|Second Time Around|
|Summary:||Perhaps this one's the charm. Jarod re-squires she who is called Rowan Nayland.|
|Related Logs:||Pretty much all the Jarod/Rowan logs of all time, particularly Friendly Terms|
|Roof Terrace — Four Eagles Tower|
|Top of the tower.|
|Sun Dec 18, 288|
It's a bit past noon at the Roost. The sun is high on a clear and beautiful day. Up on the roof walk, Rowan is looking westward, squinting at the glittering brilliance of sun on the water. The breeze is brisk and playful, fluttering the Terrick banners and tugging curls from the queue in which she's lately been binding her hair.
Ser Jarod Rivers will probably never be a particularly stealthy presence. His heavy footfalls announce his coming up to the terrace long before he's properly entered. He must have just come from the stables, as he's still wearing his green traveling cloak and spurs on his boots. Whatever errand drew him away from the Roost yesterday, he's now back. And he's munching on an apple.
The lack of stealth and the jingling of spurs make her smile. She doesn't even have to look. Leaning her elbows on one of the high crenelations as she continues looking out to sea, she raises her voice in greeting. "Oi, Jarod." Rowan turns her head then, looking at him over her shoulder. "Looking for me? Or someone else?"
"You should cut your hair," is Jarod's opener, as he chews and swallows some apple. "Makes you look like a girl. Here." That's the warning she gets before he reaches into his cloak and tosses and apple at her. Despite the lack of warning it's an easy throw, meant to be caught if she's on top of things. "They're good. Sweet. Very low chance of impaling yourself. Anyhow, of course I was looking for you, Rowan." We're back to 'Rowan' now, apparently, despite that they seem to be alone. "How'd you pass the night? Hope the castle's been comfortable."
She catches the apple easily enough, arching an eyebrow as she bites into it. Her expression turns to pleasant surprise. "Not bad at all… Though I'll have you know, a low chance of impaling myself is the absolute minimum I look for in all round things. Especially fruit." She takes another bite, asking with a cheerful mouthful, "Anyone ever tell you you're weird?"
"A few here and there," Jarod replies with a grin, coming to lean against the railing wall. Looking at her. There's still that guarded look about his green eyes, though the intensity remains there as well. His whole manner today is extremely purposeful. Self-possessed, some might call it, as rarely as that term can really be used to describe Ser Jarod Rivers. "So. Figured out where you want to end up next?"
"I don't know. Maybe on a nice island somewhere — where the water's very warm and clear and there are brightly colored fishes," Rowan muses around another bite of apple. It doesn't take long for the question to sober her, though, and she sighs, looking back out at sea. "Fucked if I know, Jarod. I'm not ever sure what my options are, anymore. I'm sure as fuck not going to squire under someone who — doesn't know. I mean, it's fucked as — as I don't know what that I'd bring such shame down on anyone, but I would, and there you have it. So. Maybe Dorne." She shrugs. "Always wanted to see Dorne. A good place to find work as a hired blade, from what I understand."
"It's sandy. Or. Err. So I'm told," Jarod replies, as to Dorne. "Where do you want to be? Fuck if you can have it or not."
Rowan slides a wry look at him, sidelong, then offers her hand. "Have we met? I'm Rowenna Rose Nayland. I have this daft desire to be knighted and gallop around the Riverlands, upholding justice and defending the small." She looks down at her apple, then takes a more delicate bite. "M'still me. A heart's desire changes for almost nothing, I think."
"Almost nothing." The correction has a slight edge to it, though that's not a line of talk Jarod really pursues. He takes a bite of his apple. "But, aye. I figured. I was thinking, if you don't find the idea of life at the Roost unbearable, you could squire for me again." The suggestion is made casually as that. He eats more fruit while he awaits her response, green eyes on her, but still with that rather careful neutrality about them.
She doesn't miss the correction, brows drawing down. "Yes, Jarod, I know. I'm a faithless bitch and you're very much over me." Having said thus, she blinks and looks… stunned probably isn't too strong a word. "Wait — what?" She squints at him, baffled. "Why?"
"You delight in putting words I'd never even think in my mouth, Rowan. I sometimes wonder if I'm required for these conversations of ours," Jarod replies to that dryly. "I asked you a question. Would you want to squire for me again?"
She has, at least, the grace to blush at that. And apologize. "Sorry." It seems to make a world of difference when he won't be baited. She blows out a breath. "Yes — I mean, of course. We… I mean, it was good. We were good, together. Back then." She rubs the back of her neck. "But Jarod — Seven, I'm still a girl, you know? Why — why would you want to do that? You — it wasn't that long ago you were against everything involved."
"Yes, I am somewhat aware you're a woman," Jarod replies with a half-smile of a smirk. "And I was pissed off, Rowan. And I didn't understand. And when you…" But whatever that other 'and' was, he doesn't finish that thought. He turns away from her, looking down at the courtyard below. "Well. We were different then. And I meant what I said to you on the beach on Remembrance Day. I said I'd help you, in what fashion I could. This is the fashion in which I can."
"So… you believe me," Rowan says, cautiously. "That… that I do want this, for the right reasons. That it's not a… a vain fancy or a mummer's game."
"Are there right reasons to want something? Most men don't want the knighthood for anything resembling the 'right' reasons," Jarod replies. "I didn't. I believe you need to try, though. And I…" He still doesn't look at her. "You're important to me, Rowan. And I couldn't be right with myself if I just let you go out into the world by yourself, knowing how small your chances of finding another knight worth his 'Ser' to take you on were after your end with the Oldstones. My conscience compels me to do this." He pauses a beat. "And…I want to do this. So, fuck it, aye?"
"There are sure as shit wrong reasons to want something, so I have to believe there are right ones, too," says Rowan, joining him in looking down at the courtyard. "And I'm through being selfish. The last time Josse and I talked, he held up a mirror for me… and I didn't like what it showed. Not even a little." She takes a deep breath. "You are still the best man I know, and there is no man I'd more want to serve as squire. And we were good together, and I miss you," she swallows. "So much." She tucks her hair back behind her ears, squinting at the flagstones below. "But your knighthood means so much to you, you honor, your family — I'd damage all of that, if you knighted me. I can't do that to you, Jarod. What kind of person would I be if I could?"
"I miss you, too, in that fashion. Have ever since I dismissed you," Jarod says, turning back to look at her again as he leans. "As to that. I know what this'd mean for me, Rowan. I'm not naive. But I figure…I will do this in a way that satisfies my honor, and answer questions put to me about it honestly, and men can think what they will. I tire of playing the good ser knight. Feels like my own damn mummer's show most days. This is a thing I want to do, and it is right. The men who know me and have served with me, I would like to believe, know my quality. The ones who don't…they will learn it or they matter little. As for my family…I will always be my father's son." He says it as if it was some kind of great realization he had recently, true as it's always been. "While things may change for me here at the Roost, he will always love me, and I think…he might understand the whys of this. As for my position at the Roost, it matters little." Another pause. "I will have to give it up in a year or two anyway. When I leave."
Rowan listens warily, but the wariness melting with each syllable he speaks. There are flutters of hope in her expression, approbation and approval, pride, tenderness — for an alarming moment, she looks like she might kiss him. But she doesn't. She just takes a deep breath and turns to look down on the courtyard again, lacing her fingers together. Then she blinks and turns to squint at him again. "Leave? Leave where? I mean, here, obviously but to where?" And more importantly, "Why?"
"Because I need to," Jarod says. Tone low, and he's looking out at the sky rather than at Rowan again, but it's firm for all that. "I love this house, Rowan. I love the people in it. And it's given me so much. I want to serve my lord father well. And Jace after him, and see my nephews grow up and teach them the sword. I would like that life to be open for me. But I can't…I am one-and-twenty, and I have never had anything for myself. I barely know who I am as a man. And I have made…compromises with myself, to life comfortably here, which have not made me happy. And which I think have cost me more than I wanted to pay. I cannot keep paying my whole life." He takes a breath and lets it out slow. "As for where? I don't know. The tourney circuit for a couple of years, perhaps. Maybe Dorne, or the North. They're both places I'd like to see before I died. Perhaps Fairmarket for a spell. Perhaps Seagard. I could find service with the Mallisters for a few years, I think, and that would still serve my lord father after a fashion. But if I am ever to be my own man here…well. I must figure out who that is. Or I'll never be happy in this, good a life as it is."
Rowan watches him, taking in this stream of thought and rationale, her frown thoughtful but not — it seems — disapproving. "I guess a little selfish isn't a bad thing. I know you haven't been happy. Grateful — but that's not the same thing." She looks down at her boots, then back up at him. "Good on you, Jarod."
"I have been happy in moments. But it seems that is not enough." Again, the correction is slight but very present, though this time it's edge is sadness rather than bitterness. Jarod shrugs. "Whether it's good or not, I don't really know. I am still figuring out what I want. And it will take time. For the tourneys, if I do that, I shall need to train. And settle some things here at the Roost. I would see the matter of Stonebridge done. And your matter done." He finally looks at her again. "So, you've a year, perhaps two, to figure out what you want your life to be after this. If you earn the knighthood, I will give it to you. Whether the world will let you keep it is an open question, but I will dub you. Though you must truly earn it, not gain the token skill with weapons and horse that is enough for most men. For you are not a man. And if we're going to do this, I figure we owe it to each other to actually do it right. Then, whatever they say, at least we'll have that."
"I know what I need to do," Rowan assures him. The correction is simple and solemn. She takes a deep breath… and draws her blade, and bends the knee. "Let's try this again, then, shall we?" It all begins with an oath.
"Let's," Jarod says. "Though before you get to swearing…" Though he does draw his sword, to prep. "…there are a few things we should understand between us." He kneels down near her, so they can speak closer, balancing his big two-hander blade on the stones with his hand on the hilt. "I told my father I was to take you back and he consented. He does not know Rowan is Rowenna, and he will not. Firstly, I need to know if you can keep your secret here. I can. I have not told Jace I am taking you back to serve me. I figure on that score, forgiveness is better than permission. He has kept what you are to himself this long, though he had no reason not to and things are different now. That is a risk. Are you willing to take it?"
"I can," Rowan says, taking him seriously, it seems. The bit about Jace puzzles her, though. She shakes her head. "Why would Jack care? We never were… quite as close, after that whole… thing. But we're still friends."
"Jace is the young lord, far better than Jaremy ever was," Jarod says. There's respect in his tone for it, though he may not always love it. "That is good for this House. But it means he takes a different view of many things, and friendship and his own wants are not always paramount. I think, if he told anyone, he would do it in a way that hurt me as little as possible. Which I now make very difficult for him." His lips curve toward a grin, but it's crooked. "So, there's that. Also…there are reasons for this that he will appreciate, and are not purely about what I want. The first is obvious. It is to our advantage to have a Nayland son in this house while tensions are high. I would not use you ill, my promise, but even the thought of it makes things more…tempered in their dealings with us. The second is the Oldstones." Though what, precisely, his thoughts are on them he does not voice straight off. Watching her to see how she'll take the first.
Rowan nods, frowning slightly and then more, perplexed. "Uh. Okay? But… I just… why would he? There's nothing to be gained from it. And he promised he wouldn't."
"I don't think he would, or I'd not be asking you to do this again," Jarod replies to that. "And it's all on my honor, not the Terricks as such, so long as my father doesn't know. So I see it, at least. Still, he does know, and my brother is not me. It's a consideration we should not forget."
She nods again, still not sure she's getting all the subtleties. "Right. Well. I mean. That will be as it may. Nothing, really, either of us can do about what Jack does. Or doesn't." She pauses, then asks, "What about Oldstones, then?"
Jarod nods to that. "He also feels perhaps not so warmly toward you after the way things…ended with us. Though I have asked him not to hold it against you. Anyhow. This is what I want, though, and he will live with it or not." As for the Oldstones. He takes a breath. "I will not yet ask for details on your break with Ser Gedeon and those he serves, if you are not ready to tell me. But I gather it was not a purely personal matter between you and your knight." He pauses a beat. "I also gather, from the way you were that morning, that they…used you in ways you did not care for. Or else they were parties to things you could not abide. Am I wrong?"
"Strange," Rowan murmurs, looking troubled. "He accepted my friendship warmly enough in Riverrun. And this was after." She shakes her head. "It's not important. Just… disappointing. She takes a breath, as well, visibly chewing over her answer to the question of Oldstones. "Jarod, my… promises to them, of loyalty and protection… my service to them is no longer active, but it doesn't… what was done and said during the time I was their man — to my understanding of honor, I remain bound in that past tense. Don't ask me about Oldstones," she says, a soft note of pleading in her voice. "There's nothing I can tell you."
"I understand that, Rowan, but that man courts my lady sister and seeks to make her his wife," Jarod says, his eyes unwavering on hers. "And I would not have her go to one who would hurt her, or dishonor her, or turn her and whatever children they would have to…ill service. I do not even know if he will succeed in winning her hand yet. But if he does…Rowan, even if you cannot tell me…if there are things you think she needs to be aware of before deciding on that life, I would ask you to let her know. Whatever you can, in whatever manner you feel still upholds your honor, but she deserves not to be blind to what Lord Ser Anton. Whatever he is."
Rowan meets his eyes steadily, and mute. She nods slightly, admitting, "I've thought about that… and long since concluded that I could never allow Luci to be harmed, either by action or inaction." A muscle in her jaw flexes and her nostrils flare. She closes her eyes, then opens them again. "I believe he'll be good to her. And to their children. Because he is the kind of man who is… intelligent enough to maintain what he finds valuable."
"That is not an answer I particularly like," Jarod says low. "For it is the consideration given by a very cold man, who values but does not love. And know that I will advise my sister that, given how I feel about your break with them, I think she might be better-served in another household, and to keep her eyes very open in all she learns of the Oldstones. And to tell my lord father to rip apart any sort of agreement if she sees things she does not care for. But I shall keep this between Luci and myself, and you have betrayed nothing, and she may still feel she can live in that Timberhall when all is said and done." He straightens, standing again. "If that is all right you, let us to oaths, then."
"No one marries for love," Rowan says, shaking her head. "You told me that, once. And I think Luci's too smart by half to imagine this is a love match. But… I'll be glad if she sets her sights elsewhere." That said, she nods. "Oaths, then," she agrees.
"Aye. No one marries for love, and no good comes from it in any other case, that I've seen," Jarod agrees. But he seems to bite his tongue, sorry at himself for speaking thus. "But that doesn't matter. Fair enough. I shall be your knight so long as you strive for the knighthood, and I will dub you should you earn it, if one can truly earn the ideals of it. Speak your oath."
Rowan takes another deep breath, kneeling still, sword point-down before her, grasped at the hilt. "I, Rowenna Rose Nayland, do pledge my sword and my life to the service of Ser Jarod Rivers, until such time as he release me, death takes me, or the world does end. Warrior witness my oath upon my honor."
Jarod's knuckles tighten around the hilt of his own sword, still balanced on the paving stones, almost supporting him. "I, Ser Jarod Rivers, natural-born son of Lord Jerold Terrick and sworn knight of Terrick's Roost, do swear to protect and defend you, Rowenna Rose Nayland, as one of my own, against all foes, until you are released from my service, death takes me or the world doth end. Warrior witness my oath upon my honor." He lets out a breath. "And I'll keep it better this time."
She stands slowly, smoothly sheathing her blade. "We both will," she assures him, taking a step forward and resting her forehead against his. It's very intimate, but no more than affectionate. "Want to help me cut my hair?"
Jarod sheathes his own blade, resting against her for the moment. The intimacy is easy. But it is, perhaps, the 'no more than' affection that, after a moment, makes his green eyes harden. And he straightens, not abruptly precisely, but firmly. "Aye. Let's go get that done." He clears his throat. "You will share duties with young Caytiv Hill. He and Veris have split them over the past months, it shall not be that different. And is shall free Veris to dedicate himself to raising funds to gear himself. He's ready to be knighted - in the ways men are. Just a matter of getting himself horse and arms."
Rowan blinks at that. Squire-come-lately, the bumbling drunk she had to kick out of her room? "Good on him," she manages, after just half a beat too long. She forces a smile. "He's a nice boy, Veris."
"His skills are where they need to be for him to make a life of it, and he's proven himself disciplined enough that I think him not likely to fuck it up too badly," Jarod says. "It's all that's required of most. Some get it for less."
"I've noticed." It's dryly said, humor brittle, but present. It saves the statement from being entirely bitter.
"C'mon, let's see to your hair," Jarod says, almost gently, offering her his arm to lead her back down the stairs into the castle proper. The bitterness is registered, certainly, but not commented on. It's probably not unexpected.
She takes the offered arm, giving it a good and proper hug, leaning her head against his shoulder for a moment. "It's good to be back, Ser," she murmurs.
Jarod is never one to deny a hug, particularly when it seems needed. And he does shift his arm to squeeze her close, just for a moment. Not too long. He still, it seems, can't really abide that. But the gesture is a warm one. "It's good to have you home," he says simply.
The girl squire nods mutely, head ducked, perhaps just a little verklempt… and they go to cut her hair.