|Of Words and Actions|
|Summary:||Gedeon and Jacsen discuss what has happened so far and where they might go, next.|
|Godswoods — Riverrun|
|A small forest of redwoods with a taller weirwood tree in the center.|
|14 November 288|
A warm breeze wafts through the heavy branches of the Godswood, and the trees here even this far away from the ominous presence of the bone-white weirwood seem to hang with the weight of generations. If one is silent for a while, it might seem as if they could hear words spoken in the sonorous rustle of branches and leaves. It's there that Jacsen's summons requested Gedeon's presence, and it is there that the Terrick lord can be found, perched atop a rock, eyes closed as if he could listen to the wisdom borne on the breeze.
Another time, Gedeon might be more inclined to move slowly through these trees and to enjoy the sounds here and the sense of something greater than they are hovering close. But with the questions he carries and answers so seemingly close at hand, his pace is a bit brisker. He weaves through the little woods until he comes across the young lord of the Roost, sitting and with his eyes closed. He's got a nice bruised on his jaw, and he asks, "Move over and make room."
His eyes open at the sound of Gedeon's approach, and Jacsen cannot help but look curiously at the bruise the knight wears on his jaw. "How'd you go about earning that?" he wonders, and though his tone is casual, one could probably imagine why he might ask after it here of all places. It is all delicate, the steps they take about the Riverrun. He shoves over a bit to make some room for his old friend.
"Practice sword in the jaw," Gedeon replies with a small roll of his eyes. "Not my proudest moment." He drops down next to Jacsen and turns to regard the lord expectantly, brows lifted, gaze bright and inquisitive.
Jacsen's brow lifts, though he shakes his head with a bit of mirth. "Damn. I suppose it must not have been…" He lets out a breath through his nose, though, and the merriment of his expression sobers. "The last testament, my Lord Tully informs me, passes every measure of verification, Gedeon. It names Isolde heir to Stonebridge, and insists on her marriage to Jaremy," he shares with the Oldstones-sworn knight. "As does the letter you once carried, naming her a bastard, and you Geoffrey Tordane's heir. Neither of them have fault to be found with them, Ged. What do you make of that?"
Gedeon's brow lifts slightly and there is a faint frown for this news. "What can I make of it? Either Lord Geoffrey had a change of heart before he left for the Trident or the Naylands have access to a highly skilled forger. What did you make of it and the Lord Tully?"
He lets out a short sigh at that. "Lord Hoster is in a difficult position, I think. Were it without such dire consequences, I do believe he would simply wave his hand to make Stonebridge yours, and restore a faithful banner to my father's house… but it is not so simple. Above all, he wishes to maintain the King's Peace and to abide by law," Jacsen answers to the questions Gedeon puts to him.
"And a complete seal, even if pressed there by Lady Valda or Ser Rygar, makes the will the stronger document," Gedeon guesses with a sharp breath out. "He will side in favor of the Naylands, then? It's been decided?"
Jacsen shakes his head a fraction. "No, it is not quite done, Ged," he explains, reaching out to put a reassuring hand upon the man's shoulder. "But I'll concede, it does not do us any favors, that seal." He considers Geoffrey Tordane's baseborn son for a long moment, before he asks, "Tell me again, Ged, what was it that finally drove you to make a claim for what your father had insisted should be yours? What, should all this go our way, will it have been for in your heart?"
"The wishes of my father," Gedeon replies, shifting a little so that he might sit in a way that allows him to better regard the man with whom he speaks. "and that the Tordane name live on and that the blood of Lord Geoffrey's line remain in the lords of Stonebridge, as it should be."
The Terrick lord nods to that, listening attentively to what is said. "I want the same things," Jacsen affirms, even as he reaches to his side for his cane, and slips from atop the rock. "I want all of this made right…" He glances up at the rustling leaves of the Godswood. "I'm just not seeing a clear path forward, Ged. This is your birthright, your claim. Can you help me find a way to press on ahead?"
Gedeon slides off the rock, falling into step beside Jacsen. "Well," he muses, scratching thoughtfully at his jaw, the side that isn't sore, "as you met with Rutger Nayland yesterday, I presume you've had at least a few thoughts on the subject. Or that he did."
"None that satisfy me, Ged. Can you not offer me thought or insight as to how I might win you your father's seat?" Jacsen wonders, looking down from the branches to the form of his childhood companion, now like he much grown and changed from those halcyon days. "I am in sore need of it, I promise you."
Gedeon is thoughtful for a few steps, silent. "What can you tell me of this supposed will? I've yet to see the document myself, beyond the flash of it as Ser Rygar presented it."
Jacsen nods once. "It names Isolde his heir, in the event that Geonis dies, and insists on her marriage to Jaremy. It provides for a tournament to be held in his honor, and kindness for the small folk. Your father insisted that his Lady wife be kind to you, though you are not of her womb." He glances over at Gedeon, beginning to walk forward at a slow pace. "That is the sum of it, though your father's language was more eloquent than all that."
"And the document meant to have been written… when?" Gedeon asks, "Just before his departure for the Trident, or earlier than that?"
"Writ, by its words, on the eve of battle at the Trident, when many other folk were turned towards writing home," Jacsen offers, after a moment's recollection. "And the end of it, it mentioned something else… Lord Geoffrey spoke of having quarreled with his Lady before he departed, but insisted it was forgotten. And finally… that he loved her," he finishes.
There is another slow and thoughtful nod from Gedeon. "I'd like to see it," he says. "It may help if I could see the words as they were put to paper. I am no scribe of Hoster Tully, but I would know my father's hand and voice. Perhaps I could point out something as yet unnoticed, if it is there."
He nods to that. "It would seem a reasonable enough request," Jacsen points out, "I'm certain Lord Tully would permit it." His brow climbs, and again he looks to the man that walks at his side. "And what if you cannot find adequate flaw in this document, Ged? Is there aught else you can think of that might make the difference in all of this?"
Gedeon draws in a small and thoughtful breath. "Then include me in these meetings, Jacsen," Gedeon replies earnestly, "with the Tullys and the Nayland, if there is no way around this impasse. Help me press for support for my legitimacy and if nothing else, nothing else, a rightful place in the inheritance of Stonebridge. If this will says Isolde is to marry Jaremy and it was never done, then no matter what parchment wins the day, the Lady Valda is proven faithless and has no right to be castellan of Stonebridge or stand to inherit it. We could push, too, for the marriage between Isolde and Lord Ryker to be dissolved. And insist that the letters, which the Lord Paramount himself has said are true and of my father's hand, are acknowledged publicly as authentic. We have fought hard to reach this place, I put my word and my honor on display for this claim. It has been verified, and if it is not yet enough, I will not be sent to slink away like some scheming wretch out to con away a title."
Jacsen plays the silent counterpart to Gedeon's expansive words, listening to his friend intently, even if his gaze is as much upon the path they slowly walk, on his account, as it is upon the passionate speaker to his side. "The Naylands will not deal with you, Gedeon, though I might be inclined to test how far I might press them on it and attempt to include you regardless. Still, you are right that there is room to challenge the marriage betwixt Lady Isolde and Lord Ryker, but that is a final resort and nothing more, Ged. Down that road is blood, I have no doubt…" He leans heavily on his cane a moment as he comes to a halt, the pained expression in his face only visible for a moment, on account of his leg no doubt. "The truth of it is, that not both your letters and their will can both be true, and if there is no clear way to ensure our victory in this we must walk some aberrant path that tries to acknowledge them both as true. That will mean concessions on either side, and if we are to go down that road, I do not know that it will amount to much without a willingness to share sacrifice on all sides."
Gedeon is quiet as Jacsen speaks, his hands clasping lightly behind his back. "They are both verified as true," he reminds, "which means in the eyes of the law they both are. If the broken seal on my letters makes them less lawful, I would ask that they not be painted as false." He draws in a slow breath through his nose, "But I see you have been thinking well on this. So tell me, then, what such sacrifices do you feel we should be prepared to make?"
"Considering the right to challenge the marriage aside… I think Stonebridge lost to us, though it pains me to admit it, at least for the time being," Jacsen concedes, after a careful nod of agreement to Gedeon's words of the letters. "But not all is lost. For there are letters you bear which exist as more than enough to provide a reasonable challenge to the testament, and Isolde's rule… and if the testament itself is legal, then it has already been broken in heavy measure by Lady Valda. You are due the costs of your knighthood, and my eldest brother is due a wife. Through that, painful concessions might be made, enough to forstall the Nayland advance, and ensure some measure of balance against their growth. Further, your claim should be supported, or at least lacking in impediment on their part, to hold the Tordane name. For no part of the sealed testament contradicts this wish of your father's. I reckon you would need satisfy yourself with being the last in a line, but you would have your father's name and your father's honor." He watches Gedeon carefully, considering what the man's reactions are to the various notions Jacsen floats past him. "And though I think there might be rank rebellion at the idea, if Isolde and Ryker are to hold Stonebridge, I might well demand a union between their children, and mine. Perhaps someone, between now and then, can find a way of easing this endless feud."
"It is not the cost of my knighthood that greatly concerns me, my sword and horse and armor have already been bought," Gedeon points out gently. "The Lady Valda betrayed Geoffrey however way it is cut, in this even the Naylands must agree she ought to be publicly censured and removed from her post and her place." There is, however, a soft frown for a union of unborn children and his own place in this supposed line of inheritance. "To arrange such a marriage would be to demonstrate the Terricks' full support in Isolde and Ryker's claim to rule Stonebridge, you know, and I am afraid I do not see, if I've the right to my father's name, why it is fitting to be denied the proper place in the line of inheritance. The one is an insult to the name 'Tordane' without the other."
"I do not believe they will see it as you do, Gedeon, and what you are able to force them to admit is half the way to getting what you want," Jacsen tells him, though he is not quite argumentative in it, more thoughtful. "And truly, Gedeon, would you seek to twist such a knife as to say such of a union I might seek to forge, predicated on the notion we might find some measure of peace, one day? Or should you be more satisfied that Terricks and Naylands slaughter each other until the Long Winter comes and blankets us both beneath the snow of old tales?" He lets out a breath through his nose, the rising passion in his voice schooled. "And tell me true, Gedeon, if you said that it was clear the Lady Valda betrayed her husband's will… how should you answer if they might point the finger at you, and claim you did the exact same?"
"I think it is more a means of obliging them to think on it as we do than it is to presume they will, naturally," Gedeon says. "Do you think a promise for fifteen or twenty years hence will earn you peace with the Naylands, who think to choke your family with tariffs and arm the border between your lands? I fear the day will come when the Naylands will strike against your family, and such a promise as you offer would make the Terricks the more complacent. But, clearly, you feel otherwise." For that last, Gedeon's brows lift. "I did not betray the sealed will, I knew nothing of it if it existed at all to be known, and as you describe it to me, there was nothing in it that I might betray. And if you mean the letters, then my weakness and transgression might yet be mended. The Lady Valda was no frightened child. She faced no obstacles in the carrying out of these requests, save the surrender of her own schemes."
Jacsen considers Gedeon for a long moment, and finally nods. "There is merit to what you say, of course. I should think on it, and ponder where we go from here. I would like to speak with your Lord Anton before this is done, and hear what counsel he might offer," he points out, clearly intimating he would like Gedeon to arrange such.
Gedeon studies Jascen, his own expression tempered from his heartfelt words to something more neutral and, perhaps, just faintly wary. Still he nods. "Of course. I am sure Lord Anton will be pleased to speak with you and offer what thoughts he may have on the issue."
That look is not missed, nor lost on Jacsen. "Seven, Ged… I'm doing all I can, with what little's given me. You talk like if I just insist on your honor or word then somehow that will make them bend…" he shakes his head. "But it won't. The only true advantage we have here is the favor of Lord Tully, and he is singularly minded to avoid conflict betwixt his bannermen. But I promise you, I am doing all I might for both of our houses, Terrick and Tordane, in this. As I have since the beginning. Remember that, if nothing else."
"And you talk as if we have already lost," Gedeon replies softly. He breathes out, looking up at the trees surrounding them. "I'll let Lord Valentin know you wish an audience, my lord, as soon as you both are able. I'll go do that now." Which is as fine an excuse as any for Gedeon to excuse himself.
"For the love of…" Jacsen swears to himself as Gedeon turns to leave. "Tell me, then, Ged. Tell me, and don't just give me some platitude about how we'll just do it because we're in the right, tell me how you'd see it done. They've a letter every bit as real to appearances as yours, and with the seal to mark it with authority. If I left this to Lord Tully to decide now, it /would/ be over. So please, tell me what you see that I do not, and I'll speak to you with more verve and enthusiasm, I swear it." He is sincere, in that, if nothing else.
Gedeon stops and turns to face Jacsen, brows lifted, arms tight by his sides. "Include me in the meetings, Jacsen. There's little I can do outside of them, save to nod at what you tell me and make suggestions you say are too grand, too forceful. Let me be a part of this or be honest and tell me to my face that what I came here to do is no longer a priority to the Terricks, now that you have the support of the Tully and the Naylands obliged to negotiate."
He frowns. "Your words would cut deeper, Ged, if it weren't Terrick blood sure to be spilt to do what it is you came here to do now," Jacsen tells him, "But I'll not apologize for heeding the words of the Lord Paramount, nor of doing what I might to safeguard my people. Let me hear the force your own liege will lend to your cause, Gedeon… or will you tell me again of how he must be careful for the sake of his holding? Well." His chin lifts an imperious fraction. "So must I." Before the two can part on such words, though, he does swallow a measure of his pride to say, "I will see about making my next meeting one you have a direct part in, Ged."
"And Terrick treasuries that would gain from it," Gedeon reminds quietly. "Your words are well-made, Jacsen, as they have ever been, and the whole of my life has been colored by beautiful sentiments that have nothing but air behind them. I had hoped you would be the one to break that mold. I still hope for that." He bows his head in a deeper nod for that last. "Thank you, my lord." And once again, he turns to go.