service to Lord Ryker. He shrugs, going on. "Yes, that was when Ser Rygar came with a writ of arrest for Amelia." Again he pauses to explain to Bruce. "Amelia of Seagard was a prostitute who worked Rockcliff, Ser. She was accused of stealing silver from the Tordane treasury, though my half-brother, Young Lord Jaremy, kept Ser Rygar and his men - who I guess included Master Howard - from taking her. She was questioned and not much came of the incident, though I can't say I know precisely how it was resolved between my Young Lord Jaremy and the Tordanes."
"Three months ago, I was putting my sword in the neck of some brigand fool enough to raid on the road near Riverrun, by Lord Hoster Tully's command. And my friend the Lord Ryker Nayland was still a Ser. So, to answer the question, I do not, Ser Jarod." Bruce answers gruffly, frowning. "I've heard of this Amelia. I've seen her, too. She tended to the wounded at Stoney Sept, and the Trident. From what I've heard and who she beds, the thought of her needing to steal silver is patently ridiculous. But who am I to say." He shrugs, and turns back to face Ruby.
"Oh, no- well, not quite, Ser.." Ruby half corrects Jarod. "Jens didn't ride in with that-" she bites off her words, by taking her lower lip between teeth, before she says something rude. "He- Master Howard, that is… he came in the night before. Was gone by the time the Stonebridge knights rode in. Holly thinks its because he was hiding from them? But that's silly, and I told her so." Apparently Jens Howard not telling Ruby to shut up was a selling point, as the girl certainly can be chatty.
"The whole incident was very odd. I agree in general, I don't figure she stole it," Jarod says. "I might should've pressed my brother harder about it at the time, but I figured best to give him some room to deal with it. He had some fondness for Amelia of Seagard." Ruby's addition about Howard's not-quite involvement with Ser Rygar's party makes him frown. "Why did Holly think he'd be hiding from Nayland men, Mistress?"
"Are you talking about the Stonebridge knights who came a fortnight ago, or of the one's from Hag's Mire who came before, lass?" Bruce's eyebrows knit.
"Because there's hardly a wrong idea to be had in the world that Holly hasn't had at least twice," Ruby sniffs imperiously, giggling a bit at the joke a moment later. Bruce is answered, "Oh, the stonebridge knights who came for Amelia. You see-" she looks back to Jarod, "Holly thought that the business with Amelia was all a cover to search the place for Jens? Because she has this idea that Jens was up to no good, but that's just sour grapes, is what it is. Besides, just two weeks ago he came riding back with the Stonebridge Naylands, and that just proves how wrong she was."
"Huh…" Jarod takes a moment to absorb that. He doesn't press further on this Holly's fool ideas, but he plainly isn't dismissing them so quick as Ruby. "It struck me as odd, Mistress, that Master Howard chose to stay here at the inn, while nearly all of Lord Ryker's other men accepted our castle's hospitality. Did he mention to you his reasons?"
Bruce doesn't seem likely to press further on whatever talk of folly or conspiracy Ruby's going on about. He does ask, though, "Were you with him the night he died?" He glowers.
"Oh, not odd at all, Ser," Ruby notes to Jarod with an easy smile. "He'd have been stuck in the common hall, with the castle so full. Instead, he had a room of his own with a real bed and a real bedmate," she smirks, tone almost flirting. The playful edge dies a swift death when Bruce mentions 'the night he died'. She shakes her head twice, glancing down. "No, Ser. I weren't. The night before, aye.. but not-" She closes her lips, brings in a breath through the nose, and blinks twice.
"Well, where were you, then?" Jarod asks, leaning forward a little, to watch the woman closer. "We know you weren't working that night, though that only means you had the evening free to do as you pleased. We also know something that strikes me at least as very odd." He pauses, trying to meet her eyes with his. "We know you paid in silver to rent one of three the private rooms at the inn that neighbored Master Howard's the night he died. Claiming it was for a 'friend.' None can immediately tell me who. Master Howard died in the one just by it. The other was taken by my own House's Master of the Hunt, who is too much a drunk to give good witness to anything that happened that night. Were you in the third? Or do you know the one who was?"
"Nobody seemed to have seen this 'friend' of yours, Ruby. You'd best tell us what went on." Bruce insists, plucking the pipe from his mouth. He blows some of the woody smoke her way.
"My oldest brother keeps a little farm south of the Roost a bit, ser. Little thing, a few fields and some apple trees. He tried planting grapes one year, but the weather is too wet- anyway," Ruby reins herself back onto topic. "Went to see him and the little ones for a bit.." Then the talk of silver and the rented room, and the 'was it you' accusation go on, and her eyes widen again, once more nibbling at her lower lip as the girl shakes her head three times, "I wasn't Jarod- no, no, no I wasn't, I swear!" A bit of panic creeps into her voice, before Bruce's pointed words and woodsmoke pull her eye. "She said it were to meet a gentleman, Ser- said it would get them both in bad trouble if it came out, and it would just be for a night, just one little night!"
"If you were with your brother and his family that night, Ruby, that's easy enough for us to check on," Jarod says. Almost gently. Playing the good cop to Bruce's more smoke-blowing cop, perhaps. "Now we've known each other some, and I don't think you're the killing type. But this was the blackest of murder, Ruby. A woman - and we're sure it was a woman - slipped into Master Howard's bed, climbed on top of him, got him happy and comfortable as any man would be, and then she slit his throat cold-blooded as you please and took his purse. The person who done this is dangerous, Ruby, and perhaps used your good heart to get her in a position where she might do the deed. Now if it wasn't you, tell us who it was, and you'll come to nothing bad from this. My word on it."
"Actually, didn't even do him the bother of slitting him in the throat, I'm told. He didn't bleed out quick like, like when you slash all the bloodways in a man's throat. No, he got stabbed right here." Bruce motions at his adam's apple. "I once seen a man take a quarrel there. Took him five minutes to die, writhing all around. " He pauses to put his pipe back in his mouth and adopt a more serene expression. "You're not the type to do somat like that. You're a good lass, remind me of a girl at Raventree Hill I grew up with. Ya'd never do somethin'. But, Gods grant me wisdom, I think ya might'a helped someone else, maybe by accident, maybe by threat. Well?"
Ruby nods twice again, the motion panicked, but ever so slightly settling at Jarod's assurance. "Oh, he will, they all will. Josep Grove, you might know of him?" Then shakes her head emphatically at the notion of being the 'killing type'. Wide eyed, she nibbles her lower lip again glancing aside and getting a bit pale when the murder is described. "S'not just me, though, Jarod.. -I mean, Ser," she whispers, daring to glance back up at the Rivers knight. "It'll be bad for the gentleman, too. She said it would. And I think-" Then Bruce resumes his description and she looks back down, hands raised to shake by the sides of her face in a physical effort to not hear any more. "Oh Seven, oh Seven.."
"Easy now, Ruby, easy," Jarod says, tone still a little soft. "You see? That's not something you could've done, is it? I don't believe so. But the person who did it is still walking free in the world, and we can't have that. Master Howard deserves justice. And the murderer…Ruby, she knows you know who she is, don't she? You think someone who did a deed like that would hesitate to do you as well? Now, just tell us who you rented that room for, and we can protect you. You don't, we can't, and we got nowhere to look for the one who did this but you."
"We've got Terrick lads here, and I can call up some of my men to protect you as well, Ruby. I'm going to be the new Captain of the Guard at Stonebridge, for Lord Ryker. We've more than enough to protect you from some brigand. But first, you need to tell us." Bruce says, leaning back in his seat. He folds his hands over eachother, in front of him.
Ruby is at the point of tears, with the first few streaks starting to trickle free. "She didn't say who her gentleman was, Sers.. but-" She glances between the two, bottom lip shaking for a moment, before whispering, "I don't know if Terrick men will help, Jarod. It- ..it was Amelia."
Jarod blinks. For a second, he can't say much, just taking that in. Green eyes going from Ruby, then to Bruce. "Fuck me to seven hells…" he mutters.
Bruce arches an eyebrow and looks to the other knight. "How many sworn swords ya got?"
"I'm sorry, Ser- I never meant for.." Ruby begins quietly, before going quiet and biting her bottom lip hard as she stares between the knights with wide blue eyes, unwittingly holding her breath a long moment.
"A dozen dubbed knights, counting myself, though one's gone on assignment for the Young Lord just now. About thirty retainers on top of that who are good men at arms," Jarod replies to Bruce. He lets out a long, slow exhale. "Ruby, we'll go and talk to your brother tonight to check story. Some of my men will take you back to the castle. Not to the dungeons. This isn't arrest. If my father and Lady Terrick allow perhaps you can work in the kitchens, or as a serving maid. But I don't think you're safe in this town on your own just now." And he doesn't terribly want her bolting, though he doesn't add that.
"If ya want, I can bring down some of the lads from Stonebridge. Haven't had much of a chance to know 'em, but I'm told they're reliable. Good swords, if'n ya need, just say the word, mate." Bruce rubs at his eyes, lowering the pipe from his lips again. "Aye, I imagine this other lass is well connected. Lotta people whisperin' in her ears. No doubt, they seen ya talk to us. Do as Ser Jarod bids, Ruby, and you'll be alright." He councils.
Ruby nods twice quickly at Jarod's instruction. And once more, slower as Bruce offers his advice. Belatedly letting out the held breath to answer, she gulps down a breath and murmers, "Al- alright. If you think so, I'll go. I'll work, too- I will."
"I'd appreciate any help on beating the bushes for this one, Ser Longbough. She knows the area and has friends here," Jarod says to Bruce. "I'd recommend searching around Stonebridge way as well. It's not a long journey, even if you're lacking a horse. Nearest place if this town don't suit you. She might've gone that way by now, to hide out. Though it'd be dangerous to head the direction that's ruled by the lord of the man you just did murder to. She might've fled to Seagard as well. That's where she was born. And there are ships there that'll take you anywhere you please, if you've the silver to pay passage." He frowns. "In addition to searching for her, we should get the word out. My father will offer a reward in good silver for this woman's capture. If it's matched by the treasury at Stonebridge, I think she'd find far fewer friends or places to hide anywhere near here."
Bruce rubs at his chin, as he often does when he's puzzled by a decision he ought to make. "I'm almost of the mind to make her think she's safe, eh? Would keep her off guard, no? Ah, but I guess then we couldn't have lads going through the towns, looking for her. I don't have any local connections… you have anyone on tap who's a bit more sneaky?" As for Ruby, she gets a sympathetic smile. "You need a cuppa wine, lass. Calm your nerves. Everything's going to be alright for ya."
"I figure she's too far a head start now for us to get much out of stealth," Jarod says. "With the looks of this, I wouldn't terribly mind putting the fear of all Seven into her. As for sneaky…I'll think on it. That definitely don't describe me, but I've men I trust who're a bit more subtle. And who're less known to Amelia of Seagard. I'll get all the men who're able out looking for her. For my own part, I may be headed to Stonebridge tomorrow. My brother, Young Lord Jaremy's, got an idea to ride there to have a talk about…something with your Lord Ryker Nayland." He frowns. "The timing of it's all wrong if you ask me, but its highlord business and he'll not be swayed, and it's my duty to protect his trueborn ass. I can leave matters here in hands of those I trust. And perhaps speak with Ser Rygar Nayland about any…dealings Amelia might've had with Master Howard we're not aware of. If you're tired of the hospitality of the Roost, you can ride back with us."
"I wouldn't say I'm tired of the hospitality, mate. But, on the other hand, if I'm to roust my own lads to do this search, I might be good to get to know them a bit first, eh?" Bruce is starting to be back to his old self. He flashes a grin and a wink at the younger knight. "So I think I will, ayup."
Jarod returns the grin with a boyish one of his own. It makes him look even younger than his one-and-twenty years, though his green eyes remain sober and serious. He stands, extending a hand to Bruce. "We'll finish the job, Ser Longbough, one way or another. I hope when it's done and things're calmer we get a chance to drink again. And perhaps you'll share some of that whatever-it-was you were smoking. Never smelled weed quite like that before, though from the nose it had a better taste to it than what passes for smoke in the Riverlands generally."
Bruce laughs harshly. "Ha! It don't do anything for ya, like drink does. It's just some fancy herb that my wife's father thought to buy for me, for his own reasons, I guess. I guess he thinks I enjoy the finer things in life… which ain't true. I'm as base as the whore who slew Jens Howard. Well, maybe baser, since she services the nobles." He turns his gaze to Ruby, still smiling. "Well, you ready?"
"I'll take some off your hands. I confess, baseborn though I may be, I got spoiled by a few of life's finer things. Hope you won't judge me too poorly for it. And I'm ready. If you could ride out to Mistress Ruby's kinfolk and check her story with her brother, I'd be obliged. Just to make certain everything squares. I'll take her back to the castle now, get things settled up with my father. Get a few men out tonight as well, to make a search of some of the houses where she was particularly known," Jarod says.
Ruby nods again, hesitant to say anything as the two knights turn to jests and smiles, while the barmaid is still clearly mired in the prior discussion: moving to the castle to keep her safe and alive. "Yes, ser," the redhead murmers quietly, rising the from the chair, and swallowing against a suddenly dry mouth.
Bruce nods understandingly at Jarod. He reaches into his back pouch again and pulls out some of the herb, rolling it up in a small piece of wax paper and handing it to the other knight. As he cleans his hands, he replies, "Ayup, will do. And tomorrow, I'll get some of my men to help scour. Well, safe travels then, Ser Jarod." He smiles softly at Ruby. "And you too, little miss. Everything'll work out fine for ya."
"I'll send you on your way with some good strong wine from my father's kitchen, in some poor repayment," Jarod says, taking the roll with a thankful nod. It goes into the small bag at his belt. Then he attends to Ruby, offering her his arm. "Don't worry now. You done good here, and I'll make sure no harm comes to you. It'll be all right."
Ruby sets her hand onto the offered arm, mustering a smile for the offer and voicing, "Thank you, ser." Another swallow and two short nods. The girl's hand is shaking slightly as she draws in a deep breath before following the kngiht's lead out of the inn's room.
"Oho, that's a fair repayment indeed. And with a good strong wine I go, ho ho." Bruce, grinning like a fool, in contrast with his earlier scowl, goes prancing out of the room. He looks the fool, too, in his boiled leather cuirass, singing. But that's him, Ser Bruce Longbough. The door closes behind him.
Jarod puts his arm around Ruby's shoulders and leads her away. It's a comforting gesture. He doesn't even try and cop a feel. This is serious business.