|On the Sly|
|Summary:||A conversation on a relaxing summer afternoon twists down unexpected paths.|
|Related Logs:||Anything with Jacsen and Rowan|
|Arbor outside the Roost|
|Wide trees, emerald grass, peace and quiet.|
|19 Aug 288|
While others might come to watch butterflies as they flit between perches, and others might seek a place to nap in the warmth of summer so lightly dampened by shade, so is not quite the aim of one Jacsen Terrick. His back rests against the bole of one of the older trees in the arbor, his cane leaning against it to his right. While fate and circumstance have conspired to ruin one leg, the other is drawn up towards him, with space enough for a small leather-bound book to rest there and be read.
A skin, of water or wine, rests at his side, but otherwise the Lord finds himself quite peacefully alone.
Alas, no such peace lasts for long, and after a time the shush of the leaves and the twitter of birds part like water for the sound of crunching gravel on the path. The figure, slender and dark-haird, steps off the path and resolves, through the trees, into Rowan Nayland, the squire taking a bite from a large yellow pear as he walks, a book tucked under his arm. Apparently, this is considered by many an excellent spot for reading, especially with the reading room inside the tower still a work in progress.
Seeing Jacsen leaning against the tree, the boy stops, blinking and beginning to speak with his mouth full. "Omilow — !" he garbles, then chews a few more times, rapidly, and swallows. "Uhm. Sorry." He bows. "My lord. How pelasant to see you again. I apologize for — barging. I can just…" he points vaguely down the path.
Intent blue eyes lift from the slender tome he's chosen for his afternoon amusement and trade the written script for the features of the squire so recently sworn to his brother, and now taken in by an old friend. "No need," Jacsen assures Rowan, drawing a ribbon between the pages before he closes the volume.
"Would you like to sit?" he invites, indicating the expanse of nature all about him. "I've even a bit of wine, if you're thirsty." He wags his brow once. "Books can wait, but good company can be sometimes hard to find."
Rowan grins, even blushes a bit, at the intimation that his company is desired. He ducks his head shyly, but nods. "Thank you, my lord. A gracious invitation." He steps over onto a patch of good, emerald grass nearby, dropping to sit and setting his book aside as he pulls off his boots. Apparently, if they're going to be informal, it's going to be with a capital 'I'. His smile turning rueful, he shakes his head and holds up a staying hand at the offer of wine. "No thank you, my lord. I'm… a bit off wine, since the Pennyroyal incident in Stonebridge. Can't even bear to smell the stuff, alas. So I've switched to whiskey."
Having said that, the boy pulls a hip-flask from one of his pockets, offering it to Jacsen. The Nayland boy's turn to brow-waggle.
"Well. I think I can live with that," Jacsen admits, his lips curving at the corners as he leans forward to accept the hip-flask. "Do all squires know to come so properly equipped? I don't recall sporting much libations when I served Lord Mallister…" Though one suspects the Lord Ser Jason Mallister to be a far different authoritarian than Jarod Rivers would have been, or Gedeon Rivers is now.
He throws back his head as he swallows, and lets out a satisfied grunt of approval. "Not bad, Rowan, not bad." Leaning again, Jacsen offers it back towards the Nayland boy, seemingly unperturbed at the depth of informality the two seemingly share. "What's this Pennyroyal incident?"
"All squires of Ser Jarod Terrick, I'd say," Rowan replies mirthfully, accepting the flask back and taking a pull. He breathes out and shuddering. "Ahhh…" He stretches out his legs, wriggling his toes in the grass. "And fortunately, Ser Gedeon's decided to have me, bad habits and all.
As for the Pennyroyal incident, the squire pauses, lifting his fine, dark brows. "Mnh," he finally says, shrugging. "Someone was excessively threatened by Ser Gedeon's letters. Could have been any one of a number of people. Anyway, long story short, they sent a gift of poison wine. Gedeon had some, but I drank the lion's share." He smirks. "Teach me to be greedy, won't it?"
"Ah, yes… I'd heard something of that," Jacsen admits, as he settles back against the bark of the tree, his hands folding over his lap as he stretches his good leg out to match the lame. "It's a strange thing, this whole business of letters. An improbable request writ and carried with high expectations," he ruminates, "That seems to cause a level of concern and distress that one would expect to find if only they spoke the truth."
"Which would make the matter seem simple; desperate folk seek to stop the truth by whatever means. Except this is hardly a matter of truth alone, is it." The question sounds rhetorical, but the look, however lazed and relaxed Jacsen seems when he gives it, seeks an answer.
"Isn't it?" Rowan asks, offering the flask back across to Jacsen. "It seems pretty straight forward t'me."
"I think otherwise," Jacsen confirms with a mild dip of his chin, while he reaches with an idle hand for his own wine skin. "Don't mistake me, for I am a Terrick and I hold truth and honor close to my heart, Rowan. I do. But it is not truth alone that rules this world," he explains, draining a measure of the wine. "Were truth and rightful claim all that mattered, we would have no King Robert, and instead a Mad King, or were we most fortunate, a King Rhaegar."
"The strength of arms, and the ability to bring those arms to bear… Such matters will decide the issue of Gedeon's claim as much as those letters ever would."
"Well, m'not an idiot," Rowan notes, rolling his eyes and taking another pull from his flask. "I know full well that the world isn't fair, and might often makes right, and all that rot. And it's a lot of bollocks and part of why I want to be a knight's to help change that, where I can, you know?" The lad rests his weight back on one hand, sighing as he twiddles the flask between his long, tapered fingers. "What will come will come. Only thing a body can do is pick what they're going to stand for and be right with the Gods."
He looks up at Jacsen. "I stand first with the Terricks, because cast out or not you're my family. And second with Oldstones. Gedeon's claim t'Stonebridge is right and true — so I'm praying the two can stand together."
Jacsen shakes his head with ease, "No, you're certainly not that, Rowan. A bit of a mystery, but no idiot." His head lolls over to the side and he wears an easy smile for the squire when he says that. It's an expression that sobers swiftly. "Maybe a touch more idealistic too."
"I hope you've never reason to need choose between these two you've taken to your heart," he says, sincerely, before reaching his hand out in mute request for the flask and its stronger contents again. "Peace for us all, I pray."
Rowan studies Jacsen's smile and, perhaps finding it infectious, answers with the same. It puts dimples on his whiskerless cheeks. As for his idealism, he shrugs and smirks wryly. "Does it still count as idealism if I'm aware of it?" he asks, dryly amused.
The boy shakes his head, dark curls getting long enough now that they're a bloody bother, tickling his face. He tucks them behind his ears. "I made it clear to Lord Anton my loyalty has few limits — only one, in fact. This is it." He lifts his chin toward the tower, though the gesture seems to encompass the whole of the Roost. "If it's a choice, I've already made it." Then, abruptly switching gears, he asks, "What're you reading?"
Jascen plucks the slender volume from the grass, and offers it towards Rowan for inspection. "It was referenced as a book about the travels of a Maester much concerned with the history of this area, the Oldstones in particular," he explains. "I'm hoping for some scrap of useful information, but it mostly seems as if the man had quite an inflated sense of his own academic worth."
The squire takes the proffered book, looking it over, eyebrows slightly aloft. "Huh," he says, handing it back. "If you want to know the history of Oldstones, you should talk to their castellan. I've never met her, myself, but she's supposed to be the authority." He pulls up a knee and props his chin on it, wrapping his arms around his shin. "Just a general interest, or are you considering one of the wild conspiracy theories of which our brothers are so fond?"
"I doubt I will spend much time speaking with the Castellan," Jacsen admits, shaking his head slightly. "She was turned out from Terrick's Roost by my lord brother after what seems quite the exchange in the courtyard… Something about making accusations against the Roost, and showing little to none of the respect due one's better, especially when about their home."
He sets the book aside again and lifts his shoulders in a shrug. "I'm apt to spend at least a moment pondering such, given it comes from men I am so inexplicably fond of. I suspect you make little of such, else you'd not have pledged yourself to Ser Gedeon."
Rowan shrugs. "I don't know about all that. Just know she's gone to stay in Stonebridge. Or that's what I hear." He looks up, tilting his head, mirth in his eyes. "Fond of my brother? I didn't even know you'd met." But the dimples are in force again. "I don't make little of it, my lord — that makes me sound dismissive. You really have only to think on the wild unlikelihoods, the vagaries and contradictions… There's a sage who said when faced with competing theories that are in all other respects equal, choose the one that makes the fewest new assumptions."
Jacsen's laughter is easy enough cast on the breeze of the afternoon, a quirk of a smile favoring his lips. "I cannot claim to have met your brother, I'm afraid. My praise is meant more for my own kin, of which you seem so close I must force myself to remember the Nayland that belongs to your name." He lets out a quiet breath and shifts against the bole of the tree some. "Your sage makes sense enough, though I think the world fond of disproving the wisdom of that advice… at least in the broader strokes."
He shakes his head a bit. "But I hope you are right, for what my hopes are worth, Rowan. Championing a cause that rings with truth is, at the end of the day, a far more palatable task to me."
The lad grins at Jacsen's laughter, then lowers his lashes, blushing with pleasure to be so included. He tucks a curl behind his ear again, his smile softening and taking a wry tilt. "It only barely belongs," Rowan says of his family name. "They sent me here to be rid of me. Truly, I am not Rowan Nayland in my own heart. That person ceased to exist long ago." He sighs, tracing the lip of the flask back and forth across his bottom lip as he gazes off in thought. Then he drinks.
Thought, or the distant corners of the arbor, draw Jacsen's gaze all the same, his hands folding atop his one bent knee. "I wish I understood this, that sees you leaving my brother's service, and my family's hold," he admits, without looking back at Rowan. "Whatever reason makes him push you away, I can tell plain as anything it pains him. Perhaps too much. And I suspect you like it not much better."
"I suppose you think it a matter settled," he adds, reaching for his wine skin, still looking out between the trees, where green grass waves in the breeze. "And perhaps it is. But I should have liked the chance to convince my brother otherwise."
"That they were rid of you is all I need to know in deciding that we should have you, Rowan. Be that as it may."
"Would that either of us had the power to convince Jarod of anything," murmurs Rowan, his smile tender and rueful. "It is settled. He wouldn't have me back, now. He has… very definite ideas about propriety, improper as he can be other times. I — " He shakes his head, taking another sip from the flask. "I do not mean to tease you with secrets, my lord. But if you knew Jarod's reasons, I fear you'd agree."
"Are you sure you won't test that notion, Rowan?" Jacsen wonders, finally glancing aside to his companion, his lips favoring a rueful sort of smile. "You cannot think I would use it to do you ill, I hope, but even were I of a mind, my love for my brother is too strong to permit it. I do not see what loss either of you should suffer for it. No matter how dire the secret, lest it be some treachery against the rest of our kin, what would I do with it?" He lifts one shoulder in a shrug.
"Ah, Jacsen," sighs Rowan. They are both lords after all. And practically family. He laughs ruefully, giving the youngest Terrick boy a sweet smile. "If only I could. But I promised Gedeon. I promised Jarod. I… have had to lie for so long, that I like for my word to mean something, when I can manage it." He looks down at his flask, dangling from the fingertips of both hands. "And it's nothing I'm ashamed of. I would rather be able to share it. I like what I am."
He takes another drink from the flask, then suggests, "Ask your brother. I think he'd probably be glad to unburden himself of his cares. Tell him I trust you to know — he believes he's protecting me, and in large part he is… but not from you, of all people."
If the familiar address at all concerns the Terrick lord, he does not give the slightest hint. "Perhaps I shall do so, Rowan. I feel as if I am making up for lost time, getting to know one so fondly held by others of my kin," Jacsen admits to the young man. "A making up that, itself, will soon become lost to me."
"I would have liked to know you before now, but I'm glad you'd yet to depart for Oldstones when I came home again." His lips twist. "I can see why Jarod was fond of you. It's not terribly difficult."
"Not terribly difficult? Damned by faint praise!" Rowan laments, though he's smiling — blushing again, lashes low. "But… I know what you mean. And… thank you. I rather like you, as well." Suddenly troubled with a thought, the boy looks up, biting the corner of his bottom lip. "If… I ask you a terribly person question that is absolutely certain to offend you, will you go on liking me, do you think?"
It's clear enough that such a turn in the conversation was not expected, but Jacsen's humored expression weathers it well enough. "You've found me on a warm afternoon, shade overhead, breeze on my face, and wine and whiskey in my belly," he recounts for the sake of the Nayland squire. "My brothers would mention that a naked woman would complete the picture, but be that as it may… you'll like as not find this your best chance to ask."
He waves a hand. "On with it then, don't keep me in suspense."
"Right," says Rowan, taking a deep breath and another sip of whiskey. He clears his throat, puts a hand over his eyes, and blurts, "You're not sly, are you?" A beat or two after, he grimaces and peeks between his fingers. "Don't hit me? That cane probably hurts like fuck all."
"Alright… that was not one of the questions I was expecting," the Terrick lord remarks, his tone notably dry when he responds. "And no, I'm sorry to disappoint… While I'm certain your pretty looks have revealed more than a few men of such persuasion," Jacsen points out, "I am not one of them."
His brow climbs a fraction. "That's not… you didn't think /Jarod/ was, did you? Make some ill-informed bid for his affections that now he's cast you out?"
Blushing furiously, Rowan nonetheless sags with relief. "No! Gods. Not a disappointment. At all. I — you're so warm and so charming, and just a bit pretty yourself… I didn't want to mislead you." The question about Jarod makes his jaw drop. He bursts into horrified laughter. "No! Sweet Seven, no. There's no less-sly creature in all of creation than Jarod. I can't imagine anyone thinking that."
He chuckles and pushes his hair back, shaking his head. "And I will have you know," he adds, wryly, "that I, myself, am attracted solely to persons appropriate to my gender."
"A fact I will keep in mind." Jacsen shakes his head, still laughing some as he swallows another mouthful of the light summerwine, his smile resilient. "But you cannot fault me for making the connection, can you? A pretty youth of a squire, well regarded by all at the Roost… cast out by my brother for something shameful, something he couldn't keep you on after…" He shrugs lightly. "If that's not it, you must have done something /incredibly/ terrible," he teases.
"No, no… I don't fault you," says Rowan, smirking and rolling his eyes. "You're not at all alone. I think most people assume I'm a bugger. It doesn't bother me terribly." He chuckles. "I think even Jarod assumed it, after a while, for all the long I thwarted and resisted his attempts to get me in bed with a woman. But he never cared if I was. He was a great deal more than my knight and mentor — he was my friend. We were terribly close."
The boy runs his tongue over his teeth, beneath his lips, and drinks. "Fuck. It's… it's terrible enough. I have my reasons and my excuses — they're valid. But in the end… I hurt him. And I lost him. So… terrible is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. To Jarod, it's quite terrible… but he still wants to protect me. Even — despite." He swallows, flopping back into the grass to stare at the sky. "He's a good man, your brother. The very best of men."
"Perhaps with time, you will find a way to mend what was damaged," Jacsen suggests, swallowing another mouthful of the wine, "As I know my brother, he is made with a forgiving heart, and what you tell me would lead me to believe reconciliation would be for the better of you both."
Jacsen tosses the skin lightly to the side, and folds his hands behind his head as he leans back against the tree, closing his eyes. "Jarod is a good, kind, and decent soul… with the heart of a Terrick no matter his name. If you're apt to find his forgiveness, trust me, you shall."
"Your mouth to the ears of the Seven, my friend," says Rowan. He closes his eyes, lulled by whiskey and sunshine. "Would that it were so. Ask him," he yawns, stretching long, arms above his head. "Ask him about Lady Anonymous. He needs to forgive her, as well."
Oh, but Jacsen Terrick was not born a dumb lad, nor have the years had occasion to dull his mind as they have his physical prowess. Were Rowan's eyes not closed, he'd like as not catch the flash of understanding that races across his eyes, an expression meant not to linger. Whether he feels certain of his determination or not, the maimed lord tries outwardly to respect the squire's pledges.
"I will ask him after that too, my lord squire," Jacsen suggests. "But not yet. I think, for now, I am going to enjoy the cool afternoon breeze." He links his fingers together behind his head again, and settles back, closing his eyes. "