Page 188: The Lute Player
The Lute Player
Summary: While Rowan recovers after the Siege of Seagard, Jarod offers her a story — but first, she tells him one, instead.
Date: 21/01/2012
Related Logs: The Siege of Seagard for how Rowan wound up sliced and diced AGAIN; the entire Rowan/Jarod saga.
Jarod Rowan 
Ser Jarod's Tent
A tent behind the lines of battle. Knight stuff, squire stuff, cots and camp chairs and Terrick colors.
21st Firstmonth, 289 AL

Jarod settled Rowan back in his tent when she'd rested enough to be moved without it worrying Mistress Senna. And his own hurt had been seen to, though that took considerably less time. It's some hours after the battle proper broke and he sits there with her now, holding her hand. Basically watching her be unconscious. And singing to himself, as he tends to do when his mind wanders to…wherever it wanders when he's not giving it strict instructions. "The Dornishman's wife was as fair as the sun, and her kisses were warmer than spring…" It's done in a soft undertone, barely audible.

"You really need to learn some new songs…" It's said very softly, a bit of a dry rasp; Rowan's lips curve faintly and her lashes flutter open. Dark eyes — liquid black for being dilated with milk of the poppy, turn toward him. "I only ever hear you sing… that and the one about you and your brothers."

"'Dornishman's Wife' beats 'Lord Jerold's Lament,' at least," Jarod says with a rather weak chuckle, the fingers of his larger hand caressing hers, feeling the little callouses and lines on it. "I know a few more. I can take requests, if you've got something specific in mind." A pause and he asks, "Flesh wound, my ass."

"That's a new one, 'Flesh Wound, My Ass,'" Rowan replies, smile growing lazily. "Sounds like it should be one of those call-and-response songs, like 'Send a Raven.'" She scrubs a fumbly, childish hand at her eyes and swallows a squeaky yawn. "Ow," she remarks vaguely, as her wound pulls. "How's it going out there?"

"Easy now, don't move so much, you'll tear the stitching," Jarod says. "Mistress Senna said it reminded her of Ser Gedeon's wound." To bring the point of the seriousness of it home. "She cleaned it, though, said she thought that'd keep it from getting infected. Need to stay still and keep it clean, and you'll mend all right." As for the larger question. "The armies got into Seagard, though they didn't drive the Ironborn out complete. There'll be fighting in the streets. We took the low district without any real trouble, and Lord Mallister's men still have control of the Northern quarter. The Ironborn breached the walls before our army routed them, though, so they're dug in other places. They don't have much hope of holding anything of Seagard, but they'll make the reclaiming of it nasty business for us. That's all they do. What they can't take, they destroy."

"Like a fucking disease," mutters Rowan, grimly. "Still. It's nearly over now. This should be the last before the fever breaks…" She turns her head toward him, the better to bring him into view. "Right?" A beat. Then, "How's your middle, there?"

Jarod bends his head down to kiss her forehead, brief and soft. "Aye. Should be…" he agrees gruffly as he straightens again. He clears his throat. "They've really no hope of holding the city. Lord Tully's men are clearing them out the eastern quarter now. Rest of us are done fighting for the day. Terrick men were called to clear the low district. Stood up throughout the melee all right, they did." He sounds proud. "Not so well as the Nayland men, but they've not been drilled professional for months. Told Jace we should see about putting together monthly drills when the Roost is more settled. " Which reminds him, "Lord Jerold's all right. As is Ser Hardwicke. Terrick cavalry didn't take many heavy casualties, from what I'm told, save Ser Kell who rode with them. And he's been seen to by the healers. Looks better than you."

Rowan nods, squeezing his hand. "I'm glad to hear it. Raff — I remember him harping at me," she quirks a faint smile. "And Ser Bruce's tongue lashing. My cousin?" she asks, frowning a little. "Ser Rygar? I glimpsed him once — he looked bad."

DUMP: Bruce has brought the database to justice!

"Your brother was worried about you. And Ser Bruce was correct," Jarod says with a smirk, though he squeezes her hand in return. "If Ser Rygar hasn't gotten himself carted off to the healers by now he's more stubborn than you. One of the Ironborn lords took a piece out of him. He was still standing at the end of it, though. I figure he'll be all right. It surprised me but…from what I'm hearing, the infantry didn't take it as bad as the cavalry. Which is not the way of it, usually." He frowns. "I'll have to ask Lord Jerold about that on the morrow."

"We did good, Jare," Rowan says softly, all smiles despite the dull pain and slightly addled wits. "We came, we saw, we liberated the fuck out of this place. And home. The Riverlands… we did good."

"It's not over yet…" Jarod murmurs, thumb pressing into her palm. Not too hard, but in an effort to give her some other sensation to focus on. "There's the fighting for Seagard still. Though it won't be just Seagard, I don't think. Or even just those stragglers still on the River coast. There're still Ironborn in the Westerlands. We haven't had any words since we heard of the sacking of the Golden Fleet at Lannisport. I figure Lord Tully'll order us there next. Terrick swords might go even if he doesn't, given our alliance with the Baneforts now. Some men, Ser Bruce for one, are even suggesting it might come to invading the Iron Islands themselves. Pay them back what they've taken."

"We'll be okay, though," Rowan persists, taking a deep breath. She grimaces faintly, grunting a bit at another dart of pain. "Long march, but we've got each other. We make a pretty good team."

"We do, actually…" Jarod says that like he's reflecting on it. He seems to spend some time turning that over in his brain, though he says no more on it than that. "You need some more poppy milk? When your brother comes by I'll go see if they can spare a bit. Rafferdy should be here soon. He said he'd sit with you when I had to go talk with Lord Jerold or whatever. You'll not be alone."

"I'll be fine," Rowan promises. "If there's poppy to spare, I won't turn it away — it's always better to sleep through this part, I think, and be pleasantly stupid when awake… but don't fret, if there's none. I'm not in agony — just ow." She grins wryly. "Anyhow, if it'll make you lot feel better to sit around and watch me sleep — you have at." She lift his hand to her lips, kissing his knuckles.

"It'll make me feel better, aye," Jarod says, smiling some when she kisses his knuckles. He opens his hand to touch her cheek, when she's done that. "You're hurting, Rowenna. You shouldn't have to do so alone. What'd you do if it were me?"

"Manacle m'self to your cot, of course," murmurs Rowan, turning her cheek a bit into his touch. "Keep anyone who even looked like they wanted to move me at the length of a poke. Pike, I mean." She snickers. "Poke 'em with a pike."

That makes Jarod laugh. His hand leaves her face, to try and clasp her own again, but he lowers his forehead so it rests against her temple. "Fucking right. Shouldn't expect any less on your part. I do rather like you, you know. I don't see any difference."

Rowan breathes in his nearness, sighing in something approximating contentment. She turns her head and kisses the bridge of his nose. "Love you, you know."

Jarod shifts just a little, so kiss her jawline. "Love you, too, you know." He leaves it at that. He managed to put off any actual discussions of the stuff beyond that at the Roost, and he's certainly not going to have them now. "How about a story? Until your brother shows up. Takes the mind away from where the rest of you is. What do you want to hear?"

"No Dornishmen or their wives," opines Rowan, wrinkling her nose. She chews over her options a few moment, then requests, "A love story." And just to make it nearly impossible, "With a happy ending."

"None of them have happy endings," Jarod mutters. Keeping his head resting against hers, savoring the easy closeness just now. "I'm serious, Rowenna, name one that does, really. Lots of songs about unrequited love and lost love and it's all very pretty but…really? I'm serious. Name one."

"You have," Rowan murmurs, her tone oddly tender, "a serious deficit in your collection of tales." She lifts a hand, carefully, to comb fingers through his hair. "Fortunately for both of us, Rowan-actual is a big sodding romantic. So I know a few. The Lute Player springs to mind." She nuzzles him, just a brush with the tip of her nose. "Want me to tell it to you?"

"I'd like to meet the real Rowan Nayland one of these days…" Jarod mutters. "But, aye. Sure. Only one I can think of is that song where the bear runs off with the maiden-fair, which I don't figure it quite what you mean. Have at it."

Rowan grins. "I dunno. I always thought the bear and the maiden lived happily ever after. I mean, my tastes don't run that hairy, but to each their own." She takes a breath and turns her gaze up to the inside of the tent, recollecting. "Okay. Well. Once upon a time, there was a lord who went to war, leaving his lady behind. Though he fought bravely, he was captured in battle, and there was a ransom demanded. The rival lord, however, had an additional demand — that the ransom be paid by the lady's own hand. Knowing that the rival lord had long coveted her, among all the other good things her husband possessed, the lady feared for both her safety and her virtue. Being a clever and resourceful lady, however, she began to devise a plan to free her beloved husband…"

Jarod might've heard this one before, but he's always an attentive audience for a tale well-told, so he settles in happily. Just listening as she talks. Talking is distracting from pain, after all, so it seems a positive. "And what did this clever lady devise?" he asks soft.

"She disguised herself as a boy," says Rowan with a soft laugh. "A traveling minstrel, in fact. And thus, she made the journey to the court of the rival lord, earning her living by her skill on the lute and her incomparable, enchanting voice. By the time she reached the rival lord's keep, she'd traveled hundreds of leagues and — since gossip travels faster than anything else known to man — her reputation preceded her. So she was welcomed at the rival lord's court and played that night for the rival lord himself. She sang songs of love, of longing and of loneliness, of soaring freedom such as only birds feel on the wind. So lovely and moving were her songs that even the blackest, hardest heart couldn't fail to soften. For the first time in his life, the rapacious and greedy rival lord knew a little of happiness and of peace. He begged the young minstrel to stay and play for him three days, and at the end of that time, he promised as payment anything the lute player's heart might desire."

Jarod does laugh at that, easing his head down to rest it against her neck. He's always liked her neck. "That wicked lord was an idiot, to take her for a boy. Bit of a big dupe, really. What'd she ask him for, then?"

"The dupiest," agrees Rowan, grinning. She lids her eyes. She's always liked him liking her neck. "She asked him for a companion, for life on the road was lonely, and since it was not at all uncommon for prisoners in the rival lord's land to become slaves, she was given her pick from the dungeons. Of course, the lady in lute player guise chose her lord husband — who also saw only a boy with a lute." She shrugs slightly. "Then men in this country weren't terribly observant. Might have been something in the water. At any rate, once they'd put the rival lord's holdings behind them, her lord husband turned to her and said, 'Young man, I am no common prisoner but a lord captured in battle. If you will release me to return to my lands, I will reward you well.' And the lady said, 'My lord, I wish no reward but you good company so long as the road takes us in the same direction.' So they journeyed together many miles, and the lord became terribly fond of his young minstrel friend, and was sad when they parted ways where the road split, only miles from his home.

"When the lord returned," Rowan goes on, fingers combing idly through Jarod's hair, "he found his wife was gone. Not only had the faithless creature not ransomed him, but she'd run off just days after learning his fate. Angry and betrayed, the lord retired to his chambers and ordered he should not be disturbed. Some time later, glowering and brooding, the lord heard a beautiful voice accompanying a lute beneath his window. His heart lifting with joy, he looked down to see his friend the lute player. 'My friend!' cried the lord. 'I am so happy you've returned to me. I know you said you wished no reward, but please — as me for the thing your heart desires most, and allow me to make it yours.'"

"Dupiest sounds about right," Jarod laughs into her neck. He ends up kissing it. "Her husband was a bigger dupe, though, not to see through that. I don't figure men of the land have changed all that much. You've got wonder why she didn't just tell him who she was on the road. Would've saved him a lot of heart-ache. So…did she give him his lady wife back?"

Rowan makes a soft, pleasant sound at the kissing. "Mm. Well, maybe for all their cleverness and boyish beauty, the ladies of this land weren't always very bright, either," she admits with a touch of rue. "So imagine the lord's astonishment and joy when the lute player said, 'You are what my heart desires most, my lord.' And the lute player revealed herself to be his lady wife, who he had learned to love even more dearly in their travels together. And I have it on excellent authority," concludes the squire, softly, "that they lived happily ever after."

"Huh. All right, that's one," Jarod concedes. "Everything's easier in songs and stories, though. They manage to make war pretty, when it's anything but. Still…I liked that. You look a little better, too." He straightens up some. "I'll tell you one now. I always liked the adventure ones better, though. Like Symeon Star-Eyes. Knight who lost both eyes, but just replaced them with star sapphires, and was still better with a blade than any other man of his age."

"Sounds exciting," Rowan says with a fond smile. "And you've always had a wonderful story-telling way. But… speaking of how things're… easier in tales and songs?" She frowns slightly, lips tilting into a line of concern. "We — there's this talk we were supposed to have. When we got home. But then… you know. This." She pauses. "Considering that 'this' might go on for a while… maybe we should just… have it?"

Jarod groans. Maybe he was hoping she'd just forgotten about that. "This might go on for awhile," he agrees. He sighs. "This is…working, Rowenna. It's worked ever since you came back to squire for me. I don't want to ruin it. We were pretty shit to each other for a real long time. Even if this isn't…it's something. And we're not making each other miserable."

Rowan squints at him, pensive. "Alright," she allows, reluctantly. "I mean, you were the one who said we should talk. I… agree. I mean, this is definitely — " she sighs, then shrugs off the rest and boils it down to, "I'm happier than I've been in a long time. I don't want that to change."

"I say a lot of stupid things. We've sort've established that," Jarod says with a snorted laugh. He's still holding her hand, sitting straighter though he is, thumb pressed gently into her palm again. "I'm happy, too." He shrugs. "I'm also not going to get all on about…ruinous stuff when you've been stabbed in the cut and are half-high on poppies. People get…funny about things, when somebody they love is hurt. I think it makes them do things they…well. Makes things confused, and then it seems simpler than it might really be, and when things're normal again you can't take it back."

"Ruinous stuff?" Rowan echoes, dark brows ticking up. She grimaces. "I don't know, Jare, I might need to be on poppies for that conversation." As for the rest, she chuffs a soft laugh. "Mother love us, I'm not that bad off. I don't think we need to worry about you blurting out a death-bed proposal."

"I sort've did that after you were hurt in the Roost melee. I mean, after a fashion. I figure that's when it all really went to shit. I mean, in a way we could actually see it going to shit and not just being that way in ways we could ignore. And I figure that's when you and…" Jarod trails off, clearing his throat and shrugging. "No, you'll mend. I just want to stay focused while we get through Seagard and this…helps. This is…better than it would be without this. Let's just tell each other stories until your brother gets here, all right?"

Rowan listens, then nods, giving Jarod's hand a gentle squeeze. "Whatever works," she says softly, quirking a smile. "Whatever you need."

"I hope it's something you need as well. I want to be…good you to, Rowenna," Jarod says. Like that means more than he can really articulate. "For you, too. Anyhow. Back to Symeon Star-Eyes, and the hellhounds of Nightfort…" It's one of his favored stories, and he tells it well, and he spins the tale gladly until they're joined by her slightly elder brother.