|The Shape of Things to Come|
|Summary:||Riordan and Rowenna spar (but not with each other); Rowenna and Ser Bruce discuss the future of Stonebridge.|
|Related Logs:||So very many.|
|Practice Yard — Militia Barracks — Stonebridge|
|Big, open area semi-enclosed by a fence. Racks of practice weapons. Men in various stages of dress.|
|Fifth day, Fifth month, 289 AL|
The morning sun has only been up for a few hours now, and so there is still a slight coolness to the air. And yet, sweat beads on Riordan's brow as he faces off against a guardsman in the practice yard outside the barracks. A few other off-duty guardsman gather around, smiles on their faces as they watch their Lord Regent take blow after blow from the large man he is facing. Riordan is able to get in a few good blows, but it is clear that his older and larger opponent has the edge, both in skill and natural strength. Not surprising, given that Riordan is more at home on the back of his horse, with lance in hand.
No shields are being used by either the Regent or his opponent, just wooden practice swords. And no armor either. In fact, Riordan has removed his doublet and undertunic, and fights barechested. The scars of his recent months of fighting show against his skin, especially the fresher spiderwebbing of scars across his chest that he gained at Pyke.
There's a shrill whistle from the fence that partially encloses the yard. "A harpy, a harpy, a harpy!" And there's Rowenna, perched on a post, gown traded back for tunic and breeches — all in black. Only her clothing bespeaks mourning, however. There's a grin on her face as she watches the fight, and she puts her thumb and forefinger in her mouth to whistle again. "Come on, Rio, you can take him!"
Already, the men who're not on duty have been up nearly as long as the sun. They've gone for a march in the countryside and returned to break their fast. Some decided that in their free hour after, they'd spar. Others will watch. Ser Bruce exits from the barracks, wearing hauberk and greaves but no other armour. He has a grin on his face. "C'mon, Weaver," comes his deep voice, "don't want to let the little lordling take a chunk out of you, eh?"
Riordan moves lightly on his feet, there is certainly that to be said. He pays attention to the bigger man's tells, and seems to anticipate alot of the blows that the guardsman would strike. The simple fact is, however, the man's sheer strength is still a very telling factor. Even when, seeing a hole in Weaver's defense, Riordan presses the oppurtunity, his opponent still manages to turn aside the blow at the last minute with a half-strength (at least for him) block. As the whistling and familiar voices call out, Riordan glances to the sidelines. Taking his own oppurtunity, Weaver strikes Riordan full across the chest with the flat of his blade. With a grunt, Riordan goes sprawling on his ass, much to the verbal amusement of those gathered.
"Apologies, my lord," Weaver is quick to say. He is the Regent, after all. But Riordan simply smiles, and if he is breathing a little sharply after the blow, and if it will leave a mark for later, he still seems in good spirits, a smile on his face as he rises, albeit slowly. "Not at all, Weaver. A deal's a deal. I'll see you get that the keg is delivered to you." The other guardsmen begin to cheer at that, and make calls out to Weaver, making sure he knows he is expected to share his winnings.
Rowenna laughs, hopping off the fencepost and pulling her tunic over her head. There's a black shirt beneath, so it's not entirely indecent. "Ho, there, Weaver — not so fast. I owe you an answer for beating on my fair brother, I think. Though win or lose, you can keep your keg."
Bruce can't help but beam happily as one of his lads knocks down the Lord Regent of Stonebridge onto his ass, and handily at that. "Well done, lad." He calls, looking over to his side and noticing Rowenna making her way in. His normally sleepy blue eyes widen, but he keeps his pleased expression. "Now now, lads, you've all seen her fight - though you thought her a him when you did! Good luck. She done stood up to some tough bloody Ironners." His gaze levels with Weaver. "Now you're not going to let yourself get beat by a /Lady/ are you, Brendon?" He chuckles.
There's murmurs among the guardsmen at that. A mixed reaction, to be sure. Weaver's eyebrows shoot up. "Bad enough that I just risked my pay just now, Cap'n, but… a Lady? Beggin' yer pardon, m'lady," the guardsman says, objecting at first, before realizing himself and knuckling his brow in apology at Rowenna.
Riordan glances over at his sister as she makes her pronouncement, strips (albeit not to the point of complete indecency), and challanges his former opponent. But rather then interjecting his own comments, he simply moves to the sidelines. Reaching for his tunic, the Regent pulls it on over his sweaty skin, albeit with a grunt, before moving to stand beside Bruce and watch to see what happens.
"And well you should!" laughs Rowenna as the guardsman begs her pardon. "After all, I'm not asking for your pay or your grog. Just the pleasure of your company." She flutters her lashes and strolls over to select a practice blade, hefting it and extending her arm to gaze down its length. "Refusing me would simply be… rude."
Bruce laughs heartily at the discourse, offering a shrug to Weaver. "Don't look at me, Weaver. The Lady is talking to you, after all." He snorts and motions to Rowenna. "Well, I hope she doesn't scare you too much."
Despite the general unorthodoxness of the whole thing, the watching guardsmen soom seem to develope the opinion that clearly, Weaver must be afraid of a little girl. After all, since they aren't faced with the choice themselves, it is very easy to judge. "C'mon over, Weaver. Don't forget to put on yer skirt after!" "Hey, Weaver, m'wife told me to ask you for that pie recipe you baked fer yer husband last week" "Weaver, what'r ya waiting fer. Go home to mommy already!" Despite the comments, it is all said in good fun - though none are directed at Lady Rowenna herself. After all, she is a Lady, and the Regent's sister at that. A Regent who happens to still be standing nearby, in fact.
Frowning at the goodnatured jabs from his compatriots, Weaver glances to Bruce and Riordan one more time, despite the Captain's words. But seeing no help from that direction, he lets out a sighs and nods to Rowenna. "Very well, m'lady," Weaver says, gruffly. He'll stand at the ready, wooden practice sword at the ready… but he doesn't move. Just waits for the female Nayland to make her move.
Riordan, for his part, maintains a relatively neutral expression, and doesn't seem particularly interested in giving his opinion on the matter to Weaver, for good or ill. He does, however, call out to his sister in correction, "Not grog, sister. Only the Mire's finest." Then he falls silent once more, leaning on the fencepost in front of him as he stands next to Bruce, watching what unfolds next.
Rowenna grins, standing sideface, Braavosi style, then salutes the guardsman with her practice blade. "Warrior be with you, Weaver!" With that, she darts in, feints, and jabs an almost delicate poke in the direction of the big man's side.
Bruce can't help but chuckle steadily throughout the whole banter. He asides to Riordan, after he's done laughing, "He'd be better off striking right away. She's going to chew him up."
"And… you, m'lady…" Weaver begins to say, still a little taken aback by the situation he now finds himself in. His eyes widen as the spritely young woman closes the distance, and the big man goes on the defensive, holding up his practice blade in an attempt to block the blow coming at him. Only it comes from an entirely different direction, and he grunts as his side is thoroughly poked by the end of Rowenna's 'blade'. In response, he swipes at her - though any watching his previous fight can see he is holding back, at least in the offensive.
"Perhaps. The whole thing has him at a disadvantage I expect, though," Riordan comments, a light smile appearing on his lips nonetheless at Bruce's comment.
It's like she's smoke, there to be struck one moment and behind him the next. Weaver's blade cleaves the air and Rowenna's boot plants itself on his backside. "Now you're just hurting my feelings!" she declares, going to swat the back of his legs with the flat of her blade.
"That's his own damned problem, Ser. No one is telling him to fight like he's fighting a child. She's gone up against Harras Harlaw. You really think Guardsman Weaver's going to be hurting her?" Observes Bruce wryly, cross his arms over his mail hauberk. He winces as the man gets hit and fails to even come anywhere close to Rowenna. "C'mon, mate! Get bloody MOVING!"
"Sorry, m'lady…" Weaver grunts, as he recovers from extending himself a bit too much after Rowenna dances away from his would-be strike. As she flows forward, he manages to get his blade down to block the strike to his legs. The sound of wood against wood sounds sharply, before the guardsmen attempts to bring the blade back up and to strike at Rowenna's sword arm. Still, he seems to be hesitating.
The watching guardsmen, at first still chuckling and giving the occassional tease to Weaver, seem to have gone silent for the most part, as they take in the reality of the slim woman's skill. Despite themselves, a few begin to look impressed.
"I've never denied my sister's talents, Ser Bruce," Riordan observes. "If she'd been born a man, I expect she might even be a member of the Kingsguard, at this very moment." He shakes his head, even as he keeps his eyes firmly on the combat. "You can't fault a man for having difficulty to adjusting when something unexpected comes along, though. Especially when it's something that sets thousands of years of tradition on its ass."
"That's more like it!" Rowenna crows as the guardsman defends, deflecting her blow. "Good man!" She spins and brings her blade up, over and across, deflecting his in turn. She steps in, locking their blades and twisting her wrist. "Now… stop holding back." She dances back, yanking free to kiss his cheek with the tip of her blunted blade.
"There's more to being in the Kingsguard than skill, remember. Not saying she would or wouldn't be, but she's also a bit young for it." Bruce offers a rolling shrug. "From what I'm told, unless your father is a Lord Paramount it usually takes a little while longer to become a Kingsguard. Besides, you know how much competition their is." That said, Bruce nods approvingly at the way Rowenna is moving. "But damned is she ever fast and sly."
At the last minute, Weaver is able to get his wooden blade up to block the strike, seconds before it would have delivered splinters to his feet. It is clear he is still hard pressed, likely having trouble simply dealing with the idea of just who he is fighting right now. "…Of course… milady," he murmurs between breaths, even as he strikes out. And yet, despite these words, he only lets go of his restraint a hair's fraction.
"Older then the Kingslayer when he took the white," Riordan points out to Bruce. "And if you've ever seen Lannister fight, you'd know it has little to do with the fact that his Lord Father shits gold. "Besides, competition or no, I'd say King Bob could do little better then a man with Rowenna's skills." He lets out a small chuckle. "The Seven really have a sense of humor, if a morbid and obscene one." Whatever that's supposed to mean.
"Weaver!" Rowenna cries, laughing as she nimbly sidesteps his next strike. "You're breaking my heart — not to mention your captain's!" This time she sweeps her blade lower, ready to connect with the inside of her opponent's thigh — time to make the man feel a little more threatened. Perhaps that'll wake him.
"Yes. But his father is a Lord Paramount. Just like mine was a Blackwood yeoman, Ser Riordan." Bruce reminds gently, smiling. "It's not that his father has money. But that he's a /Warden/. Lord Paramount. Status. You're right on the skill. But she's a woman, so. It's too bad we're not Northmen. Did you see the Lady Mormont on Pyke?" As he speaks, he still is watching carefully, noting Weaver getting beat by the thin woman quite handily.
Weaver lets out a loud grunt as Rowenna's wooden sword and strikes his inner thigh - damn near hitting the guardsman's own sword, or so the watching guardsman, those few who are still making jokes, are quick to point out. With that sudden pain, and the Lady being, at least for a moment, so close, the man reacts without thinking, turning his blade around after the failed block, and attempting to bring the hilt, and his fists, into the softness of Rowenna's gut.
"He is," Riordan says, not disputing the fact. "But I was at Harranhal when he was given his cloak. If you'd ever met the White Bull, you'd not so readily believe he gained it simply because he's the son of the lion. Of course, mad as Aerys Targaryen was, and as he had the final authority of appointment, we could both be wrong. Could be that the king took a shit that morning that he thought resembled Lannister's likeness, and so decided it was an omen." The crass humor is the kind of wartime humor that Riordan has, until now, mostly fallen out of. Nevertheless, he chuckles, and continues watching.
Rowenna GASPS dramatically as Weaver makes that jab for her gut, twisting out of the way and hooking his leg with her own in an attempt to bring him to the ground, merry all the way.
Bruce snorts mightily at Riordan's joke. "Aye, well. I won't even bother disputing that. Or his successor's merits." Sleepy blue eyes flit to Riordan momentarily before going back to the fight. "Ye Gods. She's thrashing him, he hasn't even gottan a hit in."
And just like that, Weaver thumps to the ground, his blade flying from his hand. He lays there, for a moment, stunned - as stunned as the silence that permeats from the watching guardsmen. "I yield!" Weaver says, into that silence all too quickly, looking more discomfited with the idea of continuing then in yielding to a woman. The others beging to murmur among themselves, overall looking a bit uncomfortable for weaver, though one or two more outspoken ones call out, "Well done, milady!" "You showed him!" "Good on you, Lady Rowenna!"
Riordan raises an eyebrow as the guardsman yields, but he doesn't look all that surprised. "I would have been more shocked if he'd found it within himself to actually really try to hit her, aside from that instinctive last blow," the Regent comments. "Not to mention, I've a feeling Weaver is more relieved that he lost then he would be if he won."
Rowenna sighs, pressing a big sloppy SMOOCH to Weaver's forehead before rolling to her feet and offering him a hand up. "Seven smite me, man. What would you do if I were a squid bitch — just give me your throat? Next time, I expect you to put your balls into it."
"He'll take ribbing for it later on I'm sure." Bruce laughs, clapping with some of the rest of them. "Lady Rowenna. I see you're not about to lose your edge with the new title, then. Weaver, looks like you'll be sticking to fighting in the line then, eh? No matter. We don't pay you the stags for your individual prowess. That's for Serjeants and knights, mate!"
"Of… of course, milady. Whatever you say, milady," Weaver says, bobbing his head. He hesitently takes her hand, though uses his other to do most of the pulling up, not wanting to pull on such a noble personage. And for some reason, he doesn't look entirely thrilled by the possability of a 'rematch'. And, as soon as the man is able to extricate himself with whatever dignity is left to him, he moves back to his fellow guards after nodding to his captain's words. Who, though a few give light-hearted comments the like of which Bruce predicts, most seem to actually commisterate with him, giving him comforting pats on the shoulders and murmured words of support.
"I've no doubt you're right," Riordan says to Bruce, turning back from watching Weaver rejoin his companions, to look at his sister. "My honor is restored, sister. You've my thanks." He gives her a small smile, though it is a cautious one, for some reason. Straightening from where he was leaning on the fencepost, the Regent picks up his doublet from where it was hanging next to him, and then dips his head to all nearby, Bruce, Rowenna, and guards alike. "Good morning," he wishes, and then will turn and take his leave.
Rowenna blows a kiss to her spectators, lifting an eyebrow as her brother makes his departure. She replaces the practice blade and retrieves her tunic, though she makes no move to put the latter back on immediately. Hot, sweaty work, all that dancing. "Ser Bruce," she inclines her head.
"Morning, my lord." Bruce greets as the Lord Regent heads out. The Captain steps forward to talk to Rowenna. "M'lady. M'lady Ser? I don't know the appropriate greeting. You did earn your knighthood fair and square, afterall." He dips his head.
The Lady Ser Whatever laughs, reaching out to clasp Bruce's forearm in hearty greeting. "Ah, Ser Bruce — if I weren't a married woman, I'd kiss you." She smirks. "There aren't many men with balls enough to call me Ser. I appreciate that more than you can possibly know."
Bruce clasps Rowenna's forearm back. Afterall, she's earned the right to be greeted as a comrade. He grins. "Aye, well, I didn't get my place by being coy. I can only hope, in all honesty, to keep my place. What with everything that's going on now. My I ask you what you think about this whole erm… situation?"
Her smile broadens as he returns her greeting in proper form — clearly touched and deeply approving. She leans back against the fence, propping her elbows behind her, and nods. "Ask whatever you like, Ser. I'll answer as best I may."
Bruce's hands, once free, loop behind his back to clasp eachother. His voice drops down in volume to stay quiet enough that only the Lady in front of him can hear. "Well, I was wondering what you thought was going to happen? You've got many friends outside the uh, traditional circle of your family. More worldly in many ways."
Rowenna shakes her head. "Fucked if I know," she says honestly. "I'd never had thought — we'd be where we are now. With all of it." She takes a breath and flashes a tight smile. "The newly made Lady Tordane's probably going to press her suit until there are no more options left her. That's what I'd guess. Gedeon… inspired that kind of blind, suicidal loyalty in people."
Bruce's lips purse downward into a frown, momentarily. "It makes life very difficult, for the House and its retainers. I'm content to leave the politicking to others with better brains and better blood for it, but I've got to say, I'm not sanguine. Not with the rumours I keep hearing."
The slender, breeches-clad lady nods. "And what is it you hear? Perhaps more to the point — what do you fear? What's the worst that might happen, in your estimation?"
"I'm hearing that people are throwing in their lot with Lady Danae. It's one thing for a few hedge knights and sellsword to visit her. It's another when Lord Keegan Charlton does. The man is supposed to be a Nayland ally. Sworn to the same liege." Bruce replies, evenly. "The worst case would be House Nayland losing Stonebridge. The House and its sworn have put blood, sweat and tears into this place. Making it better. Defending it. Much has been done for Stonebridge and if it's lost, for what? The town prospers like it hasn't in many, many years. That's no accident."
"You're a good man to be so concerned for my family's fortunes," says Rowenna, looking up at Ser Bruce after a moment considering her boots. "I believe Lady Danae to be canny, capable, and good-hearted. If she succeeds in her claim, she'll be a fine custodian of Stonebridge's fortunes. You needn't worry for the people."
"I served the Blackwoods for nine years, and grew up in the foothills and mountains near the Blackwood Vale. My father was a yeoman for them, as were our ancestors. After the Rebellion, I served Lord Tully for five. When Ser Ryker, well, Lord Ryker, I guess, asked for me to help him standup Stonebridge, I was given leave. Some may think that a demotion from Hoster Tully's master of foot. But House Nayland has taken care of me and mine, and I've put my all into your house's fortunes. Shouldn't it be normal that they've bred the loyalty into their men?" Bruce motions around at the Tordane Tower. "All the men here feel the same as I do. Whatever Lady Danae's capabilities, I don't imagine many or any will swear to her."
"Then she'll have to find men to fight for her elsewhere," says Rowenna. "But she doubtless will. She won't move to take the place unless she knows she can hold it." She sighs. "I wish I could offer you better reassurance, Ser Bruce, but I am much like you — whatever connections my family might afford me, I have no gift for politics and plotting. My opinion is just a collection of words, and as my cousin would say, words are wind."
Bruce smiles tautly at one of Ser Rygar's favourite sayings coming from the Lady Rowenna. "Aye, that he would. But Stonebridge being lost to House Nayland would grievously hurt your family. Perhaps break any chance of it reaching out for the next long while. Does this not wound you, as well, m'lady?"
Rowenna frowns, examining her feelings before attempting to put words to them. "I… know my ambivalence must seem a lack of love. It's difficult," she begins, troubled. "I came to love House Terrick well as their ward. Lord Jerold's rejection hurt me and worse, Jarod, deeply… but he has ample reason to be hurt and angry himself. I know him to be a good man and fair. I know his sons and his daughter. The men of his house. Better, even, than I know my own family. Yet… my family has embraced me, to what extent they feel they can, in my darkest hour. When my brothers and father finally realize that I mean to keep and fight for my title, that may change… but it has certainly touched me deeply, and meant much." She sighs. "And on the third hand," she smirks wryly at the complication, "Lady Danae carries the child of my former mentor and friend, the man who the King himself called the true heir. So." She offers a wan smile. "Complicated."
Bruce listens in silence, nodding when appropriate. He's waiting until Rowenna is done explaining to put in his own two cents. "Aye, the King did legitimize him. But he is gone, now, and as much as she might like to think, Lady Danae is no real relation. She may have married him the night before, but the string is… tenuous, at best. Maybe it's just me that I don't share your enthusiasm for a Westerman Lady to take control of a River town because she married a legitimized man the night before he died… in a legitimate, legal duel." He pauses, and then chuckles. "So. Complicated, as you said, m'lady. You're right. I count Ser Jarod among my closest friends here on the Cape. He said the Lord Regent had offered him employment and… I told him that I'd try to help as much as possible. With whatever needed. That includes you as well now, m'lady. For what it's worth."
"Don't mistake me, Ser Bruce, I have little enthusiasm for this contest at all," says Rowenna. "I do not support Lady Danae over my family — if I thought she'd do this place harm, I'd certainly oppose her. But…" She shakes her head. "There's nothing simple. Nothing pure. Even men like my cousin, beyond any personal reproach, are pawns in a game where no one's hands are clean. The rest of us… we do our best, and hope the gods forgive us." She claps Bruce on the shoulder. "Thank you. For your friendship to my family and my husband — and me, by extension. If there's ever anything I can do for you — it works both ways. You have my gratitude."
Bruce dips his head. "Thank you. You're right about that, about nothing pure being in this. I know that neither side is pure. And I'll stick by it and do my duty, until my duty is released or I die. If I may ask, how do you know Lady Danae is pregnant with child?"
"Well, if she's not, hopefully this will all go away," says Rowenna — though she doesn't sound like she has much hope for that. "But if I knew Gedeon at all… this wasn't a love match, done in the passion of the moment. He married her to leave an heir… and I'd be very surprised if he didn't do just that."
Bruce arches an eyebrow. He looks skeptical. "M'lady, I've been married for five years. I've two children. Not for want of trying. But sleeping with somebody does not produce a child all the time. Or even most of the time."
Rowenna laughs. "Yes. Well. I have it on good authority that just as there are steps one can take to discourage conception, there are steps to encourage the same. In the end, it's done — we've only to wait and learn the outcome."
"Beyond my means, I suppose." Bruce echoes Rowenna's laughter. "Though I suspect that after she had another son last week, my wife will be happy to cease having children for as long as she can. Say, m'lady - would you tell Ser Jarod I wished to talk to him?"
She smiles warmly. "Of course, Ser." She reaches out to clasp his forearm in parting. "And congratulations. May the Seven smile on your son, and all your family."
Bruce dips his head at the Nayland Lady. "Thank you, m'lady. You can tell him that we're looking at finally dealing with the bandit issue, after all the er.. excitement of the last few weeks. He knows the Cape well and he's an excellent soldier. I could also see that he'd be outfitted."