Page 062: Of Guardsmen and Other Matters
Of Guardsmen and Things Past and Hats
Summary: Jarod gives Stragen a new hat to go with his many others. They talk on the matter of Raffton Howell, the Tordane letters, and other long-past business.
Date: 15/09/2011
Related Logs: Of Correspondence and Girls and Dead Septons
Jarod Stragen 
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.
Thu Sep 15, 288

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.

Ser Jarod Rivers has a tendency to conduct business with his guardsmen that he considers 'private' in the armory. The door bolts and access is limited, so it functions well enough if one doesn't mind leaning against shelves containing arms and armor while one chats. He's just leading Stragen in now, and shutting the door behind him. "So, Master Stone. How're you getting on in your duties here, then?" Presumably he's got something touchier in mind than that to discuss, but it's what he opens with.

Stragen, having settled into a role of 'many hats', from patroling the grounds to manning the dungeons, has more or less kept his nose clean since separating from his previous charge, Lady Liliana Camden. "Fair enough, Ser Jarod. Nothing to complain about. I get the occasional foul look but no one's given me any noise, of course." A beat. "I take it you have some delicate business to discuss, else we wouldn't be hiding in a closet, whispering and giggling like maidens."

"I assure you, Master Stone, I've never giggled like a maiden in my life," Jarod says with an easy grin. Though his manner isn't quite as merry as usual. "But, aye. Got an assignment of some delicacy for you. Shouldn't entail too much different than you're doing now, for the moment, but if things go tits-up it might get messy. First and foremost. How much you heard about this business with Lady Isolde Nayland Nee Tordane, and some…letters that Ser Gedeon Rivers brought with him back to the Riverlands, concerning her? The rumors seem to be spreading pretty wide, but I don't know how much you're privy to at present."

Stragen shakes his head. "I've not heard a peep from the Lady Isolde since the tournament some months back," he admits. "I've heard some buzz but I keep my nose clean, Ser. You know me. Boots polished and jerkin oiled, and all that." His eyes narrow somewhat. "Why? What're the implications? If you don't mind me asking."

"Wise way to approach the world, Master Stone. Particularly in this matter. It's a lot of highborn politics and rumors and innuendos and much other bullshit I've little head for. But I'll give you the quick and dirty version, so you know the larger picture of it. Ser Gedeon Rivers - the bastard of the late Lord Geoffrey Tordane, Seven keep his soul - had these letters in his possession when he returned to the Riverlands. One was written by Lord Geoffrey himself, or so Gedeon claims. In it, the late Lord Tordane said he wanted to have Gedeon legitimized, for his bastard son would be his only surviving blood, if he and Gedeon and Isolde's brother Geonis were to fall on the field." Pause.

"Following that, this letter also claimed that Isolde Tordane was no daughter of Lord Geoffrey's. That she was bastard-born, of some affair with Lady Valda and…whoever. Letter didn't say, and I couldn't even begin to guess on that one. Not that Lady Valda Nee Frey isn't a fine-looking woman for her age, don't misunderstand, but I'd sooner lay with a poisonous viper than get next to her. Still, somebody must have at least twice, for she has children, so there's that."

Stragen folds his arms across his chest, frowning more and more as Jarod reveals the high treachery and noble's manipulation. "You realize, Ser Jerod, and forgive me for pointing this out - he's fucking scamming the lot of you." He begins stroking his braided beard, scowling in thought. "Question is, who is benefitting from this? Who is backing his play? No one would have the balls to try something like this unless they had help." (repose)

Jarod shrugs. "He may be. He may be not. I've turned it over in my head several times and even now I'm not so sure. Gedeon had other letters as well. These ones supposedly saved by his lord father, between Lord Geoffrey and Lady Valda. They were…sweet nothings, I guess. Written when Lord Tordane was in the Westerlands for tourneys and…being away from his wife, and Lady Valda was in the Riverlands. The dates…well, they were around the time Isolde Tordane should've been conceived. Lord Geoffrey *was* in the Westerlands, at both Banefort and the Crag, during the time those letters claim he was. We've verified that. Isn't hard proof by itself, of course, but it doesn't disprove Gedeon's claim, either, and it adds some strength to it. And there's something else, too." He pauses again, frown settling on his features. "Gedeon showed the letters to Lady Isolde, before he showed them to anyone else. Except me." Snort. "And…well, I figured it was best handled between the pair of them at first. He gave her the letters to read over. She said she'd give them back to him. She never did, though." He shrugs. "Anyway. I guess she gave them to someone skilled in the reading of such things to see if they could verify Lord Geoffrey's hand, or call them forgeries. The old high septon here, come to it. Septon Amery. What do you figure the high septon made of them?"

Stragen shrugs lightly. "Three possibilities," he states. "He verified their authenticity, he lied under duress or bribe or threat, or he identified they were forgeries. I'm going to guess he stated they were authentic, else, you wouldn't be approaching me about this matter. So the question is, is he being truthful, or is he being coerced."

A small pause, and then he narrows his gaze at Jarod distrustfully. "I need to know, Ser, why are you telling me these things? Unless you're planning on having me run Gedeon through, I don't have the resources to help you prove or disprove his claim."

"No plans to kill the other Ser Rivers at present," Jarod says with a shrug. "And aye. The septon apparently said they were authentic, a thing which up until quite a short time ago was - far as I can tell - known only to the Naylands and youg Septon Josse, who assisted him in some manner. Though I say apparently because we can't ask Amery himself. He's said. Keeled clean over long after those letters left his possession." His expression darkens. "Septon Josse says he'd never seen a man in good health die in the manner which Septon Amery did. Though there are apparently several poisons that might've done it. You a believer in the Seven, Master Stone?"

Stragen nods quickly. "Aye, I am. Despite coming from the four corners of the seven kingdoms, and begotten by the loins of the foulest men to walk these fair lands, I believe in the Seven, and not ridiculous trees or waterlogged gods. Why do you ask?"

"Because I am as well, so I wanted to feel out if you'd have a head for how serious I hold this matter," Jarod says. "I'm an imperfect man when it comes to the virtues, Master Stone, but I was anointed a knight in the seven oils and sworn before them in the sept, and I do try and live up to them in my fashion. I'd never do harm to a holy man. And I figure one that would…there's not much of evil deeds they wouldn't do." He lets out a long breath. "I've been trying to look into the matter of Septon Amery's death, but it's a murky thing. Two things that strike me as suspicious I've learned, though. About a week before he died - supposedly when he had those letters - Ser Rygar Nayland apparently came to the sept here. For no good reason. Don't see how one prays in the Roost any better than they pray in Stonebridge or the Mire. What precisely the good ser did while he was here is unclear, though I'm wondering if he might've met up with one of our fellow guardsman." A pause. "That's the second thing. Septon Amery took a confession from one soul the day before his death. Young Master Raffton Howell, of my own House guard. By itself…don't mean anything. But he's the only one from outside the sept itself that Septon Josse can place as having the opportunity to perhaps do something ill to the high septon, so…" He trails off, shrugging. "…it don't sit well with me at present."

"So you'd want me to talk to Howell, then." This is a statement, not a question. "And, possibly, heading down Nayland-wards and poking about. Aye, I'd leave my tabard and such here as to not directly imply your Lord Father." A beat. "Is that what you want, Ser Jarod?"

"Talk, yes, though perhaps not quite in the way you think. At least for the moment," Jarod says. "I'd like you to keep an eye on Master Howell. I'll be assigning you to work the same shifts, same sort of duties, as him. That shouldn't occasion much comment. The men rotate from this-to-that for every sort of reason. Buddy up with him. Complain about what a spend-thrift my lord father is and what a spoiled and arrogant fake lordling unworthy of my position that I am, and see if he might complain back. And perhaps speak of other Houses - Nayland or otherwise - who might supply a man willing to dirty his hands within these walls some additional coin. Or just tell stories about the Iron Islands. Whatever gets him talking. And if he looks likely to bolt from these lands or do something nasty…well, don't kill him, but I won't be cross if you need to do him a few amusing injuries." He cracks a half-smile. "That's all for the moment. I've no real proof he was up to anything, and I'd like to get my father and lord brothers' ideas on how to proceed with him. Still, I want him kept a better eye on than I'm presently in a position to do. As for poking about Nayland-wards…it may come to that. Not yet. But it may. And I'll keep in mind you're an able man for such tasks, Master Stone."

"I've got a bit of a bone to pick with the Naylands, especially after Ser Rygar dismissed me with a bowl full of bullshit about the Lord Geoffrey and his son's death at the Battle of the Trident. He knows the truth, and I'm eager to get it out of him." Nodding affirmatively, Stragen puts a hand over his heart. "I'm sworn to secrecy, Ser. I'll talk to Howell and get him talking. No promises he'll be recognizable if he tries anything funny."

Jarod's grin grows into a full one at that. "I most certainly don't need him pretty, Master Stone. Wouldn't mind having some fear put him, in point of fact, if the opportunity avails itself to you. Do what you feel." Though the first part of that has him curious, and he comes back to it. "Bowl of bullshit? What was that? And what truth about the deaths of Lord Geoffrey and Ser Geonis do you figure Ser Rygar knows?"

Stragen snorts. "How they fell. Under whose hand." He shakes his head. "I wasn't there when it happened; it was in the thick of things. It wasn't clear. And if it was a Nayland hand that struck them down, I'll kill every last one of them." There's an unusual, cruel glint in Stragen's eyes - apparently this is something of a sticking point for him. But it fades just as quickly. "Any way I can help the Lady Isolde, and her allies, I will, Ser."

"Lady Isolde, alas, is no longer a vassal to this House," Jarod says. And he does sound very sad over it. "She is the Lady Nayland, with all that implies, and our lives have gone very different ways. Still…if there was something darker than the heat of battle surrounding the deaths of her lord father and brother, I'd see justice done for it. If there wasn't…it was chaos on those fields, Stragen. I was just a boy then. I didn't see it, either. It's all a blur in my mind. And yet…I killed men that day. Who were trying to kill me. My guess is you did, too. Are there men and women out there who'd see vengeance done to us for it?"

Stragen shrugs his shoulders. "Most likely, Ser Jarod. But the trick is killing them, or shaming them completely and utterly, before they can lift a hand or write a word against you."

Jarod chuckles softly at that, though the humor in the sound is grim. "I suppose we've all of us greatly wronged someone in this world, Master Stone. I pray to the Warrior that my foes forgive me, and that I can at least say we fought cleanly and as gentlemen in an honest quarrel, should I meet their loved ones. If they still hold me in poor account…well, I can't say I'd blame them, and I'd meet them blade-for-blade with no ill feelings. Tell me. Did you know the Lady Isolde well? Or Lord Geoffrey, for that matter. I know you brought their bodies home, Seven bless you for it, but I know not how long you were in the Tordanes' service."

"I served Lord Geoffrey, much like how I serve your Lord Father. But, I think, I was somewhat more than just a sell-sword to them. And I felt like I was a part of something greater. The Lady Isolde…" He glances away. "…is a married woman now. Is there anything else?"

"She is at that," Jarod says, tone half-wistful, half-sympathetic at the tone of Stragen's response. "And wed to a Nayland, alas. We were children together - her and Gedeon and my brothers and sister and me - and for long as I can remember I figured we'd be family. Figured we were good as family. Hard to stop thinking on someone that way, whatever the world has in store for them. I'll admit I haven't, though I fear the world has decided that my father's house shall be at odds with her husband's."

"If you'll be turned against the Naylands, Ser Jarod, I would bend knee and turn away your coin," Stragen states, steely gaze on the young Ser. "And we'll rescue the Lady Isolde and slay bastards until they call Hag's Mire the Blood Mire. And that's a promise."

Jarod laughs at that, though it's not a mocking laugh at all. He tosses his head back and grins at the idea, as if picturing it in his mind. "And be the lovely Isolde Tordane's her brave knight and dashing adventurer hero, friend Stragen! We shall slay her Nayland dragons, carry her back to this castle, and duel among ourselves for her hand and love and the right to make her ours forever, and may the best of us win, and the worst of us wish the other nothing but happiness." He snorts. "Never happen, of course, but a pretty tale it'd be for you to spin."

Raising an eyebrow, Stragen's seriousness melts away to a grin. "Are you sure you haven't been listening to my yarns, Ser Jarod? That sounded quite good. Quite good indeed." Nodding, he states, "We're all going to die. Might as well make it a time and place of our choosing."

"Perhaps I'm learning from you expertise, my kinsman in the Vale. Or the North. Or the Iron Islands. Wherever." Jarod shrugs. He doesn't much care. "You owe me more of those tales, by the by, over a pint or several at Rockcliff. But for now, we've both our duties to attend to, and I'll leave you to it. See what Master Howell has to say for himself. I'll be interested to know if *that* one has any tales he's eager to spin."

Stragen nods sharply. "By your leave, Ser Jarod." And with that, he goes.