|The Prodigal Daughter|
|Summary:||Rowenna Rose Nayland reunites with her father, Lord Rickart. With her knighthood and bastard husband in tow.|
|Related Logs:||The Rowan/Jarod unmasking logs, particularly What's in a Name?|
|Fortress of the Sevens — Hag's Mire|
|A demi-throne and an angry lord father. Possibly people-sucking bogs.|
|Wed Apr 25, 289|
The marsh from which Hag's Mire takes its name is a symphony of living sound all throughout the day, but especially as evening comes. Then, not only do the bending boughs whisper to the reeds and the loons call, but thousands of amphibians and insects sing — call and response, complex harmonies, throaty basso bullfrogs and tiny, trilling sopranos, all underscored by swells of crickets and cicada. They're a good mile from the outskirts of town when that music becomes faintly audible; by the time they dismount in the courtyard, Rowenna has to bow her head and breathe a moment, overcome by a wave of unexpected homesickness even stronger than her fear. She straightens, surveying her childhood home and taking a deep breath. "So," she says to her husband, reaching for his hand. "Here we are."
Jarod dismounts from the charger he's shared with Rowenna throughout the journey to the Mire. If it perhaps lacks the dignity of his own charger, riding such has at least kept his boots reasonably dry. He's dressed up for the occasion, in the black doublet with gold embroidery around the collar and cuffs he favors when on less-than-casual business with the nobility. Like meeting his in-laws. "So it seems we are." He takes her hand but he's all of distracted at present, by the look and smell but most of all the sounds of the place. "It's different than how I pictured it. Though I've never spent enough time in the Mire to have much a picture of it at all. It's not the coast, that's certain." He sounds unsure whether he likes it or not.
The ferry ride across the lagoon to the Fortress of the Sevens had given both the new arrivals time to soak in the unique and lush nature of the Mire, and the occupants time to receive them upon arrival. One of the tower retainers waits to accept the reins of the charger and see to the animal, as the prodigal daughter and her husband are shown through the gates and into the corridors. Thick rugs warn the stone underfoot, while tapestries- some old and worn, others new and unfamiliar to Rowenna- line the walls. To call it a throne room would be too grand, the large hall of the Nayland Fortress not so ornate as the stained glass chamber where Jerold Terrick sits to govern, and rather more practical, banners do line the walls, but the chamber has a pragmatic character. A long table with a few spare appointments sits before the high backed darkwood chair, fancifully carved with wings and claws, but lacking gilding, in which Lord Ser Rickart Nayland, the Lord of the Mire roosts.
Rowenna wears a blue gown girded with her slender sword, a band of abalone flowers softening the austere cropping of her hair. She walks into the hall straight-backed as any lady — or knight — though she keeps her lashes so dulcetly low she might be doing her best imitation of Igara Frey. They stop before the Lord of the Mire, her father, and she folds into a low and graceful curtsy — so low her forehead nearly touches the flagstones. And there she remains until she's bid rise.
"My Lord Nayland." Jarod drops into a deep bow. It's minus any dramatic flourish, but it's all of respect. And the practiced politeness of one who grew up around nobles, but nearly always had to bow to them in public. "We're most honored to be received into your lands and house, my lord." He says nothing more immediately, green eyes ticking up and watching Rickart Nayland with the mixture of wariness and curiosity with which one might regard a poisonous snake.
The in-law's greeting- however proper- is initially ignored by the grey lord, in favor of fixing his narrow eye upon the young woman in the blue gown, belted by a sword. "I half thought you'd walk in wearing a mustache," he muses aloud, the first words knowingly spoken to his daughter in years. To one who remembers Rickart's ire, the tone of the words is of deeply wrapped humor, but that edge slips from his next address. "Stand up," he bids curtly. "Let me see you."
Rickart's daughter stands as she's bid, gaze still demurely on the flagstones, her expression pale and grave. "My Lord Father," she murmurs, both greeting and response to his command. She's tall for a girl, her curves spare, long of limb — nonetheless pretty. Her mother's daughter, there is no doubt.
Jarod just stands there, straight and square-shouldered and still, watching the interplay between father and recently-revealed daughter. He manages to keep his expression reasonably clear - in comparison to the emotive bastard's general expressiveness, at least. Though that wariness is still notable. He might be holding his breath.
Lord Rickart remains seated for the moment, leaning on the elaborate chair's left arm as he regards Rowenna; her gown, her hair, the sword, her face. "I've summoned you, and you've come," he observes plainly. "But how is it that you come before me, girl?" With the question, he plants an aged hand on each arm of the demi-throne, and rises to his feet, expression unsmiling.
She closes her eyes a moment as she considers the question, slender throat working in a visible swallow. "As your daughter, My Lord, for so I was born. As a knight, for I have paid for that honor with service and sweat and blood." She takes a breath and swallows again, raising her eyes… but her gaze is soft. There's no defiance there. "As the wife of Ser Jarod Rivers, for he is the best man I've ever known. And last, but not in least part, as a penitent. I have lied to my family, my friends, my brothers in arms, my benefactor… all these years. To my very great shame. I beg forgiveness of you and my mother, My Lord. I don't expect it, or deserve it, but… the very least you deserve is a truly penitent daughter. Lies become neither a lady nor a knight."
Jarod stays silent, still, and quite tense. His eyes only leaving Lord Rickart, and shifting a notch to regard Rowenna Rose herself. His lips flicker toward a smile when she names herself his wife, though he tries to smooth it away to properly sober contrition.
Lord Rickart's steps across the floor are steady and unhurried. As Rowenna begins her answer, Rickart's countenance is etched in stone. Harsh stone, at that. As she named Jarod, the grey lord's eye turns aside to the named by-blow, and the look is not a kind one. It is the sharp edged look one might expect a lord to give the man who secretly married his daughter, and it may or may not include a silent musin upon which of the tower walls to mount his head upon. It is only as Rowenna renews her speech and voices her contrition that Rickart looks away from the bastard and to the disinherited. "So help me, girl- the grief nearly killed your mother," he begins tersely, a slow shake of his head accompanying the words and hard stare as he stops before his daughter, were her eyes not downcast, she would nearly match him for height, if not gravity of bearing. "You're right," he notes. "Lies do not become us. I am angry with you, my girl. And angry at your brother. I am angry at the shame you have brought on this house, and I am angry at the bastard who wed you without my leave. You have done so much…" he bites off the words, and for once, his expression of anger is not accompanied by explosive oaths, or shouts.
Jarod catches Lord Rickart's look and loses all inclination to smile. He sets his jaw, looking down at his boots for a moment. Perhaps it passes for shame. It
"I know, My Lord," whispers Rowenna, lowering her gaze again, her face etched with every evidence of sincere and painful regret. "I cannot begin to express my sorrow to have cause my mother such grief. Either one of you grief," she looks up again. "Everything Ser Rowan said to you the night you came to congratulate him on Pyke, My Lord, was in earnest truth. I left this place a child — frightened and naive and lacking any understanding of the world… even my own family. I am not sure I am much wiser, but I am no longer afraid… and I am learning." She pauses, then says softly, a faint tremor of wry, self-deprecating humor in her voice, "I am learning I have much to learn."
Jarod catches Lord Rickart's look and loses all inclination to smile. He sets his jaw, looking down at his boots for a moment. Perhaps it passes for shame. It's at least a moment where he can compose his features some before looking up again.
"Ser Rowan," Rickart echoes ruefully. "Girl, you are bull-headed, blind, and have shown no regard these past years for aught but yourself, and the one you fuck." His hand stirs to clap a firm hold on the side of Rowenna's neck, fingers tight at the nape, thumb pressing into her jawline. It might look too firm a hold to take on a lady, but it lands as no blow. "It's enough to make a fellow think you're my daughter," he snorts, a more venerable shade of the wry humor Rowenna had affected in the prior breath.
She doesn't flinch from her father's touch — though it may be too firm a hold for a lady, it's not for a daughter who's all these years styled herself a son. Perhaps she takes from that unchanged attitude, so similar to the affection he showed her as his son, an iota of acceptance. A granule of respect. She flickers a smile of bitter rue, her eyes glimmering and damp. "Oh, so this is all your fault, then," she replies in a low, dry deadpan. "I feel so much better now."
The tension about Jarod snaps like a too taut spring when Lord Rickart takes hold of his daughter like that. Fists balling, for all the world like he's about to haul off the hit the old man. But then the Lord of the Mire lands no actual blow on her. And Jarod just has to kind of stop, red-faced, and rock back on the balls of his feet in a desperate and unconvincing attempt to look like he never moved. Well. Umm. All right, then.
Rickart Nayland barks a sharp laugh at Rowenna's irreverence, holding to his ire as best he can, but not wholly succeeding with the words, "Mind your damned tongue, or as a knight I'll give you a thrashing to make a mule wince." Hauling the girl forward a short measure, the old lord leans closer to touch his forehead to hers, fingers squeezing at the nape of her neck. "Girl, if I weren't so proud, I'd kill you." A small shake of his head, without breaking the touch of heads.
Rowenna breathes a laugh as well, pulled in to her father's affection easily, leaning against him in turn. Her eyes are closed, lashes resting against the curve of her cheek, glimmering and damp. "Father," she whispers… and that's all she can manage around the ever-increasing lump in her throat.
Jarod straightens his posture again, continuing to try and pretend he never moved, ever, at all. His face gets a little less red, something about Rickart's gesture to Rowenna making him frown some. Though it's a thoughtful expression more than anything else.
"You'll speak to your mother after this, and don't you dare let her see you in trousers," Rickart orders gruffly, adding with a glance aside at Jarod, "I still make no promises not to lose that one in a bog, either." His attention goes back to Rowenna, as he straightens his neck to touch a brief kiss to the top of her head, before releasing her neck.
The tall girl, begowned and bladed, wipes her damp eyes. She glances at Jarod and breathes another laugh, shaking her head. "He loves me, Father," she says, quiet but earnest. "And no matter what I've been — boy, girl, squire, knight — he has treated me with as much honor as any lady has ever enjoyed. The haste of our marriage — I know he would have rather done it proper, asked your blessing, but… he also knew there would be certain… assumptions made about our relationship when people knew my secret. It was his fervent desire that our commitment to one another be sanctified in the sight of the gods, at least, so no one could sully it with idle gossip."
"I am a strong swimmer, my lord, I might manage a bog. Though I'd request to keep my sword in case I met one of your crocodiles. I hear they are rather mean creatures," Jarod quips. Albeit weakly. He clears his throat. Contrition. Right. The whole reason he's there. "Lord Ser Nayland, I do apologize for not asking for your daughter's hand properly, but I had thought her banished from the family, disowned as she'd been. And also, my lord…I rather figured you'd just say no." He clears his throat. "And I did want to make some attempt to repair her reputation, and mine, at least in that regard. And…I do love her, my lord. She is a sweet, brave, lovely girl and all she has done, it has been in pursuit of what she holds as the most noble calling of service one can aspire to, in the knighthood. She did so wrong in many ways, and so did I, my lord, but I can at least promise with all I am that I am trying to do better by her. We are both trying very hard to do…better, my lord."
"And he's lied to me," Rickart concludes Rowenna's litany of praise on an ugly note. "The Father can fuck the Mother with what is right in the eyes of the Gods- the only Father you two need to appease is me," he notes dryly. A deep breath sucked in, and his ire flashes as Jarod tries to explain about her disinherited status, "That's bloody queer lad, since I had thought you were teaching my son, not fucking my daughter. Isn't that curious how what we think can be amiss?" A breath sucked in, and he looks back to Rowenna, "Best have him keep his damned teeth together for awhile, eh?"
Rowenna smirks wryly, but bows her head and offers her father an acquiescent bob of a curtsy. When she speaks, however, it's simple and sincere. "I've already met more forbearance and forgiveness here, today, than I'd dared to dream. The rest… perhaps with time." She lifts her eyes to Rickart's again. "No man ever thinks another is good enough for his daughter, in the best of circumstances. These… are obviously not the best." She nods. "Perhaps with time."
Jarod flushes and says, "Yes, my lord." And then resumes the shutting up he'd been doing before.
"Yes, well unlike other men, I'm right," Lord Rickart grouses at Rowenna's defense. Taking a step back be huffs a breath in and out. "Go, on with you. Speak to your mother, and be ready to dine with us afterward. No doubt you both will need a good weeping spell, 'Ser'," he half-jests, with a smile that lives until he notices Jarod again. He looks away with a short, "Bah!"
The prodigal daughter looks as though she'd make a reply to that half-jest of her title, also half in jest, but the girl decides not to push the fences to recently and delicately mended. Instead she bows her head and curtsies her leave. "Thank you, My Lord Father. Dinner would be most welcome. Until then."
"Thank you for your hospitality, my lord," Jarod says, trying to wipe a look of some confusion off his face. About…something. If he has anything more to say to the Lord of the Mire it will wait, as he's eager enough to depart the demi-throne room. He does some more bowing.