|Some Bonds are Made|
|Summary:||'Rowan' Nayland and Jacsen Terrick meet amongst the half-ordered shelves of the reading room in the late evening and discuss a number of things.|
|Related Logs:||Kill Them All, Rose|
|The room has a large glass window and seat that looks out partially over the cove, in daylight hours the sun provides illumination to the room. Other stools and chairs linger in small groups as shelves along the walls are littered with scrolls, books, letters and documents. The contents are a modest collection of local records, histories, and literature offered to both the family and guests of Four Eagles Tower.|
The reading room Josse has so lovingly resurrected continues to be a popular spot at all hours — even this one, when a squire's long say should see those so employed collapsing in bed, given the long and laborious day. But Rowan here nevertheless, tucked away in chair in the corner by a stand of candles, a large book in her lap. She's absently chewing her thumbnail as she peruses the pages, a frown of concentration — or, possibly, consternation — on her face.
Even the thick carpets here in one of the Keep's most favored rooms cannot completely dampen the sound of Jacsen Terrick's aided footsteps. It renders him incapable of sneaking up on a reader, though he does his best to make certain it carries no further than it must, echoes no louder than can be helped. For any that listen, they can hear well his approach to the reading room, stepping across the threshold and drawing in the scent of the room full of books, ever closer to a finished and proper place.
Rowan lifts her head at the distinctive gait — and though she can't see him enter, she smiles. "Oi, Jack!" she calls out — loud enough to carry, but still with the slightly muted tones the well-bred use in the presence of books. "Back here."
"I see I am not the only one for whom sleep has eluded," Jascen remarks with a warm note in his voice, glancing in the direction of the familiar tone. "How are you?" He continues on in Rowan's direction, though the going is as ever slow.
"Oh, you know," the girl-squire says, philosophically, rolling her shoulders back and stifling a yawn. "No rest for the wicked, or something." She glances down at the book in her lap, sighing, then looks up again as Jacsen finally comes into view. "How hard do you think Jarod would kick my ass if I gave Amelia hemlock?"
The smirk he wears only widens at the girl's suggestion. "Only twice so hard as I would hit you with my cane," Jacsen informs her, shuffling over to where he might take a seat near Rose. "Why do you ask? Filled with some sort of pity for the woman that you would see her out of her misery?" he wonders casually, "Or does something else elicit such a desire for a merciful end for this whore?"
"Other than the fact that she's my sister?" Rowan asks, her tone dry. She blows out a breath, closing the book — which seems to be about poisonous plants, so she was a bit more than half-serious, after all. "She's done a horrible thing and she's going to die," she says softly. "That's just. What I — what I find difficult to abide is the waiting. Which I can only imagine is torture. Nothing to think about down there in the dark but the end."
"Do you believe that?" Jascen wonders as he settles into a seat, setting his cane against the chair's arm. "Lord Rickart is, from what I have heard, one of the worst examples of men." He does not seem to be concerned that his Nayland friend will be upset by that remark. "But even one such as him would surely balk at using his own child so? Surely, a man might send his daughter to spread her legs and give an heir to one he wishes to draw closer, but it is another thing entirely to make her do as he did."
"Is there such a difference?" Rowan wonders, shaking her head. "I'm not sure I see it. I think my father's the kind of man who treats people as he believes they're worth. A bastard daughter's worth less than nothing." She looks down, shrugging. "I believe it. For whatever it's worth. She guessed who I was some time ago, and with all the wrong she's done, she'd been a loyal sister."
His lips form a thin line as he listens to that. "Loyal, mayhap. I suppose you did not tell her of your feelings for my good brother, else she might not have taken quite so many rounds with him," Jacsen remarks, some disdain in his voice. Less for the profession, likely, and more for the spying that it was a convenient cover for. "Still. I do not envy you, Rose, do you believe she is your sister. Even so.. would that she had shared even a few of your qualities, she might not have taken down the path she did."
"I did tell her, actually," Rowan says, shrugging. "I've never begrudged Jarod his whores — and what was she going to do, suddenly start refusing him?" She raises her eyes to Jacsen, her smile without mirth. "It pleases me that you think so highly of me, Jack… but Amelia and I aren't so different. There but for the grace of the Seven go I."
Jacsen quirks a brow at Rowan's words, seemingly unconvinced. "You mean to tell me that she expressed to you who she was, what she thought she was…" he begins, "And did not receive advice from you that, mayhap, she should not whore herself for the sake of Lord Rickart's favor? Clearly the example was already set," he adds, waving a hand in Rowan's direction, "That the man's favor was not something worth enduring the Mire for. Unless you simply nodded at her when she told you her tale, and had nothing to say, I can hardly /not/ fault her for some of that."
"No," Rowan corrects, frowning slightly. "I didn't even know she still had contact with the old man. I certainly didn't know she was — working for him. In any capacity. She just told me we were sisters. Half-sisters. Because I was so upset she'd found me out, so panicked and convinced I was done for… I suppose she meant it to calm me, so that I'd know a secret of hers, too. But she spared me the details."
Her frown finds something of a mirror in his own expression, and Jascen does shake his head regretfully at what Rowan shares. "It seems somehow like it must be the will of the Seven," he says, his voice lower and touched with some vague pity, "For there seems so many pivots, which taken, could have avoided all of this. And yet despite those many opportunities, we still find ourselves thus, and Amelia Millen finds herself as she is… and surely she shall hang."
"Must she hang?" Rowan asks, unhappily. "Surely that her life is forfeit will satisfy the law. What does it matter how she dies?" She closes her eyes and swallows. "I know she's suffering down there. I haven't even had the courage to go and see it myself. If she were a dog, we'd put her down swiftly. We'd be kinder."
"A dog does only what is in its nature, bereft of the moral understanding we possess," Jacsen reminds, though he is not unkind in the saying of such. "I do not think there is one who knows of this that relishes that she should hang, but… it is not enough that justice be done, justice must be seen to be done." He leans over then, with Rowan's eyes closed to the world, and reaches to offer her hand a small squeeze. "I do not know if you would feel better for it, or not," he shares, gentler, "But I would accompany you there if you wished. You'd not carry all the weight of delivering some solace in some final moment, when likely there is none to be found."
Rowan bites her lips, taking a slow and slightly shaky breath, struggling with tears. "Bloody, blistered balls," she whispers vehemently, lacing her fingers with Jacsen's and returning the squeeze. "It seems I'm always crying, or on the verge of, lately." She sniffles and scrubs her nose with her sleeve, opening her eyes. They're bright and a bit swimmy, but the tears don't fall. Her gaze turns to him with deep, earnest gratitude. "Thank you. If you — I would really appreciate the support… while I try to be supportive. And thank you for not jumping down my throat for — for thinking about helping her along."
Jacsen's nod is a small one, but no less sincere. His hand is warm and present, offering that mark of support, no matter how minor it might first appear. "It's been a trying time, Rose, trying enough to make the last few years seem as if the calm before the storm," he remarks, more than willing to match her gaze, though his eyes do not threaten a leak, "And you cannot blame yourself for feeling the weight of it all. Or wishing to ease its weight on another. And when, if, you wish to go down there and offer your support… yes, I will be there."
Rose — for really, there's no Rowan left in her affect now — swallows hard, trying and failing to smile for him. Just a little. To show she can. She finally rolls her eyes at herself and just looks pained and apologetic. "You're too good," she whispers, and leans into him, resting her forehead against his shoulder. "Jarod said you're the best of them. You're sort of like — " she does make a soft, snuffling sound that's probably a laugh, there, " — sort of your father's brain and Jarod's looks and Luci's sweet nature. And Jaremy's — " she pauses. "I don't think you're anything at all like Jaremy, actually."
His shoulder is a welcoming perch, as such things go, his smile a touch sad on her behalf. "I had his sword arm, and legs in the saddle, once upon a time," Jacsen offers, some faint amusement buried somewhere in that voice of his. "Though I might argue somewhat with the rest of your assessment. And his." He lets out a slow breath.
"Oh, you can try to argue with me," Rose chuckles, lifting her head from his shoulder. "But you'll lose. Besides, the world hardly needs a copy of Jarod Rivers running around — one's more than enough, Seven bless him." She smiles. "I rather like you as you are."
Jacsen's smile is a wry one, and warmer for the chuckle and smiling face she sports. "Well, I still ought to think there are a few things worth improving," he tells her in a decidedly, well, decided voice. "But overall, I do appreciate such warm praise. You're kind, Rose, thank you."
She smirks, kissing his cheek — just a peck. "I'm not kind. I'm a terrible person. You'll see. I've just decided to try to be more honest, recently — or at least lie less. Tis that you've the benefit of, tonight, my lord. Not kindness."
His smile warms at the peck on his cheek. "Well, whatever it is, you've given me the better side, and why should I not be glad for that?" Jacsen remarks with a faint shrug of his shoulders. "Though I wonder at why you would speak so lowly of yourself." His smile does recede as he says such. "I hope that is not my brother's work."
Rose shakes her head, sitting back — she keeps her fingers laced with his, though. "I'd say 'which one,' but I take your meaning," she says with a wry smile. "No. My self-deprecation's mostly tongue-in-cheek. Jarod and I…" She shrugs, tilting her head to rest on the wing of the high-backed chair. "I suppose we've come to a truce. Again. But this one…" She bites the corner of her bottom lip, looking pensive for a moment. "I hate to jinx it, but I think… it feels different. I think we might be alright. Or… at least, we've taken a step in that direction."
Jacsen seems content to leave his hand and fingers so, reclining in his seat with something of a heaved sigh. "I shall not make mention of it to him, if that helps ease your concern, as I've no interest in jinxing it myself," he mentions, shaking his head lightly. "Though I'm pleased all the same to know that you and he have found some measure of an accord. It would be a sad thing to leave naught but ire in the place of so much that was good."
"Agreed," Rose murmurs, lowering her lashes and reflecting. She's silent for a moment. "It was awfully good, once."
He gives her hand a light squeeze once more. "And it might yet be again, Rose. Given some time for Jarod to… sort out all his feelings about some things. Which, admittedly, could take him a while."
Rose wrinkles her nose. "Well. I won't be waiting." She sighs. "So if he sorts it out before I'm over him and in love with some other — tremendously lucky — fellow, huzzah. If not, too bad for him."
Jacsen cannot help but chuckle at that, and lean over so he can drag up their conjoined hands and put a kiss on her knuckle, itself likely rougher than most women he might offer such a gesture to. "Well, if you get tired of waiting… he does have a smarter brother, or so I'm told," he teases lightly, "Though that might only be vicious rumor."
Rose laughs, taking the song and altering it a bit — "O, what's a poor squire to do?" she sings, grinning. "You should be careful, Jack," she teases in return. "You'll turn my head. And your brother will tell you — being the object of my affections is no picnic."
That bit of song elicits a laugh, and a light shrug of his shoulders greets that warning. "I should be so lucky to have one of my own problems to deal with," Jacsen informs her, "And one so pretty and pleasant besides."
She blushes at that, both pleased and abashed. "It would be nice to be in love with someone who actually fancied me," she says wryly, giving his hand a quick squeeze — and changing the subject. "Is Lord Anton going to call Jaremy out, do you think?"
He does not seem wed to the topic, and gives her question a thoughtful expression. "He might, if he is a man too concerned with his pride," Jacsen surmises after a moment of thought, seeming to recount theories he has long since already played out, "But I think it more likely he will not. Despite Jaremy's… missteps, there is a very good reason Lord Anton came to the Roost and not the Mire, even though the Naylands have begun a road to his hold. Our friendship is worth the greater, for its influence and the honor of our word. And…" his lips twist a bit at this last, "… he greatly desires Lucienne. He could never have her with Jaremy's blood on his hands."
"Does he know he can have Lucienne? Or at least think it?" Rose asks, raising her eyebrows. "Because if he thinks he can't…" She shakes her head. "If Jaremy's insulted him so badly — he's not a man to speak idle threats. He's really considering doing this, and I'll wager Luci may be the only thing preventing him." She sighs. "I don't suppose it matters what Jaremy did, exactly. Do you think it's left him disposed to value our word, though, or our honor?"
Jacsen's lips turn upward at Rose's use of 'our' when she speaks of the Terrick word, the Terrick honor. "I told him as much, that if he were to accept other offers… support of craftsmen, materials, a ward, further considerations… that if he could accept our hand reached out in friendship," he shares with the feminine squire, "That such a thing was possible. He would, I think, have her as some sort of recompense for my brother's actions… but I feel firm on that. She cannot be wed to a man that will not call us friend," he remarks. "As to the rest? If he is so willing to easily cast aside the valued and hard-earned reputation of the Terricks of the Roost over the misguided actions of my one brother, that is his prerogative, but it is a foolish one. Those that will seek to embrace him when turned from us are… not those one should be comforted calling friends."
Rose doesn't seem to notice her gaffe, still so much a Terrick in her head and her heart. She listens, looking well-worried by all of it. "My family is cunning, Jack. And base cunning sometimes has an advantage over intelligence. Intelligence has a profound blind spot," she smiles at him faintly. "It expects people to do what's reasonable. For the world to be balanced and rational, cause and effect — but it isn't, always." She shakes her head. "Don't discount a possible course for Lord Anton because it's foolish, knowing what we know. He does not know what we know. He doesn't know the Naylands. Of their character, he has only our word. And so we're back at the beginning. If my family is actively courting him, where we've only given insult… Jack, offering him things and expecting him to meet us part way, that's not contrition. That's business as usual. Contrition is giving him something of value, despite that he may offer us nothing in return, because — because we were wrong. Even if it Jaremy acting alone — it was all of us — all of you." She suddenly catches herself at it and looks away with a sigh. "Contrition means you take a penalty. You give something up. That, I think, is what he expects — and it's not unreasonable."
"Does he not?" Jacsen reaches for his cane, his itch to be up and moving at war with the unyielding condition of his leg. "I offered to throw support behind Ser Gedeon's claim without the letters for verification, a cause he should be well wedded to, and a case that does make Lord Anton's behaviour somewhat questionable," he insists, as he rises from his seat and takes a few steps away from the seating. "After all, do they not keep Ser Gedeon's own papers, writ in the hand of his father, that both men believe gives him rights to lands and incomes of his lord father, that gives him the right to use the name Tordane. Do they not lie, withhold, and seek to undermine him? Why is it that /this/ does not cause some great consternation for the Lord Anton, but Jaremy's foolishness does? It does not sit right with me, that with his trusted knight, whom followed him throughout the Free Cities, being slighted so, is barely worth the thought of ire, where Jaremy's admittedly foolish question incenses him so."
Rose hesitates a moment, then tries to address the questions point by point. Gently. Her fingers loosen where they're threaded through his — not quite letting go, but preparing to it he needs to get up and move. "Those kinds of… tactics and manipulations… are expected of the Naylands. I'm sure Lord Anton is disturbed by their actions, but the reason he's so upset over this debacle with Jaremy? It's because everyone — including him — expects better of the Terricks. And well they should. You cannot reasonably cultivate a reputation for honor and at the same time condemn those who are especially upset when we behave dishonorably. The higher you're held, the further you have to fall." She shakes her head. "Offering to support Gedeon's claim isn't enough, Jack. That's not contrition either. That's just the right thing to do. And something I hope we'd do anyway."
"I don't think you can quite have it both ways, Rose. You cannot acknowledge the reputation and worth of a House, and make that your reason to be so distressed, and forget it so soon as apologies and amends are offered," Jacsen remarks, those linked fingers and the realities of his leg conspiring to keep him yet seated beside her. "If you are a good and honorable man, you accept the apology given you and work to let people you know to be so decent and honorable make those amends. If you know us to be of honor and decency, you act to us as you would a friend, as we did… save Jaremy… in sharing our home and hearth with Lord Anton." He lets out a slow breath, shaking his head. "Let me be clear, I understand the posture of politics. He wants something, and we are the ones to grant it. He wishes, along with the fresh ink on his patents of nobility, the daughter of a respected and long-standing House as his bride to strengthen the future of House Valentin. His honor has been bruised, and needlessly so. But beneath that? He knows, or could know if he had a care, that we are decent folk and all of us horrified at Jaremy's mistake. A mistake he can be made to learn from, will be made to learn from. And he knows I aim to offer him, ultimately, what it is he pursues here beyond simple friendship and cooperation."
"But how he seeks now to have it, simply because he might, because of Jaremy's actions? It will only weaken my lord father and his reputation to throw his precious daughter at the feet of a man who cannot even claim at this moment friendship to his House," Jacsen insists, "And with all that swirls about our House and those near us of late, he well knows that to be a blow that cannot be stomached. Combined with the potential loss of Stonebridge, and the Naylands sniffing about our lands, each move needs must be careful and deliberate. I know," he adds, judging Rose willing to endure his small oration, or having no polite way to interject, "that his honor is wounded. But in the great scheme of things, which he must well see if he thinks to prosper… a deep blow to House Terrick is far more dangerous than this slight put to Oldstones. His name is one barely known on the lips of most in this swath of the Riverlands, and Terrick one that carries much further. His own reputation will recover in swift order, as Oldstones is rebuilt and lords are called to attend a marriage betwixt Terrick and Valentin."
"Jack," Rose tucks a leg up beneath her, turning in her chair to face him better, taking his hand in both of hers. "Jaremy… is House Terrick, in the eyes of many. As the heir, he's our future. He won't apologize — not properly, anyhow. He's too proud and too vain to be properly contrite. I know he's your brother and I'm sorry to speak critically of him, but it's true. And since Jaremy cannot or will not be properly contrite, you must be. Again, you're expecting other men to be reasonable. That won't happen until Lord Anton feels he can trust us — you claim our — fuck, I'm sorry. House Terrick's. You claim House Terrick's reputation as a reason he should, and that you're not Jaremy, so he must know that you're not like Jaremy and can be trusted — but those are not strong enough reasons, especially in face of what he's experienced here. First, make right Jaremy's wrong. Then get back to politics."
"That is the point, Rose, I /have/," Jacsen explains, with a slight shake of his head, a sigh that is frustrated at the words he speaks, and not the girl across from him. "I offered to ride back with him to Oldstones, to make amends myself to his Castellan, to attend with him his fortifications and settlement that I might arrange for supplies and craftsmen, to bring a ward to attend his household, or even squire to him should he wish it, to secure in reasonable time for him the marriage he seeks. And instead of accepting, knowing that I have bent myself to do whatever I might to repair Jaremy's foolish, rash damage, he seeks to compare my offer to the Naylands. As if somehow all that House Terrick offers were nothing more than the outstretched hand of a Nayland, whom holds in the other a dagger. In the end he promised nothing but to think on my offer, but nothing more. Because he wants nothing more than Lucienne, and thinks to press this to have her. My sister is not so easily given, Rose. Not by my father, and not by my hand."
"Ah," says Rose, softly. She looks down at their hands, giving his a gentle squeeze. "I'm sorry, then. It does sound… it does sound as though you've gone to some lengths. Perhaps he just needs a little time to calm down. Maybe a letter from Lucienne — and a visit from your father. Adept and persuasive as you are, only Lord Ser Jerold is truly the Lord of Terrick's Roost and Lord Anton's peer. The same words from your father might do much to soothe Lord Anton."
Jacsen nods his agreement. "That… I had thought to ask my Lord father to see to something of that nature," he admits, "Though the letter from Lucienne is not something I'd considered. I suppose I should have." He lets out a breath. "Forgive the frustration in my voice, Rose. It is not directed at you," he assures.
Rose smiles softly. "I know. And I wouldn't mind if it were, even — I'm not sure how to express how grateful I am that you just… talk to me. As you would to your brothers or your sister. It makes me feel very much a part of the family."
It's his turn to try for a smile, and it surfaces however slightly. "A man can question everything and everyone, Rose, and I spend much of my time doing both," Jacsen tells her, "But without a few people to simply trust, and see some good in the world in? I think I'd go mad, and lose my will to persevere." There, again, the attempted smile. It's better, the second time. "So thank you for not disappointing."
Deeply touched, Rose takes a breath and grins, pushing past the ache in her heart. She leans in and rests her forehead against his, bumping him with her nose. "No, no," she insists, in a pompus, silly voice. "Thank you!"
It breaks something of the tension in the reading room, the eve so late that only the two spinning talk of brothers, fathers, whores, and politics remain, and Jacsen cannot help but laugh, his eyes brilliant and blue at this distance, favoring the girlish face across that sliver of space. "Fine," he concedes, smiling, "Thank me."
"What an excellent idea! I think I will," Rose replies, giggling. She her smile is easy and warm. "Thank you, Jack," she says softly. "For being my friend. For being you."
Jacsen's smile is an affectionate one. "I find at least half of it to be second-nature, and the other half not yet so difficult as it could be," he assures her. "Anyways, you're most welcome."
Rose leans back into her own space, sighing and stifling a yawn. "Gods. It is late." She carefully unfolds her leg from beneath her and stretches. "We should go to bed."
As most yawns do, hers inspires one in him, and he covers it with the back of his untangled hand. "Mm," Jacsen notes in agreement, more a sound than word, "As high a note as any to end the day upon." He offers a final squeeze to Rose's hand before he withdraws his own, and reaches for his cane.
She stands and waits for him to gain his feet, and when he does she puts her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. Plenty of time to spring apart should the door open, well out of the line of sight. She doesn't thank him again, but it's implied. And she doesn't seem in a hurry to step back.
He wraps his arm about her when she steps so near, his own head lightly resting against hers on his shoulder. Jacsen seems comfortable enough there, comfortable enough with her, that he doesn't much move.
It's quite some time before she moves — she might have even dozed off there, leaning against him. Finally though, perhaps mindful of his leg, she slowly and reluctantly untwines, lifting her head, sleepy eyes and mussed curls, to look up at him.
"Something else on your mind?" he asks, in a gentle sort of murmur, mindful of the only faint distance between them. Jacsen's smile is tired, but there, his eyes a touch more alert.
"No," she whispers after a beat, taking a breath and stepping back. She smiles abashedly. "Nothing." Another pause. "Sleep sweetly, Jack. Good night."
He doesn't look like he entirely believes her, though Jacsen is merciful in not pressing the matter. The late hour is like as not to blame. "And you, Rose, may you find warmth and peace, and sleep besides."
Her smile flashes brighter. She takes another breath, clears her throat, and adopts her alter-ego's jaunty posture, striding out like a lad without a care in the world.