|The Prodigal Ser|
|Summary:||Lord Ser Rickart Nayland congratulates his youngest son. It's a bittersweet moment for both.|
|Related Logs:||Scrapes and Losses and Before the Storm|
|A battlefield pavillion, Isle of Pyke|
|A tent with delusions of grandeur.|
|12th Fourthmonth, 289 AL|
The fall of the Bloody Keep is being heralded as the decisive action of the Siege of Pyke. Although the Kitchen Tower still holds out, a mood of festivity is sweeping through the Royal army, in the wake of that action, while the newly knighted Rowan lies in a pavillion, after having wounds attended. The sound of several boots coming and going beyond that tent is a familiar one, but the sound of voices beyond, and the hurried entry of the Terrick Armsman Jarod had placed on Rowan's tent makes it clear this visit is different. "Ah, Ser? You've a visitor." The tone is apprehensive.
Rowan pushes himself up with a wince, climbing gingerly to his feet; the apprehension of the Terrick armsman nets a curious look. "Uhm… Good. Thank you? Please send them in." He rakes the hair back from his face, shaking off the cobwebs off poppy milk and fatigue.
A nod and swift withdrawal followed by brief words without and the entrance of another. Not so tall as the guard who just withdrew, and although many men could be glimpsed through the briefly opened tent flap, it is a solitary figure who steps inside.
Lord Ser Rickart Nayland is visibly older than when last Rowan laid eyes on him, his hair solidly grey and running toward white, but the same well kept beard, narrow eye, and proud gait. The Lord of the Mire is clad in the brazen armor he has worn throughout the campaign, a fine cloak of green and orange hanging from his pauldrons. "Ye Gods, but do you look like your mother," are the first words he speaks, as the wrinkles of his face are carved deeper by a smile.
The lad stands stunned for a moment, gaping at his father as though he expected his visit sometime after King Robert and perhaps the Warrior, Himself. He recovers in a moment, snapping his mouth shut and executing a somewhat shallow bow, hampered by bandages and stitching. "My lord father," the youngest Nayland greets him. Then, straightening, "I tried to see you, when we got the news about Ryker… the timing was never right." He looks painfully sincere, and — perhaps as a result — painfully young. "Forgive me, father. I'm so sorry for your loss — for all of us."
"So you've heard," Rickart exhales at the talk of Ryker, the smile on his aged face turns toward the bittersweet. "Ryker was a fool, and a proud fool, but he was my blood and damn me if I don't miss him. One thing time will teach you, my boy: to miss the things that once troubled." He draws a fresh breath. "I wasn't happy when your Ser Jarod sent away my guard. Wasn't surprised, mind.." he admits with a wry smile, as the old lord steps closer to his standing child, raising a bare, wrinkled hand to clasp at the side of Rowan's face, still-strong grip felt as fingers curl toward the back of Rowan's neck. "Wasn't happy when I missed your knighting, either. You have done //well/, my boy."
Rowan swallows a lump in his throat, audibly. It's a beat or two before he can speak. "Thank you, father," the boy says in a rough whisper, bowing his head at the praise. "I pray you'll always be so proud of me." He hazards a glance up, flashing a faint, wry smile. "It's been quite a journey."
"Heh," Rickart chuckles, smile still not overcoming that bittersweet edge to his smile. "They say you crossed swords with the Knight of Grey Garden himself? My boy, when you left it was as if you were gone from the face of the earth." The aged fingers of the Grey Lord squeeze briefly, then clap Rowan lightly but firmly on the side of the face. "And now here you are again: covered in glory and dubbed a knight. Straight out of those mummer's tales you loved so much."
"I did — and he taught me a thing or two about Valyrian steel for my trouble," says the newly made knight, his smile a bit wider but twice as wry. "But I've had worse — and I'll be more proud of scars I got here than any others." He lowers his eyes, lashes long and thick as a girl's. "I had a great deal I wanted to prove before I came home, father. I… didn't think I'd be much missed, to be honest."
"Ahh, my boy. You were so young when you left, there are many things I suspect you didn't much think," Rickart smiles back, narrowed eyes taking in the myriad details of Rowan's face. "One day, you'll understand. When you have children of your own, you'll never forget how precious it is to see your child born.. and to consider all the possibilities before them." A slowly drawn breath is pulled in as his pained smile lingers. "Some will die before ever truly living, like little Rosamund. Others will grow old enough to give you the .. barest glimpse of what life might have lain ahead before they're taken, like dear Rodrik. The fortunate ones will live to be men, but still see their threads cut short, as Rupert did. Ryker, bless him for a fool, didn't deserve the death he found. And then poor Rowenna.." The old Lord exhales wearily. "That blow cut your mother deeper than the rest." Turning his eye back up to the kngiht before him, the Lord of the Mire voices, "After that. To have you back again, as a knight and a man grown? It will be like a return from the dead. You always were my Rhiannon's favorite."
The boy stares at his father, then takes a steadying breath. "I was… very young. We both were." His smile returns, melancholy and perhaps a little ashamed. "Maybe… maybe Row and me created a bit of a mummer's tale, ourselves. About what we were running from, to justify what we were running towards." He clears his throat, blinking. "Father… what would happen to her? Rowenna? If she ever came home?"
Lord Rickart chuckles quietly, the wrinkles at his eyes darkened in the low light of the tent. "We all were young once, my boy." Armored shoulders rise and fall with a deeply drawn breath as he claps a hand upon and squeezes Rowan's right shoulder. Sniffing another breath in through his nose. "If she comes back.. I don't know that we could see her married. That manner of shame is difficult to overlook, and we are not a wealthy House. But your sister.. She set her name aside when she fled. If she took it back up again, and came home, for your mother's sake I would have her."
There's another audible swallow; the boy nods. "Maybe she will. Someday." He clears his throat again. Deep breath. "Thank you, father. For your kind words and congratulations. It means more than you can know."
Rickart smiles again, chuckling quietly deep in his throat. "Come home, my boy. Let your mother see you, and take the place in our House that you've earned." The invitation is followed by the sentiment, "All any man wants in the world is the best for his sons."
Rowan's dark, dramatic brows knit. Emotion struggles painfully on his face, still too pretty by half. He lifts a hand to settle upon his father's on his shoulder, giving a manful squeeze of affection. The lad has some grip in those slender hands. "I will, my lord father," he says softly. "When I do… if it's still your wish to have me back — I'll owe you an answer then." He flashes a quick, abashed smile. "I make it a rule never to make major life decisions when floating on poppy.""
Rickart Nayland, the Grey Lord of the Mire, barks out a sharp laugh that lingers in his throat a long moment at Rowan's half-jest about life decisions being made while 'floating on poppy'. "You've your mother's wit to go with her look, my boy. Damnation, but you've here eyes." A deep breath is drawn. "Rest well, Rowan."
Rowan bows his head, smiling, shyly pleased to have made his father laugh. "Thank you, father. I will." He meets Lord Rickart's eyes. "It was good to see you. Thank you, again."
Still laughing in the back of his throat, the old man's hand musses Rowan's hair. "Will see you soon, Ser Rowan," he offers in parting, before turning back toward the pavilion's portal.
Rowan Nayland stands straight and still as his father departs, finally closing his eyes and breathing out when the Lord of the Mire is gone. He turns from the exit, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. It takes several passes of mopping up thus before those silent tears stop flowing.