|The Prodigal Septon Returns|
|Summary:||Friends are reunited in the stables at Terrick's Roost|
|Stables and Kennels|
|The Tower's Main Stables are nestled into the corner of the courtyard near the portcullis to facilitate quick, easy exits when required. The rear of the structure is backed right against the interior wall of the castle with the heavy wooden roofing gently sloped down towards the slate out front, the floor of the stables kept to dirt. Thick wooden beams are plunged into the ground and serve as a base for the walls between each stall. Hay serves as most of the flooring in the area with a large stack of it off to the side. Each stall has a thick layer on the ground to serve as bedding, with most of the space dedicated to horses though a few have pens of dogs and hounds. An enclosed structure at the end serves as dry storage for riding equipment and saddles.|
|Day 19, Seventh Month, 288|
The stables are quiet at mid-morning, all the animals that have tasks for the day out with their masters. That typically includes squires — but after a sincere search for Ser Jarod was unsuccessful, Squire Rowan has located herself where he would first look for her. Or… him. Depending. She — the squire, the one who's a he to most everyone else — is leaning over a stall door to check on Dancer, one of the prize mares, and her new foal. The girl who would be a boy has grown a few inches taller these two years past, still slender as anything, certainly enough so that it's simple enough to hide any telltale curves. And it's like one of those optical illusions, where the eye can't decide if it's seeing a vase or the silhouette of two faces in conversation — there's Jarod's boy squire, and what's turning out to be a lovely young woman occupying the same space.
The young squire at least chose a good location to be looked for — though the steps approaching the stall she's working in are not the steps of Ser Jarod. Absent is the clang of armor, the grunt and clank of metal belts and weapons, the loud announcement of a presence even before the voice comes. There's none of that. Only someone in a robe and boots so plain they might be missed on the streets if not for the crystal pendants that members of this sworn order wear. Josse too has changed a little in the last two years, though not the abrupt changes of adolescence — just a few more callouses on his hands, a new leanness to his face, and a bit more scruff than Rowan was used to two years ago, the dark hairs bringing out the bright blue of his eyes a little more. Without any sudden movements to betray his being there, he folds his robed arms on the top of the half-door entrance to the stall, one shoulder slid up higher than the other, a faint smirk tipping up the right side of his mouth. "I see your taste in company hasn't changed a bit."
Dancer stretches out her long neck to blow a greeting breath on Josse's cheek even before he speaks, the wise, gentle creature remembering him well. At his voice, Rowan starts, face splitting into a brilliant smile and eyes lighting up. "Actually, I prefer a horse's ass to horses overall, which is why I'm so terribly fond of you lot," she retorts, laughing, and vaults over the stall door, throwing herself on the young septon's neck in an ebullient hug. "Gods be good, it's so good to have you home, Josse!" She steps back abruptly, holding him at arm's length, looking him over. "Look at you! You're properly holy. I thought I smelled the odor of sanctity just before you arrived, but chalked it up to that new horse liniment we're using."
Josse makes a dramatic 'oof' as her arms fling over his shoulders, his own circling her back and returning the hug with warm vigor. "The way Septon Amry rode me for two years to get my books in order, I suspect these horses and I have more in common than the scents." He chuckles under his breath, tone goodnatured. Another squeeze of his arms round her back before she steps back, and his chin lowers slightly towards his chest as he gives her a similar quick once-over. "Look at me? Look at you. Frankly, it's Ser Jarod I'd hoped would grow up a little, not you." A slight grin quirks and lingers. "How in the seven hells has everything been, then?"
GAME: Dump complete. Time in.
Laughing, the girl-squire shakes her head. "You've not seen him yet? Prepare to have your hopes dashed — he is precisely the same as you left him in every respect." She doesn't sound as though she considers that a bad thing, however. Dropping to sit on a bale of hay, she kicks out a stool for her guest, the stables and kennels being almost as much her domain as the Master of Horse and Hounds. "I was so ecstatic to get your raven, I haven't been able to think about anything else all week. Not that Jarod's given me time to think, mind. There's a big tournament coming up — he and his brother have had me running about like mad. I swear Jaremy's squire's a worthless lump — either that or he's gone fallen down a well and died, for all I ever see him about."
"Nobody is ever quite the same as you leave them." Josse pushes the stall door open and breezes into the horse's domain proper, the young septon apparently unconcerned with the new filth he's attracting on the ends of his robes. He settles down on the stool, stretching his feet out in front of him and slouching comfortably against the wall behind. "So Jarod's off having his lance polished, is he?" The smirk turns slightly toothy at the implication. "Might not be a bad thing that he left you behind for that."
Rowan rolls her eyes. "Or re-re-repolished. Haven't seen him since last night. I can tell you from sparring with him that his stamina's amazing, so I'm sure he gets more than his coin's worth in bed." She snorts, plucking a put of straw from the bale beneath her and chewing idly on the end. "Aye, well, he hasn't wanted to. Leave me behind for it, that is. Getting me with a whore's become his whole sodding mission in life. I've no idea what t'do about it."
"Really." Josse doesn't exactly sound surprised by the development. "Well, that's not difficult." Surely anticipating her protest, he goes on without letting her speak. "Simple question. What does a whore want when she spends an eve with a man?"
Fine eyebrows lift and Rowan tilts her head, apparently considering that this might be some elaborate semantic trap. "Money?" she ventures.
Josse spreads his hands, answering her question without having to say yes. "There you have the obvious answer. Look." He sits up, resting his elbows on his knees so he can lean in and lower his soft-spoken voice. "A whore isn't going to care what you do or don't do, so long as she gets what she needs. Not the prettiest thing int he world, but so it is. All you need to do is find one that will take a little extra money to sit for an hour and play cards with you, then go out and tell Jarod and the others that you did what a man is supposed to do. Now, as I said…you'll need to be a little cautious. But in the end she gets what she wants. And that's all she'll need."
Rowan leans in as well, drinking in these words of wisdom with huge, dark eyes. Looks pensive, biting her bottom lip. "What if she takes my coin and rats me out? Or…" She takes a breath, nervous even in the planning stages of such a ruse. "I… have you done it? Is there someone you trust, that you'd recommend?"
Josse's blue eyes eyes hold hers for a long moment before the subtle flicker. His thumb rubs the tip of his nose, then blue locks back on her face. "I'll need to see if she's still in town. If she is…" A very slight movement of chin towards chest. "Jarod will have his satisfaction and then some."
The squire lets out a breath she wasn't aware she was holding, smiling brightly and with no small measure of relief. "That… would be… I'd be forever in your debt, my friend." She reaches across to take his hands. "I don't know what I'd ever have done without you, you know. I don't mind being a boy, really — but it's good to be known. Really known. And loved all the same." She sighs. "It gives me a little hope that when… when I finally am known to everyone, it won't be… a complete disaster."
Josse lets her have his hands, closing his longer fingers around hers. They feel different from the hands of most men, calloused not from wielding blades or hammers but from writing, perpetually stained by ink instead of blood. but while they're not hands of weapons they're also not weak; the tempered strength in his grip hints silently to muscle under control. "You know you'll have to face the deceptions one day, Rowan…and as we sin so shall we suffer." He clears his throat softly, tapping the backs of her hands with his thumbs. "But so long as you make sure god knows the goodness in your heart. You know when the time comes, I will make certain that men hear of it too."
Long lashes shadow her cheeks as she looks down at their hands, swallowing hard and audibly. She takes a deep breath and looks up at the rafters, blinking rapidly and quickly reclaiming her hands to dash at her eyes. "Son of a toothless, syphilitic hag," she chokes, laughing and sniffling. "You know… I've spent four years here having the shit kicked out of me by packs of brutish louts and I've never — not once — shed a sodding tear about it." She kicks Josse's shin halfheartedly. "And then you lay down a few sweet words and it's all sodding over for me." Deep breaths. She takes them, grabbing fistfuls of her baggy hose near the knee, white-knuckled until the danger of weeping is past. "Well!" She takes another breath, squaring her shoulders. "Right. Odd decision." Then, more seriously and quite tenderly, "What I meant to say, just now…?" She smirks faintly. "Thank you. I can't tell you how much it means to… to know you believe in me."
The steady clopping of horse's hooves and shouted, "Rowan!" in a (vaguely) commanding fashion announce Jarod's presence in the general vicinity before the young knight is visible, riding across the courtyard and toward the stables. "Rowan, you useless bugger, where are you?" The abuse is jolly, and the shouting plainly meant to shake the squire out of the trees from wherever he is than anything else. Jarod dismounts outside, leading his brown courser the remainder of the way toward the stables. The horse is far from the most impressive creature in the castle, but he's a solid charger who's smart enough to find his way home whatever state his master is in, which serves Jarod quite well.
Serious blue eyes stay on hers — serious, that is, until Josse can't quite control a quirk that twitches one brow. "Enough with the sap, right?" He opens his mouth to say something else when the sound of Jarod's voice comes barreling through the stables. "And that other thing? I'll let you know." Holding up a finger, he inches off the stool and bends his knees, shrinking down against the half wall. His thumb jerks towards the sound of Jarod's voice and a finger lays across his lips, shushing the squire.
Rowan starts at the sound of Jarod's shouting, grinning as she's summoned. She nods at Josse as he slinks into hiding, grinning all the more, then coughs and clears her throat, grabbing some dirt and scrubbing her face to obscure any traces of tears. She slouches like any adolescent lad might, puts on a saucy smirk, and calls back, "Oi! That's a riot, that is…" It's a small shift in tone, from mezzo soprano to contralto, but it's enough to complete the effect. Here now is the boy she's perfected by living his life, day in and out, for four years. And it's he who strides out to take the reins from his knight. "Where'm I. Where've you been? I was about to send out the guard t'search between the thighs of every whore in town. Thought you might've fallen into the gaping nethers of one of those well-loved strumpets you love so well."
Jarod is almost entirely sober and fully-buttoned as he makes his way into the stables, so this outing has likely not been particularly eventful. The charger's reins are handed off to Rowan. "Oh. There you are. Get Symeon settled, and check his shoes. Had to stop in at the smith's for a new one to his right front leg, and I want to make doubly sure they did their work proper. And alas, the ladies of Terrick's Roost weep for I did not entertain them with my presence tonight. Just stopped by the inn for a drink, and to have a look at the men passing through. Lots of swords coming by this direction toward Stonebridge on their way to the tournament. Some might be looking for work, wanted to see if there were any prospects my lord father might be able to make use of."
"The ladies of — " This gives the squire pause. "Oi — exactly how many of them do you entertain, on a typical night?" The lad eyes Jarod for a moment, then quickly adds, "Actually, never mind. I don't want to know." He takes Symeon in hand and leads the horse down the wide, center aisle of the sprawling stables. "C'mon then, lad. Let's have a look at your feet." And faintly, "I'll never be able to look sweet old widow Marley in the eye again… eugh."
Josse bides his time as Jarod and Rowan have their little interplay, one hand's fingers tented on the ground by his foot for balance. As Rowan heads out of the stall he inches closer to the young Ser, knees still bent — weight shifts forward onto his hands and sideways, one foot sweeping out in front of him to connect with the backs of Jarod's unsuspecting ankles.
"Many as will have me," is Jarod's glib reply called to his squire's inquiry, grinning as he says it. It sounds half-like a joke. Or just idle bragging. Hard to tell where one ends and the other begins with him on occasion. Attention on that, he's not paying much to the thing sneaking around his feet, and so is thrown off balance by Josse's foot. Falling heavily, with a surprised curse. "Rowan!" he barks, in alarm this time, going for his sword, naturally, as he fumbles to regain his footing.
"Jarod?!" the squire calls in return, voice pitched high. There's barely an instant before the lad's grabbed a pitchfork — the nearest weapony-thing handy — and is sprinting back to the front of the stables, ready to skewer someone. The boy himself is slender as ever, but the expression on his face is deadly as he comes to his Ser's defense.
Josse is taking a chance with his life getting in the way of Jarod's sword — surely the young septon knows this — but some boyish streaks of recklessness never change, no matter how the years may adjust wisdom otherwise. As Jarod's back hits the floor and Rowan's voice echos back to them, he spins around on his knee, jamming it into Jarod's side and hand flashing forward to try and pin the sword-arm before it can slash his throat. White teeth flash in a cocky grin down at the knight. "What, brave Ser Jarod? Gotten so fat and lazy in two years you can't take me on your own?"
Jarod does not immediately stab. So the septon has that going for him. Rather as he draws, the knight's arm comes up, elbow out, to connect with Josse's face. Making a solid, bruising sort of sound. He's on his feet again quick and fluid, dodging Josse's knee now that he's in proper 'reaction' mode, sword pointing at the septon. He raises it and…blinks. "Seven hells…Josse!?"
Rowan skids to a halt, blinking a few times, looking utterly nonplussed. He rests the handle of the pitchfork on the floor, leaning on it like a staff, and winces faintly at Josse. "You've vanquished the unarmed man in a dress, Ser," the squire observes, deadpan. "Huzzah."
One should be glad the knight's elbow missed Josse's nose. Blood gushed all over his robes would be much harder to explain to the senior septon. Still, that shiner's going to be fairly impressive tomorrow. The hard *thwack* from the knight isn't completely unexpected, but Josse can't quite turn his head fast enough to get away from it, his chin snapping upwards as the joint connects with his tender eye socket. He thuds backward onto his knee, recovering fast enough to nearly stand up — almost into the point of the blade — and now precariously balanced on a foot and a knee he smirks, putting a hand down on the hay-covered stone. "Finally learned what to do with the pointy end, have you?" He starts to laugh, right eye squinching partly shut as it throbs. "Good to be back."
Tym Rivers ambles in, a big black mastiff at his heels, the both of them stopping to stand beside where Rowan leans on his pitchfork, just watching. "Bit early in the day for brawling," he drawls to the squire, "Have I missed all the drinking already?" He clicks his tongue, disappointed and chiding at once, and steps forward, scratching a hand through messy hair as he takes up a place beside Jarod and raises his fists. "I can't say I hold much with fighting preachers, and I ain't fond of fighting sober, neither, but if you're aiming to lick my boy Jarod here, well, I reckon you'll have to lick me too, Septon." He spits off to the side and shakes his head, "Though I'm going to advise we all adjourn for a tankard of four first. Just saying."
Rowan lights up like a thousand stars at the sight of the new arrival — the furry one, that is. "Zeke!" The pitchfork is leaned against the wall, and the squire kneels to scritch and scruff and love on the big dog. "Zekey Zeke Zeke! Who's a good boy? Is it you?" he baby talks to the hound, hugging it around the neck. As That Other Rivers Boy squares off for fisticuffs, though, Rowan looks up and pulls a face. "Oi! No licking. No one's licking anyone. S'disgusting, that is."
"Not well enough, it seems, lucky for you," is Jarod's reply, edging the pointy end back so Josse doesn't impale himself on accident, before sheathing it altogether. That done, he reaches out his now-free to try and grasp Josse into a rough embrace. Lots of shoulder-clapping. Very bro-y. "No worries, lads. I got this one, I think. Jos, you heard the one about the septon, the milk maid the Westerlands mule?"
"I wouldn't do anything to Ser Jarod that would make him cry," Josse assures Tym with a smirked grin as he stands up, hay clinging to the left knee of his brown robes. "Which likely includes my preaching, so I'll spare you all that, at least for this day." The pendant around his neck glints in the stable light as he throws an arm around Jarod, returning the bro-y back clapping with appropriate flair. "I don't think I've heard that one. Enlighten me."
Rowan snorts and goes back to loving on Zeke, giving him a good, all-over scruffing. "Who's the prettiest boy ever?" The squire's going to be useless until the animal is removed or he's ordered back to work, this much is clear.
Tym watches the display of bro-ery and slowly drops his fists, one lifted again but just to scratch at his cheek. "Glad to hear it," he says, hand hooking around the back of his neck as he steps away, shaking his head, "I've definitely never punched a preacher sober, got no desire to start now." He steps back over towards Rowan anad Zeke, watching for a moment. "Up, dog," he orders, patting his thigh and then turning back to say, "So, Jar, you gonna introduce your friend here, or what?"
Jarod keeps an arm around Josse's shoulder when he's done hugging, boyish grin splitting his face now. "For certain. Jos, this is Tym Rivers…" He indicates the laconic man with the longish hair and dog. "…my kinsmen in bastardry. One of the Freys, I think. Which Frey you belong to again?" He shrugs. As if it's not a major point of concern. "Anyway. This is Brother Josse. We go back a fair bit. It's been…Seven, a year or two since I've seen you about these parts. I didn't know you were bringing yourself back to the Roost."
"My good Mr. Rivers." The septon's head moves casually, an acknowledging nod. "You shan't have to worry about punching any preachers while I'm about…Jarod will take of it for you." He quirks the smith a grin and lightly shakes Jarod's shoulder. "Two years, my friend. Two years, and it will take double that to write it all down. I have great work ahead of me. As do you, or so I hear. Rowan" He lifts his other hand, gesturing to the younger boy among them. " was telling me you're in a tournament coming up?"
"In the grand melee," Rowan elaborates, obviously excited at the prospect. "The other place boys get made men, or something to that effect." He stands, brushing dog hair off his britches and punching Tym in the shoulder. "When you see the melee, smithy, you're going to wish you'd stayed with squiring. You think bare knuckles is fun?"
Tym glances down at his shoulder as Rowan punches it, and then at Rowan, not having budged an inch at the blow. "Bare knuckles' only way to go," he opines with a shrug, "Armor's for pussies. Nothing like feeling a jaw break under your fist, lemme tell you." He rakes a hand through his hair and reaches down to scratch Zeke's big head absently, looking at Josse and Jarod, "Pleased t'meet you, Septon Josse. What brings you back around, if you don't mind my askin'?"
"Fuck you," Jarod says cheerily to Tym at the 'armor is for pussies' comment. "Armor's for not getting cut in two when someone is swinging a blade at you. Not like it stops your fists from working." He tilts his head at Josse, as if the septon is an example of this. "And aye. I'll be having a bit of fun in the grand melee. Like I was telling Rowan, chance to cross swords with most of the best in the Riverlands isn't a thing I plan to miss. Aye, Jos. Tell us of your travels. Over wine, preferably. I should be able to hunt up a skin or several from the kitchens."
"Like t'see how pussified you find armor if it's your bare knuckles 'gainst a proper blade," Rowan grouses, folding his arms and leaning back against the wall. Sulk sulk sulk. He smirks and lifts his chin in Jarod's direction as the knight expresses a similar opinion, looking vindicated. He lights up all over again at the prospect of Josse's storytelling, asking, "Can I come?" Quickly adding, "Once I've seen to Symeon, of course."
"The Roost is my home," Josse tells Tym. "I was born here and I've known every back alley since I was old enough to crawl them." He smiles a little. "I've been traveling these last years with an elder. I'm a healer, you see." This last coincides perfectly after Jarod makes the comment about fists not working, and his palm comes off Jarod's shoulder and smacks the knight in the back of the head without missing a beat. "I will, Ser Jarod, at least for as long as you can hold your fairy's sip of liquor." He lifts his chin to Rowan, then nods, giving Jarod's shoulder another good shake before he lets go of it. "I wouldn't mind at all. And both of you — if not the three " He readily includes Tym in this with an open gesture. "are always welcome at the sept before the tournament if you wish to seek The Warrior's guidance."
Tym snorts at Rowan and Jarod and retorts, "If they get a chance to get out a blade it's only 'cause your fists were too damned slow. And if they do? That's what chairs are for, brother," he says as if it's the most obvious solution in the world. He shakes his head and then looks back at Josse, shrugging, "I thank you for the offer, septon, but I'd much rather be invited to seek that wine Ser Jarod's here's offering. I come all this way and nobody's offered me a drink yet. And here I thought the Roost was renowned for it's hospitality or something."
"The prayers I'll take before the tourney. The wine I'll take now, and you lot are all welcome to it. Even you, Rowan." Jarod adds that to the squire with a sigh. "Do see to my horse, if you didn't finish before you abandoned me to an ambush. Hey!" Josse's elbowed in the ribs in return for the smack to his head. "I'm not sixteen anymore, Septon, and I can outdrink you easy now I'll wager. Both of you." And Rowan, too, presumably, though that doesn't appear to be enough of a challenge to warrant mention.
"Then I'll join you all when Ser Jarod summons for the cups." Josse chuckles at the drinking 'challenge'. "I have a few places I must show my face before it matches my robes." Which won't be long to a nice black and blue, from how it's swelling. The septon doesn't seem to mind it much. "God's favor on all of you. I shall see you later." Aimed for all of them, but mostly Jarod - he lifts a hand and starts off.