|The Eighth Kingdom|
|Summary:||Jarod and Jacsen catch up after the Sept Reopening and discuss their exit strategy.|
|Related Logs:||Immediately following Sept Reopening.|
|Sky and ground, maybe a tree or something.|
|14 June 289|
The blessing of the reopened sept of Terrick's Roost is a short and sweet affair, though many linger over individual prayers longer. Jarod just lingers in general. He lights a candle before the clay statue of the Warrior, and another in front of the Smith, then a third for the Stranger. He edges away from the crowd once that last is done. Rowenna's already gone back to the Rockcliff, where they're staying the night before departing in the morning for Stonebridge. He doesn't leave just yet, however. He is searching the fringes for a certain someone, with a cane. Once he scans the interior, he makes his way outside. Confident that if Jacsen showed at all, he could not yet have gotten far in leaving.
It's not often that the Stranger's attention is warranted, but it appears at least two do - Jarod, just having lit a candle, and Jacsen, just about to light one. Missing his brother by only a minute, he places the candle before the Stranger and murmurs a few words, making that only two prayers for him - the other one being to the Crone. But unlike his brother, he does not linger and look about, but rather starts back instead without hesitation. Though he can't go too far too fast.
Jarod happens to look over his shoulder as he's nearly out the door, just in time to see Jacsen departing the Stranger. He blinks, not surprised precisely, but like he's sort of trying to right his vision. For a second he just stands there, trying to summon up some proper greeting, or something clever to say. What he manages is, voice pitched toward the young lord, is, "What do you figure He hears when you pray? The face of Death."
A brief look crosses Jacsen's face when he hears Jarod's voice. "I imagine he hears voices full of life, beckoning to him," he answers, turning to face his brother for a moment before continuing on. It's either an invitation to walk with him or a completely dismissive gesture. "The same as any animal on the hunt would hear as he seeks his prey."
"I think he hears secrets. All the ones men carry that aren't fit to tell the other six. A Begging Brother once told me that He takes them from you, puts them in His pocket, so you don't have to carry your shadows alone." Whether it's an invitation or not, Jarod takes it as one. Keeping pace with Jacsen is not exactly hard for his long legs, but he manages to fall into it without looking like he's consciously slowing down. "Many shadows in these parts these days, may as well thank Him for taking the load."
Jacsen takes that in without comment, continuing to walk in silence until they're clear of the crowds and in the open air, though a few stragglers do pass them by here and there. "I didn't need a Stranger to listen to my secrets," he says at last. "I had a brother once would listen to mine." It's not an accusing statement, but rather plainly stated, like an idle thought to a passing friend. "Luci told me you'd be here. Where's your - wife?"
"I was thinking on it…" Jarod continues on without answering any of that right away. "…because the first time I prayed to the Stranger was in Stonebridge, after Jaremy organized that cock-up of a 'rebellion' against Stonebridge. And I went to go beg that he be allowed to take the black, rather than have his head cut off. I was so angry at him. Had a lot I wanted to say I didn't feel right, admitting I felt about my brother." A beat of quiet and he adds, "You figure I'm a right asshole, I'm sure."
"You prayed to the Stranger to keep his hand from death?" Jacsen asks with a scoff. "I suppose it worked, in any case." But he sounds skeptical that prayer had any hand in that. "I figure I'm right in that," he says with a one-shoulder shrug. He continues limping on, letting that hang in the air between them. "You must be glad to be gone from all this," he comments, meaning the Roost's current misfortunes, not the physical location.
"I hope I remembered to do that at some point," Jarod says wry. "Mostly I just spent the night telling the Stranger all the awful things I wanted to say to Jaremy. Thought it'd get rid of them. Didn't, quite, but at least it wasn't just rolling around in my own head anymore. Did manage to say a few to him before he was sent to the Wall, though not all of them." As for the last question, he shakes his head. "Of course I'm not glad. This is home."
"What, that he was a damned fool whose schemes and plans could've nearly fucked us, and not just him?" Jacsen asks offhandedly. As for this being 'home', that earns the sight of pressed lips from him. "I suppose it was, wasn't it," he replies. "One to the Wall and one to the Mire. Where am I to go then? Not far, I hope." A joke at his own expense. "Though I'll soon take my own journey right here if the Roost can't source more foodstores."
"That was a good part of what I thought, aye," Jarod replies, contrite. Off-hand or not, that remark hit home. He takes in a breath and lets it out long and slow. "I wanted to stay. I would have stayed if there was any way, swear to Seven I would, but my gods…after the way father discharged me, what in seven hells was I going to do with myself here? What was Rowenna going to do with herself? What was I supposed to do, little brother? Tell me that, since you're so damned smart." 'Little brother,' as ever, used very wry. Born less than nine months apart, brothers from another mother and all that. And the question isn't entirely defensive. Really, if you've got ideas, he'd love to hear them.
Jacsen is conflicted in silence. Jarod was in a near impossible position, there's no denying that. But he still can't shake the feeling of betrayal, especially not when it all happened while he was unable to do anything about any of it. "So you went there. To them." Again with the pursed lips. "But I'm here now. And I could… make some changes." He stops, slowly twisting the ring on his finger with his thumb. "They've strangled our trade at Stonebridge with tariffs and taken the Groves' surplus in whole. If you can do something about that, Jarod, if you can change this situation, then…" But it's more wishful thinking than a real plan.
"This was not what I planned," Jarod says. "I thought we might have to run off altogether, afraid as she's been all these years of what her family'd do to her if they knew what she'd done. To King's Landing or the North or Dorne. Maybe even to Fairmarket, stay with Master Bevins for a bit." His mother's father, who he's seen all of twice in his life. "But…I told Lord Jerold what I'd done and threw myself on his mercy, after six years of service, after bleeding for him on the Iron Isles, and he stripped me bare as he could. Rowenna went to the Mire, after scorning her family for years…and Lord Rickart fucking Nayland embraced her like a prodigal daughter. Even then I thought…fucking Stonebridge…" There's a world of things he wants to say in that expletive to the town, but he doesn't go into all that. For the first time, he turns his head to look properly at his half-brother. "Changes? What do you mean?"
"What fathers will do for their daughters," Jacsen muses dryly, shaking his head. As for changes, he starts to walk again as he speaks. "Everything is in a state of flux right now. Anything can happen." He sucks in his lips in thought, eyes narrowing at the road before him. "If you were able to sway the scales in our favor at the right time - " Our being Terricks', though it's unclear if that's inclusive to Jarod also, " - then I could make a strong case to have you come back. To have you come home." It's a very nonspecific plan, and obviously one he's trying to think up as he goes. "Stonebridge is yet contested, and a host of Charltons arrested. What know you of that… brother?"
"I've been trying, Jacs," Jarod says. "I made no secret to Lord Riordan when I swore to Stonebridge that I would advocate for better relations with the Terricks. The union between Lady Roslyn and Lord Justin might be a start to that. I know it's touchy but better a Nayland daughter to the Roost than the other way around, to my mind. She comes with a dowry, and is old enough that finding her a respectable match might be pressing enough to get Lord Rickart to make concessions he otherwise might not. And she'd be a Terrick at the end of it, different than making one of…" Wince. "…another of Lord Jerold's go to a Nayland house." As for the Charltons. "I'll tell you what I can. I wrote Lucienne much as I could speak without feeling a traitor to my oath to the place already. Lord Riordan was all right with that much, from the rumors I've heard I think they'd rather it be less a secret than more of one. Where would you like me to start?"
"I'm looking to negotiate that," Jacsen says about the Justin-Roslyn betrothal, or at least the possibility of it. "But I suspect the Naylands have bought up the Groves surplus at high cost in order to choke us out. They'll use that to try to press on our throats, make us bend to the pressures of our situation." He looks defiant as he takes a break, wincing and rubbing his leg. "But we've other means. If they won't offer fair terms, there'll be no marriage between the Houses. And no outcome where I'll lose another to the Hags." There's bitterness and pride in those words. As for Stonebridge, he asks point-blank, "What's the Nayland plan to hold Stonebridge when the child is born? And how does the Charlton situation play into it?"
"Of course they did, that's plain enough," Jarod says, not bothering to keep the disgust from his voice. "Not that they've talked to me about it, but I think you'd have to be a bigger fool than I not to see. Not sure how much it's to their benefit now, truth be told. Was a different matter when the Terricks were seeking their own claim to Stonebridge. They've got other troubles now. Not that they'll likely be keen to admit the deal was perhaps not so well for them, even for the winning of it." To Stonebridge. "They seek to hold their claim through Lady Isolde child when it's born, while the Widow Danae Tordane presses hers with what she claims is Ser Gedeon's. I don't know how much you've been listening to Riverrun, but it's no secret now. Lord Tully said he won't rule until, and unless, Lady Danae has a live child born. So it's a mess, and shall be a mess for a good while longer." Mention of the Charltons makes him snort. "Have you not guessed? No one's admitting it, but the Naylands belive Lady Danae's worked out some deal with the Charltons. To give them Stonebridge if she claims it, in exchange for her support. Lord Keegan Charlton came to meet with her at her pavilion, not long after Ser Gedeon died. And then Lord Aleister camps enough soldiers to fill out an entire castle guard in Crane's Crossing while the rest of the knights of the land are out searching for bandits. Draw your own conclusions, little brother, you're good at that generally."
"Are they so foolish as to buy so much at so high a cost only to see it spoil if we will not bend?" Jacsen asks with a frown at Jarod's words. "I'd heard that," he says with a shrug. "But it all seemed too obtuse for me to guess at the deeper plans as yet." Of course he assumes there are deeper plans when such an overt move is made. "Nayland won't have a hope of holding Stonebridge should words turn to swords," he says. "But that's still some months off yet, and until trade becomes complicated, I must move through enough food to keep the Roost fed until it all clears up one way or another."
"Plenty who'll buy food right now. Whether they'll buy at the price the Naylands want is another question, and one for you to ask, I figure," Jarod replies. "I pray the Charlton mess doesn't turn to swords. I just…I pray it doesn't." And he is plainly chilled by the thought that it will, and not allowing himself to think much beyond it. "You want my advice? For whatever piss in the wind it's still worth? Talk with the Naylands, talk with the other Freylings, talk with Lord Patrek's lovely betrothed at Seagard at the upcoming tourney. There's plenty of grain in the Reach, where she comes from. Cost of shipping would be dear, but you could at least bring it into Seagard and perhaps not deal with Frey tariffs. Matter of sorting out whether the Naylands will bleed more gold from you than ships south, I suppose. Talk to everyone, little brother, and take the best of many bad options. That's just sense, and the Naylands can hardly call me a traitor for saying it."
"Pray to the Stranger all you will, Jarod," Jacsen grunts, starting to walk again after the short rest. "I'm expecting steel be drawn, whether on the field or behind closed doors. It's an ugly matter, and it'll be settled in an ugly manner." He takes Jarod's advice with a single nod, filing the words away. "I'll hear the Nayland offer for us to take Lady Roslyn," he says, though he's obviously none too enamored with the idea. "And if it is sensible, I'll consider it. But my designs are elsewhere, with more trustworthy Houses, if it can be done. The tournament will provide the right venue for many such discussions."
"Funny thing is, if the Naylands had better friends with their neighbors, they'd like not have any troubles holding Stonebridge at all," Jarod says. "Lady Danae's claim isn't all that strong, to my mind. If all those sworn to the Twins backed the Naylands, she could do little. But the Charltons seem to be getting right cozy with her, even if they are all Lord Walder Frey's bannermen. They need allies very much at present. Might make them a little more bendable than they'd have been with the Roost in better times." He shrugs. "I just…I keep looking for a way for it to be over quick and clean. And I keep not finding it. I don't know what I'll end up doing if it turns to blood over the damn place, Jacs, I truly do not. Maybe I should've run away to Dorne after all."
"You'll be vigilant and just, I hope, instead of reaching beyond thy grasp," Jacsen replies simply. "I could see the Naylands further strangling trade through Stonebridge while they hold it with certainty and trying to use the Groves surplus and other goods to better their position in the matter." He frowns, then shakes his head. "But that's a tenuous posturing and unlikely to be their plan. Either way, support will split enough to either side to make it interesting."
"It'll be Frey-sworn assholes fighting Frey-sworn assholes. And me somewhere trying to be vigilant and just," Jarod says with a snort. Putting it like that, he has to laugh. "I have no fucking clue how to untangle myself from this. Well. At least I'm getting fucked well and good by a pretty girl, and without having to pay for it." He shakes his head. "I do love her, gods help me. She's about the only thing that makes sense to me most days right now."
"They'll overreach, Jarod. Be vigilant and you'll seize your opportunity. Then you can be free of them." Jacsen's voice is serious, a contrast against his brother's laugh. "That's how you'll unravel this web. By enacting justice to those who tempt fate." He pauses to face Jarod. "Then come home." It's said forcefully enough to be an order, if he were in any position to be giving his brother orders. Then he's walking again. "You're lucky in that," he says enviously. "Anais is pretty enough. But love, well." The word is bitter in his mouth. "She'll not love me, and I'll suffer her."
"I'm on the side of the law now, Jacs. I thought that'd make it cleaner, but it hasn't. I'm just…I'm trying to do the right thing. It's just…it's all twisted around so much it's hard to separate the wrong from the…slightly less wrong. Well. I'll figure it out. There's always Dorne." Jarod catches the note of envy, tilting his head at his brother. "Jacs…I'm sorry I wasn't there while you were ill. I wanted to…talk to you, about all this, after I came home from the war but when I got home you were…and all this just…happened and kept happening until Rowenna and me weren't home anymore. And couldn't come back easy. How're you doing, with…everything?" There's too much to nail it down to one thing, so he aims wide.
"Has the Father become your father, then, brother?" Jacsen asks, making light somewhat of his statement. "Does the law determine what is right, or what is fair? Or does it one and we the other? When the time comes, you'll know which you serve." And he's made no great secret of which path he'd want to see Jarod take - the one that leads him back to the Roost. "It crumbles to ashes in my hand," he answers dramatically, gripping his left hand into a fist. "Just as I think I've got hold of it, it dances away to elude my grasp. And I am left with ashes and vinegar." He shakes his head, opening his empty hand and letting it fall to his side. "The bridge crumbles, and I run." That last bit seems to make no sense in any context.
"The law, and the honor and fealty to hold to it, is all that holds us together," Jarod says. "Maybe not so well these days. It's like I can see the cracks now, in ways I couldn't when we were boys at the fucking Trident thinking we'd made a new kingdom. Maybe we just tore the old one. King Robert should've had Balon Greyjoy's head after the war for what he did to the River coasts, but he didn't, as the price of peace. Lord Tully should just make a ruling on Stonebridge, one way or another, but he won't, because he's afraid to piss off his bannermen. Maybe it'll all come to ashes, all of it." He watches Jacsen's hand open and fall. "I just want…I want it to be better, somehow. I just don't know how to get there. You know?"
"Well, I sure as fuck hope nobody wants it to get worse," Jacsen snorts. "But it will. Expect it. It will get worse before it gets better. And once it gets better, it will get worse." He seems to be in a mood to talk circular today. "But I'm trying to make it better. Not very well as yet. Others may think me crippled and desperate, weak and vulnerable, but I will not fall prey to their schemes." Again with that pride. "If the old men are too complacent to make good timely decisions, it falls upon us to press forward. To make a new kingdom."
"I'm trying, too. I just…I'm not doing it very well," Jarod says, with a hopeless sort of laugh. And then, he just keeps laughing. "We'll do it, Jacs. You and me. Hope of the Seven Kingdoms. Hope of the Roost and Stonebridge and the Riverlands." He laughs so much he almost doubles over. "We are so fucked."
Even though he tries to hold it in at first, Jacsen can't help but laugh a little too. "Fuck the Seven Kingdoms," he chuckles, stabbing his cane into the dirt with his next step. "We'll found the eighth instead." The laughter dies down, but the humor remains in his voice. "I'll crown myself the Cripple King and hang people with canes."
"I'll be your master-at-arms! No. Wait. Fuck that. Rowenna'll do it, and give you a whole slew of Dornish shield maidens to be your King's Guard!" Jarod declares, still laughing. "But the pair of you best give me a fucking horse once you've your kingdom established, or else I'll be no better off."
"You?" Jacsen asks, a slow grin creeping on. "You'll get a fine and fast horse, brother. All adrape with livery and sigil." Limp, limp, limp, stop, turn. "Because I'll make you my personal courier." The grin breaks out in earnest, the first real smile he's given Jarod in… well, months now, really.
"And I'll ride far and fast to every end of the eighth kingdom, too, fuck them all! Ha!" Jarod pivots light on his feet at Jacsen's limp-turning, clapping his hands. He spins until he sort of winds to a stop, catching himself on his feet, running out of breath to laugh any further. It's a moment of gasping before he can say anything at all. "We are well and surely fucked, little brother. It'll be all right, though." Somehow. He doesn't specify how.
<OOC> Jacsen says, "Did Jarod just start CLAPPING AND SPINNING like a retarded seal chasing its own tail" <OOC> Jarod says, "You are damn right he did" <OOC> Jacsen says, "zomfg"
"Won't be hard, since the eighth kingdom's likely to be a forsaken piece of rock in the middle of a haunted forest somewhere," Jacsen says wryly, watching with half-amusement and half-confusion as Jarod clap-spins himself like a madman. "You're well and surely fucked, that's the truth," he says, chuckling again as his brother winds down. "It'll be fine because I'll make it all right. You'll see one day, brother. I'll save your half-Eagle ass."
"Well, I've got that to fall back on if all else fails, at least," Jarod says with a last chuckle. He actually does sound marginally comforted by it. "Might just take you up on that one of these days. Say…if you're going to Seagard, I figure we'll end up there at the same time. I'm going to try and joust, at least." He adds wry, "Rowenna's letting me borrow her war horse. Like a dutiful wife." He snorts. "Maybe I can make some spare coin, build up a cushion for fleeing to Dorne. Or founding the eighth kingdom, or whatever in seven hells next week brings. Anyhow. Maybe while we're in the city…you want to get a drink? At one of those taverns that seemed so fine when we were squires and too stupid to know any better?" The request is made half-shyly. HANG OUT WITH ME, PLEASE?
"Back to the dregs of Seagard?" Jacsen raises a brow. Those are long buried memories - memories of good times, carefree days, and childlike innocence. Well, mostly. "Surely we can do better than that, now. Something closer, anyway, so I don't have as far to limp back drunk." Casting a dubious glance as to whether Jarod is sane enough to simply walk again without clap-spinning himself into another frenzy, he recommences the walk back.
"Aye. I could do with a pint at the Rockcliff. Or several. We'll not be headed back to Stonebridge until morning," Jarod says. He is no longer spinning around, though he's still grinning. "The inn's in better shape than most anywhere else in the town. Ale and whores, your young lordship. At least your holding is still good for the basics. Not that I'll be partaking in the whores tonight, of course. My lovely bride might gut me." He sounds all doofily happy at being wed to his violent creature.
Jacsen's humor slowly drains away as Jarod's married happiness comes back into focus. His marriage, of course, is not doing so well. Nor is there much happiness to be had from it, if any. "Whores and drink sound more appealing by the hour," he grunts, picking up the pace a little bit. "But I must back to the Tower for my medication." The pain's flaring up again.
Medication? Jarod looks briefly puzzled. But he shrugs it off. Whatever, Jacsen has crippled problems. "All right." He can't help but sound a little disappointed to miss out on drinking. "Perhaps in Seagard, then. I should be getting back to the inn all the same." He turns to go, but not before adding, "Good seeing you."
"In Seagard," Jacsen promises. "And you. Travel safe, Jarod. And joust well. I'll be watching." He takes a few steps away, then turns back to add, "And remain ever vigilant and just. The opportunity will rise. As we will also."