|Suicide By Love Letter|
|Summary:||Gedeon tries to talk some sense into Rowan and is mostly unsuccessful.|
|Related Logs:||Racing the Sun|
|Rowan's Room — Four Eagles Tower|
|This small, modest bed chamber is about the size of a large closet, with room for a single bed, a foot-locker, a chest of drawers and little else. Everything is pin neat, the bed made, a large rag-rug covering the rough floorboards underfoot. A half-melted candle on a small, chipped saucer decorates the rickety nightstand, and a number of books are piled up on the low shelf beneath it. The chest of drawers, just left of the door, is wider than it is tall, about waist-height, topped with a pitcher and basin. On the walls are hung the banners of both House Nayland and House Terrick, along with an old but intricate map of the Riverlands, and another of Westeros entire. A single, dormer window looks out on the tower courtyard, the deep sill seeming a pleasant and inviting place to sit and watch the world go by.|
|8 August 288|
The afternoon is cool for the summer, and the respite from the heat has made the day productive. Productive enough that some find there are a few hours of freedom for them to snatch in the afternoon. The blond knight of Oldstones heads into the stables, past the horses and up the ladder that leads to the rooms of the loft. He knocks lightly on the squire's door. "Rowan?" he calls. "It's good weather, if your chores are done for the day we could spar."
There's a long groan of epic suffering. "Sweet Seven, what I wouldn't give…" says the squire. "I'm stuck. Stuck writing a letter. Stuck writing the letter that means the end of my entire life!" There's the sound of crumbled parchment and a dry skitter as it strikes the wall, then the floor. "Come in, already. It's not like I'm airing the sausage out, or anything." There is just a trace of potent irony in the Nayland's tone.
"No, you don't seem the sort," Gedeon agrees as he opens the door and steps in, drawing it shut again behind him. Wherever Rowan sits, Gedeon picks the other available spot to drop down with a small sigh and a stretch of his legs. "What's this about a letter?"
The room is littered with at least a dozen parchment balls. Rose closes her eyes, fingers stained with ink pinching the bridge of her nose. "It's a reply. To Lady Igara." She — sitting on the bed, just breeches and a shirt, cross-legged — bends over the small lap-desk balanced on her knees and begins again. "Dear Igara…" She stops, blowing out a breath. "He gave me a year to prove I've the mettle to be considered for the King's Guard," she says, looking up at Gedeon. "A year during which Lady Igara would wait and hope. I can't do that to her, Gedeon. I can't let her… pine for this person I'm not. It's too painful."
Gedeon leans down to pick up one of the crumpled balls, smoothing it out to look it over. "Can't you tell her you have your heart's desire in the kingsguard, and to ask her to wait would be unjust? A year is a long time to a young woman and to her family if they're eager for a match."
Rose shakes her head, looking back down at the parchment. "Fuck. No. No, I can't. I think she'd choose to wait anyways, but even would she not — it's not her choice. My cousin made it very clear to me that she would wait, and if it were not the kingsguard, it would be marriage to her. No other options."
"So, then, this letter you are writing," Gedeon begins carefully, fingers smoothing and resmoothing the crumpled parchment. "It's going to say…"
"Dear Igara," she reads, then puts quill to paper once more. "I pray that you will forgive me, and I pray as well that my deception has not caused you too much pain… but you must know that I am not who you — nor anyone — believe me to be." She rakes her fingers through her dark curls, looking at the words dry on the page. Bleak. "This is not the way I wanted to do this."
The knight's eyes widen slightly and then he clears his throat. "Are you saying that you mean to tell her? In a letter?"
Rose takes a breath, then adds that sentiment to the letter. "This is not the way I wanted to do this, but circumstances force my hand — paramount among them that I cannot allow you to yearn for a young man who does not exist. I know the pain of unrequited love too well, and I would never have another suffer so. Not for my own, selfish ends." She pauses to dip the pen and swallow the lump in her throat. "Yes," she says. "That is precisely what I mean to do."
"Rowan, that um…" Gedeon swallows in turn, brows furrowed as he curls the letter up again and lets it drop to the floor. "That seems a dangerous thing for you to do. There must be some other way to turn Igara's gaze and match her with another husband."
Rose looks up, frowning. "No more games," she states flatly. "This… has to be made right." She looks back down and begins writing again. "When I'm known to the Terricks, I will be known also to my family, and thus to her. I would rather she have it from me. It is the very least — indeed, the only — grace I can give her, to spare her hearing this… ridiculous and embarrassing thing from someone else."
Gedeon groans softly, scrubbing a hand roughly over his face. "And what do you think your family will do, when they hear of this? What do you think the Freys will do? You can wound Igara privately or humiliate her, her family and your own openly, and do you think they will have any love for you for that? Do you think they would allow you to continue to squire?"
"They don't own me anymore," Rose says heatedly. "I have been disinherited. I am no longer a Nayland." She crumbles up the page on her lap desk and throws it at the wall. "Only Squire Rowan can claim that name, and he does not exist."
"And you think that would stop them from punishing you?" Gedeon insists. "You think a technicality like that would keep you safe? Rowan this is… this is suicide."
Rose puts her lapdesk aside, "Furthermore, what is so humiliating, what is so shameful about my being a woman?" She stands, shaking with anger — though none of it is particularly at Gedeon, he's certainly positioned to be blasted with the heat. "To a young girl who has indicated she desires the boy-who-is-not-a-boy — that I can see. But if the Terricks, if anyone else is ashamed of me? Let them be buggered." She draws a breath. "You were the one who asked if I wished to be knighted while cloaked in a lie. And I do not."
"Yes, but I meant a lie to your lord, not the world entire!" Gedeon replies, his voice low and urgent as he leans forward and into Rose's wrath. "There is nothing shameful about being a woman, but you know as well as I do a woman pretending to be a man is not a thing that would be respected. The Terricks will be ashamed of themselves and the Naylands will be furious that they'll appear the fool."
"This can't be a secret anymore, Gedeon," says Rose. "It has to come out. How else do you suggest I keep from lying to whatever Lord will have me?"
"You squire for someone who already knows!" Gedeon replies, throwing his hands up into the air and letting them flop back onto his legs with an audible *thwap*.
"AND?" Rose pursues. "And when I must be knighted, when I must as a Septon to bless my vows before the gods — I must then tell my lord, correct? Unless it is you, and we've no guarantee of that."
"No, we haven't," Gedeon agrees, ducking his head down to push his hands through his hair, "but it could be Lord Valentin. He's discreet and open-minded and if we spoke to him before you became my squire, I believe he'd be willing. The Septon Josse is a friend and knows your secret. He would bless your vows, I think."
Rose draws a breath, then closes her eyes, looking pained. "Gedeon…" she looks regretful. "I know… I know you must think very highly of Lord Anton, and I would never imply that he is less than worthy of that regard. But…" She opens her eyes, searching his face. "I do not know him, Gedeon. And he is sworn neither to Terrick nor to Nayland. Even if he would have me… do you think I could make such a vow based simply on the fact that he might be the only one would would have me?"
"I think he is here in Terrick's Roost right this very day," Gedeon replies, "which makes it a rather perfect time for you to get to know him and make a decision based on what you find. Just, please… please think about this before you do anything. You need a plan beyond telling the truth and tossing your fate to the gods. The gods are not kind."
"I can't have the measure of a man to that extent over just a few hours conference," Rose replies. "As much as I would like to. And believe me, I would love to. I would love to know that a vow to Lord Anton would never mean I must draw steel on someone I love. Can you promise me that, Gedeon? Do you know him well enough to promise me he would never stand against Terrick's Roost?"
Gedeon studies Rowan for a long moment before he shakes his head. "I hope he never will, but no matter who you swear to, you put your trust in the Lord and their decisions. If you swore to Ser Jerold, do you think there is no risk you would be forced to draw your sword on your own brothers, one day? If you were a member of the Kingsguard, could you swear you would never be required to follow orders that would bring you in conflict with the ones you love? The future is never set, no matter what you do. Lord Valentin is pursuing a suit with Lady Lucienne, and such an alliance would mean he had little cause to fight the Terricks. But I am no fortune teller. I can only tell you that your life would be better and safer for being a knight of Oldstones than it would being Rickart Nayland's shamed and disowned daughter."
Rose drops to sit on the bed once more, shoulders wilting. "And what of Igara? I only have a year to keep up this charade, regardless, you know. I cannot marry the poor girl. That's ludicrous."
"No, of course you cannot, but a year is a long time. Many things can happen in a year, even the best of plans can change, let alone the worst ones." Gedeon ducks his head down, offering a soft smile. "Honor is important. Duty is important. I wouldn't be in the mess I am now, if I did not believe that. But the world isn't honorble. It is cunning and cold, and you must learn a little cunning as well, if you're going to survive it."
Rose looks up at Gedeon with tears in her eyes. Still unshed. But they're there, swimming and bright. "I am not cunning, Gedeon," she whispers. "I am not cunning and I am not cold. I wish I could be. But I'm — I'm just… not that complicated. I want to protect the people I love and make the world a better place. I want to use the gifts the Seven gave me, and they are not… beauty and cunning and wiles. They're strength and endurance and speed. Bless those who have both sets, I'm not among them." She looks away, toward the window and the towers beyond. "I'm tired, Gedeon. I am so tired of lying and being afraid. And now, I'm supposed to — to treat this poor girl so cruelly, simply so I might… what? Have one more year as a man?" She swallows and shakes her head. "I would hate myself. I half hate myself already."
Gedeon leans forward, reaching to collect one of Rose's hands and draw it to his lips for a soft kiss. "What you don't realize is that all of those things you want are complicated things. The Seven gave you more than you think. You've posed as a boy for three years and you think you are not cunning?" He swallows. "Would you give your life to spare Igara Frey a handful of tears?"
Rose closes her eyes and swallows as he kisses her hand. "It is far more than a handful of tears. She's an innocent girl…" She leans in until her forehead touches his, resting there, simply taking comfort in his closeness. "I do not risk my life, but only the life I want. If I should value that so highly that it is… more to me than someone else's suffering…" she stumbles on the next words, then laughs at the bitter comedy of it. "Then what kind of man would I be?"
The Oldstones knight huffs a faint laugh for that final question. "I wish I trusted the Naylands as much as you seem to, to believe all they would do is turn you away. Someone will take that innocence, someone will open her eyes to the world, and it may be through far crueler means than you are capable of. Growing up is no easy process, but it is one she will experience whether you sacrifice your livelihood to her innocence or not."
"I mean innocent of wrongdoing, not innocent of life. She's a Frey. It's a miracle if she came out of that house of horror intact." Rose sighs, staying close, threading her fingers with his. "If you would have a lady squire, and Lord Anton a lady knight, I may yet come to Oldstones. But it will not be as a man. I am done with lies."
Gedeon breathes out softly and gives his head a small shake, though not hard enough to jostle Rose's forehead. "Then at the very least, don't put it in a letter. Talk to Jarod first. He deserves to know before Igara Frey, anyhow."
Rose casts a mournful look at the ruined paper scattered about the room. She sighs and nods, assenting to that, at least. "I still barely know what to say," she whispers. "I'll… tell my cousin that I am not a… man of many words…" she laughs again, sniffling. "And that I need more time to compose my reply. I suppose it cannot be helped, though I would spare her more waiting if I could."
"She's pined for Rowan Nayland this long. A couple extra weeks will do no harm," Gedeon answers gently. He tips his chin up to press a soft kiss to Rose's hair. "Seven protect you and lead you safely out of this mess."