Page 042: Three Invitations
Three Invitations
Summary: Rose extends three invitations to three very different men under very different circumstances.
Date: 23/08/2011
Related Logs: Candor
Rowan Gedeon Jacsen Jarod 
A Room at the Rockcliff Inn, Terrick's Roost
Night, candles, a big bed, naked people.
21st of Eighthmonth, 288 AL

If the routine itself has become familiar of the course of a couple weeks, the experiences shared behind closed door continue to be new and exciting. Days are spent in training, keeping secrets (more or less) and the most subtle and discreet of teases. Nights are spent with very little clothing, burning through that desire each day builds. The pair of them are lying in the bed, warm and tangled, with sheets scrunched about them, quite unkindly twisted. Gedeon, at least, hardly seems to mind. He lies stretched out, his arms around Rose, eyes half-closed. "And you wonder why I sleep later than you do," he teases around a lazy smile.

Rose laughs, nipping his shoulder. "I do, in fact," she rebukes warmly, nibbling kisses up the side of his neck. "I happen to be an equal participant in these exercises." She nestles against his shoulder and heaves a delighted, sated sigh. "If only drills were half so rewarding, we'd have the finest standing army in Westeros."

"Mmm, but they'd be too preoccupied drilling each other to bother fighting anybody else," Gedeon points out teasingly as he slides his fingers through Rose's hair.

"Then it should be so for everyone — the whole world fucking instead of fighting." Rose grins, trailing fingertips down his arm. "There would be puddles everywhere and it might smell a bit funny, but I think overall things would be much improved." She lifts her head, kissing his jaw and his ear. "I have a favor to ask you."

"People would be in better moods, on average," Gedeon agrees, tilting his head down a little to put his jaw a little closer to those kisses. "Mmm?" he murmurs, "A favor? What is it, Rose?"

"Well," says Rose, propping herself up on an elbow to better view her lover, "there's a… thing. It's — a ceremony. A dedication. You know how if one of the Seven is foremost in your heart, some declare it formally? Josse has been encouraging me to do so, and after a little thought, I've decided to do so. The favor bit is — " she smiles shyly. "It's sometimes done that people come and bear witness. The people you feel are close to you. And… so I was wondering if you'd come?"

Gedeon blinks slowly as he considers, peering thoughtfully back at Rose. "You… want me to come to a ceremony? Dedicating you to one of the Seven? What does it mean, exactly, this dedication? What changes, afterward?"

His incredulity makes her blush a bit and grimace. She looks down. "You don't have to… but… I thought…" She shrugs. "I'd like you to be there. Nothing changes, really. It's between me and the Seven. It's just… sort of important. Like a nameday."

There's another small nod for that as Gedeon considers, and then he rests his fingers under Rose's chin, lifting it so that their eyes can meet again. "If it's something important to you, then of course I'll come. Thank you for asking me."

The smile he earns for his assent is brilliant and lovely, absolutely aglow. She kisses him, and kisses him again — and again, still smiling. "Thank you," she whispers. "Truly. I'll be so glad to have you there."

He laughs softly against those kisses and his arms come around Rose to tug her a bit closer so that he can demand a few more, nipping on her bottom lip and teasingly brushing his tongue into her mouth. "So, who will you declare yourself to, Rose Rivers? Which of the Seven called to you?"

Rose laughs softly and makes a sweet, low sound in her throat, eyes lidding for those more sensual kisses. She loses herself in them for a bit, returning the attentions of his teeth and tongue until her head's a bit cloudy and delightfully muddled. "Mmmmm," she sighs happily, resting in chin on his chest. "The Mother, actually," she answers at last.

"Really?" Gedeon asks, brows lifting in surprised. "I would have guessed the warrior, all things considered. The Mother. Hmmm, that's interesting." His hands slide lazily over Rose's back. "When will it be, this dedication to The Mother?"

"I would have thought so, too," Rose admits, arching pleasantly beneath his hands, nuzzling his chin, languid and lazy. "But. Josse is rather brilliant. We talked about it, and sort of examined… why I'm called to the warrior's work. When it comes down to that, it's to protect people, especially those I love. So — the Mother. She's a fierce protectress, in her own right." She kisses his shoulder. "Three nights from now. At the sept."

"Three nights from now, at the sept," Gedeon repeats as his fingers trace the shape of her spine. "All right. I'll be there. That's three nights from now. What shall we do to busy ourselves for the remains of this one?" His voice dips low, into a low tease.

Laughing, Rose kisses him, fingers threading into his hair. "I'm sure we'll think of something," she murmurs. "We always do."

The seashore, Terrick's Roost
Morning. Sand. Water. Rocks. People with clothes on.
22nd of Eighthmonth, 288 AL

The morning is a calm and cool one, the kiss of summer's heat still an hour or some away from claiming most in its embrace. While others are already about the day's tasks, their work brooking no delay, still others have the luxury to choose to enjoy dawn's comfortable aftermath. Such is Jacsen Terrick, whom seems to have taken a morning ride down to the coast, a short distance from the Roost's keep. His horse, a brown and grey dappled creature, remains still and calm, tail swishing lightly now and then. Its lord and master, though, lingers atop a wide rock, his noteworthy leg stretched out and the other bent at the knee, that he might rest his chin upon it. It would seem the sea, and whatever mysteries or answers it holds, are his focus.

Rose has been awake for hours, since before dawn — sweating through drills, running errands, taking lessons, tending her knight's gear. They're familiar rhythms for a squire, no matter who one serves. By mid-morning, she's free for a few hours — until someone can find her and put her to some other task. Normally, she'd be haunting the stables and kennels, waiting for such a call. Today, however, she's come down to the shore. It's not a luxury she indulges in often, and she pauses on the sand to see the figure settled on the rocks among the rainbow spray. Off come the boots, breeches rolled up to the knee, and she picks her way out along the jetty to where Jacsen sits.

"Wide waters, I think I'm in love with the sea," she sings softly, settling to sit beside him. Her voice is pretty — not at all expert or remarkable, but pleasant. "How do I woo you and make you love me? Drenched in your passion, enthralled by your anger, becalmed by your beauty… How do I make you love me?"

The man atop the rock is quiet and still, the morning's breeze, bringing out the scent of salt from the the sea and into his nostrils with each deep, and satisfied, breath. When he first hears the soft singing he looks away from the crashing surf, deep blue eyes searching out the origin. Jacsen's smile is a pleasant one, though he is silent as she nears. He seems content to listen to her lyrics, her pretty voice mixing with the sound of the same waves she sings for.

Dark curls playing in the breeze, moving about her head like something alive, Rose pulls her knees and turns her head to rest her cheek there, squinting slightly against the dazzle of bright water. "I don't know the rest of the words," she admits. "I heard it in Stonebridge — thought it was pretty." She looks out at the water a moment, then back at Jacsen. "Should I leave you two alone?" she asks, smiling.

"No, I think not," Jacsen decides, after a moment spent considering the woman at his side. "The surf is capricious, at best, for all that it tries to sing as sweetly as a squire." His lips quirk with quiet amusement, and he looks back out to the sea. "I trust you are doing well, Rose?" he wonders, his hands unlinking so that he can draw fingers through his hair.

Rose blushes, self-consciously attempting to tame her hair as well — but there's too much of it to lie still, and not enough to stay properly behind her ears. The breeze goes on having its way with the curls. "You should head Rowan sing. He's amazing," she demurs. "But me? I'm well!" She pauses, then draws a breath. "I — I wonder if I might ask you a favor. It's a little forward, considering we haven't known one another terribly long. But… yeah. Would you mind?" She looks hopeful and hesitant.

"A favor?" Jacsen considers the woman beside him for a moment, as if weighing his internal measure of what that favor might be. "You can ask it, Rose. I cannot promise I will fulfill it, but there is no harm in the asking, nor my listening." He shifts a bit, to face the woman a touch better, and gestures with a hand. "What is it?"

She bites the corner of her bottom lip, lifting a hand to make another futile pass at her hair. "Well," she begins, studying the rock beneath them, "there's… Josse and I were talking. And — we'll, it's all kind of long and boring, probably, but there's going to be a dedication ceremony, where I accept my patron among the Seven." She lifts her eyes to his. "Josse said… if I wanted to… I could have people there to witness. People I care about." She raises her eyebrows. "I know it's ridiculous, but I'd really like you to be there."

He makes a quiet noise, something between thoughtful and amused. "I'd be pleased to attend," Jacsen remarks after a few moments, "And hear you make your dedication amongst the Seven. It's an honor that you would ask, and a compliment, given that there are many more you've known much longer than I." He smiles a touch, watching her face even though it is yet ducked away. "Though I suppose there aren't so many you can ask, given that so few know your secret."

She smiles wryly at that, lifting a slender shoulder in a shrug. "True. Though I would have asked you, all the same." Rose sighs and pulls a lock of hair away from her eyes. "Damn," she mutters. "I should really cut my hair. Short as yours or Jarod's. But I'm vain." She smirks. "When it's longer, I can look in the mirror and almost see a girl — " she scrunches up her face like a nearsighted old woman, " — if I squint really hard.

"Anyway," say the girl squire, taking a breath, "Gedeon will come. And… I mean to ask Jarod, but… I haven't quite gotten up the nerve. It's two nights hence at sunset, in the sept."

"You could cut it," Jacsen supposes, tilting his head in idle consideration of the woman beside him. "It would still suit you decently enough. But then, I think it's not so wrong should you keep /some/ affectation to your true and fairer sex," he remarks, chuckling very softly at the face she makes. "I don't think I need to look all that hard, Rose. But then I might not be quite so critical."

That said, he looks back to the water, and nods. "I'll be there, sunset, two nights hence."

Rose smiles again, both radiant and shy. She quickly looks up and around, surveying every possible vantage point. Determined the coast is clear, she leans over and kisses his cheek. "Thank you, Jack," she whispers. Then she's clambered to her feet, retreating back across the jetty to the beach, light and leaping.

The stables and kennels, Terrick's Roost
Afternoon. Woof. Neigh. Clothes again.
23rd of Eighthmonth, 288 AL

Ser Jarod Rivers has spent little time around the castle since the hunt for Amelia Millen began. Though he's been less out-and-about in the past couple days. And today he's just hanging about the Roost almost as usual. He heads toward the kennels, whistling as he goes. It has the tune of a drinking song, and he occasionally sings snatches of it, mainly a refrain, "Sword of the Tower, Sword of the Tower…" Still whistling, he gets to searching the place for something. Or someone.

And the kennels is precisely where Rowan's to be found, wrestling a stubborn grey mastiff with a grapefruit-sized lump on the side of his face. She has a few things laid out — a knife, clean cloths, a bucket, some medicinal-looking bottles of amber glass — but at the moment she's just trying to get the recalcitrant beast to sit. "Gods damn you, Dragon — you're usually so good. Why're you fucking with me?" She stands, keeps an arm around his thick, muscled neck to prevent his retreat and shoves his hindquarters to the ground with her free hand. He drops his front end as well, dragging her to the ground where she barely saves herself from face-planting. "Fuck."

Jarod gets a boisterous laugh out of that. "Your dog cross at you?" he asks as he comes up behind her. His tone's friendly. At least, more than it's been in past days. Though there's still a note of hesitancy underlying it.

Rowan raises her head, smirking and making at face at Jarod. "Hardy-har-har," she retorts, settling back on her heels as the huge animal rolls onto its back, wagging its docked behind. "He's not cross, he's a great big pussy," she puts her face in Dragon's. "A PUSSY is what you are. Like a cat. Or lady parts. Whichever you find more demeaning." She sighs, pulling herself up again. "Probably the former." She tilts her head, glancing wryly at Jarod. "Got a few moments to make yourself useful?"

"I like pussies," Jarod says with a quick grin. "Aye. I've got a few." He rolls up his sleeves, to make with the 'being useful' bit. "If we can talk as we do it. There's…there's something I should tell you, Rowan. Concerns your kin."

"Really. I didn't know that about you," Rowan intones, dryly. She kneels beside the dog, snapping her fingers above his head. "Up, up!" Having already forgotten his previous mode of resistance, he springs up to sit. "Good Dragon. Good up," Rowan pats his sides and scruffles his massive shoulders. "Come down here," she says to Jarod, "and just get a good hold on his trunk, arms around him." She takes a cloth and soaks it with some sharp, pungent decoction. "This about Amy?"

"Amelia Millen, aye." Jarod kneels by the dog, giving the creaturea rough pat on the head before putting his big arms around him. Though he does try to meet Rowan's eyes while he's working the dog. "She tell you, then? That she thinks she's Lord Rickart's natural daughter? Or at least, that's what she's told some, like Jaremy."

Dragon, fierce creature that he is, makes looking at Rowan a little difficult, licking Jarod's face with a tongue wide as a man's palm. He stops, though, whining and squirming a bit as Rowan gently cleans the huge swelling. "Shh, shh — I know, love, but you're going to feel so much better after. I promise," she speaks softly to the dog. Then, in the same soothing tone, "She did. Are you going to hang her?"

Jarod can't help but laugh as the dog licks his face, though he holds onto him tight enough. "That's a good boy…" he mutters while Rowan goes to work. No laughter as to the question. No immediate answer, either. "Not sure yet, Rowan. I can tell you…the things she's done, if even half of it's true, the noose is what she deserves in my view. It's not that simple, though. Mostly now I just want to get her in hand before…before she makes this even worse on herself than it is now."

"Funny," Rowan says softly, bringing the bucket over near Dragon and taking up the knife, "to find and lose a sister, all at once." Fine, dark brows draw down and she takes a breath. "If she's done half of what I've heard, Jarod, I agree with you. Not… happily. But it's justice." She pokes the center of the hound's swollen cheek, a lightning quick jab of the knife; Dragon yips and pants, feet scrabbling on the stones for a moment, then just leans heavily against Jarod as thick, grey pus streams out into the bucket. It smells like rank death. "Is Jaremy protecting her?"

"Jaremy's…doing what he feels he has to do. And I'll not really call him wrong. I've no right to, some of what I've done of late. He's told me the whole of it now, I think, and we'll…we'll figure it out. I think it's in a place where we can manage it together, and see some justice and safety done for this family, however we come to it." Jarod idly, and gently, pats the big dog as Rowan tends to his hurt. "That's a good boy…it's all right…"

Rowan massages the big lump as it deflates, pushing forth new gouts of grey, then white, then pink — each smelling worse than the last. Dragon licks at Jarod and the air and anything else he can get his tongue one, whining and breathing hard. "Such a good boy, Dragon," Rowan croons. She roots her finger in the pocket of the wound, breaking up any hidden pockets of infection, then resuming the gentle expulsion of the pus. "You have every right, Jarod," she says as she works, eyes intently on the task before her. "Maybe not to judge him as his brother, his friend, or even a man — I don't know about any of that. But you have every right to judge him as your future Lord. And to expect more of him. To demand it." She cleans her hands in a separate bucket of soapy water, then fills a small bladder with astringent. "However you choose to do that, it's your right. And your responsibility. Jaremy left to his own devices is a disaster. You and Anais and Jack have to be the strong ones."

"Jaremy understands that now, I think. We've talked on it," Jarod says. "I've already had this fight with him, Rowan, and I was angry. Won't say I wasn't. But at the end of the day Jaremy is my brother, and my friend, and over all that my future lord who I do serve loyally with a glad heart. And I'll not hear him slighted. Anyway. I think things'll be better now. Might get worse in the short term, but long term, better for certain." He can't help but chuckle again as the dog licks his neck. It tickles. Still, there's nothing joking about his overall manner. "Rowenna…" He uses her proper name near under his breath. "…what sort of man was Lord Rickart like? As a father?"

She doesn't duck into contrition, the way she might have not long ago, at the rebuke — however slight — to her slighting. Her dark eyes lift to his for a moment, then returns to her work once again, flushing the wound. Dragon seems to have more-or-less resigned himself by this point, only occasionally whining. "It would be a slight to say Jaremy's a feckless, naive little boy who's driven more by ego in his schemes to prove himself lordly than concern for his family or his people. But I didn't say that." She flushes the pocket in Dragon's cheek a few more times for good measure. "I may not always like Jaremy, but he's family. I love him, and I'd never say anything about him that wasn't to his betterment." She pats the hound's cheek dry. "I have no idea what my father's really like, Jarod. We've had, perhaps, a dozen words conference in my lifetime. I know he disdained and mocked my brother, encouraged people to be cruel to him, and would have sent him here as the ultimate cruelty. I know he would have seen me married to someone sadistic and diseased. And Ryker says he's losing his mind — which wouldn't surprise me, but still. Ryker." 'Nuff said.

"Jaremy is, I think, the reason I've the place I do in this family at all," Jarod says. Softly, but his eyes do try and meet hers as he does. "I don't mean in the House. I serve with my sword. And my father acknowledged me and has always given me more than anyone would say he's obligated to. But…" He gives the dog another soft pat. "…I'm not even a year younger than Jaremy, Rowan. And Jacsen and I aren't even three months born apart. So we were all more or less reared together, same servants and the like. Was just no other practical way to do it, I figure, as my mother wasn't about to take me and Lord Jerold felt some obligation see to it. So we grew together and we played together, and we were boys together, and Jaremy and me liked most of the same things - more than Jace and I did when we were younger - and for years I didn't even know there was any difference. Except that Lady Terrick wasn't my mother, which I didn't really understand. Anyway, by the time I was old enough to realize what a bastard was…well, my brother and heir to this house loved me, which made it easier for my younger siblings to, I figure, and for the rest of the household not to treat me so much different than he did. So that's what Jaremy's done for me, without even knowing he did it. Anyhow…I know he's not perfect, but that's where I'm at, and I'm his man to the my last day."

She does meet his eyes, and remains that way, listening quietly as she strokes and soothes the big dog between them. She looks down once, very briefly, as her eyes get a touch over-bright — maybe she's got something in them — but it's only for a moment. At the end, she nods slightly, blinking and looking away. "I love him too, Jarod. For precisely the same reasons." She bandages Dragon's cheek, fastening a stiff leather cone about his neck to keep him from scratching as it heals. "It may not always sound like love, candor seldom does. I know his has a big, beautiful, stupid heart — but he needs to be a better man." She grins, a quick display of teeth and irony. "Who doesn't?" She stands and casually adjusts the equipment she doesn't have, then empties the bucket of soapy water and tossing the pieces of her impromptu chiurgeonry into it.

"Aye, who doesn't, is the truth of it." Jarod agrees simply with a slight grin. "Anyhow. I guess I was asking you about Amelia Millen, and about your father because…well, some of the things I've heard, Rowenna, and I don't know that they're true, but some of what Amelia has told people about her treatment by Lord Rickart…well. I thank the Seven that I'm a byblow by Lord Jerold Terrick and not some other man's, as I'm not sure what I'd have become elsewhere. And I can understand you not wanting any part of those people better."

"I can't say if they're true," she says, giving Dragon a pat and kissing his muzzle. "Good boy," she murmurs to him. She shakes her head, looking sadly at Jarod. "It wouldn't surprise me if they were. Very few families are like the Terricks, I think. It's also possible she's playing up her unhappy childhood in hopes of receiving a lesser sentence. But if it is true, Jarod — " she frowns. "If it is true, what Rickart did to her, is makes no matter at all. She killed a defenseless man. With malice aforethought. There's a reason we have laws, and men to enforce them. She could have come to you. Seven Hells, to me. To any of us."

"We are what we earn in the world, when we leave it, I figure," Jarod says. "And I figure we've always got a choice. That's the gift of the Warrior, as I've always seen it. More than strength in battle. Strength in deeds, as you put them into the world. But we do them tilted toward what the Mother and the Smith made us. How we were cared for, what sort of metal we had to work with from our beginnings. There's only so many purposes certain tools can serve, once they've been forged to do what they do and treated as they've been." He shrugs, patting Dragon's head and loosening his grip on the beast. "But you're right. It's our deeds that matter in the end. Seven help her."

"Seven help her," she agrees, softly. She offers Jarod a hand up. "Thanks for you help with Dragon," she adds, softly. Dragon, for his part, is hating his new collar, rolling around on the ground and trying to wriggle out of it. "It's for your own good," she tells the hound, smirking. "Stop being such a girl."

Jarod stands, wiping his hands on his trousers. Not that that does anything to make him less doggy. He gives Rowan a sideways look at that last from her. "You really think it's so bad? Being a girl?"

"Only sometimes," Rowan admits, quirking a wry smile. "Other times I enjoy it. Why, don't you?" she shoots him an arch and thoroughly skeptical look.

Jarod rolls his eyes, shaking his head. "You don't understand me as well as you think you do sometimes, Rowenna." That's the answer she gets. "You need anything more of me? I should be getting cleaned up."

Rowan sighs. "I wish you wouldn't call me that." She shrugs. "Just — " she hesitates and frowns, then takes a deep breath. "There's a — Josse is doing a dedication for me. To my patron in the Seven. Night after next? At the sept." She lurches her way through it in sentence fragments. "He said I could invite people I care about. You still qualify." She picks up her bucket. "Don't say anything, please. Just come or don't."

"Why not? It's your name." Jarod says it almost gently. "There's nothing wrong with it. The mask of Rowan Nayland…I can do with that. It's your brother's name, and he gave you the right to wear it, so that's a thing I guess I can see how you can be. But you don't understand at all why the whole Rose Rivers thing you've styled yourself in gets me so much, do you? Why I won't call you by that." As for the invitation. "Sure. I'd like to come."

Rowan blows out an exasperated breath. "You really don't take direction very well." She stomps her foot. "Rose is my name, damn it. No one calls me Rowenna. It's — " She takes a breath and curbs her temper. "No. I don't understand. I chose to be Rose Rivers long before Lady Anonymous ever started courting you. I have a right to both names."

"You chose to be Rose Rivers." Jarod repeats that, not harshly, but with some firmness. "And Iz looked her half-brother in the face and chose to be Lady Isolde Tordane - or Lady Nayland now, I guess - when he brougth her Lord Geoffrey's letters, whatever the truth of them. And…people don't just get to *do* that, Rowenna. At least…I suppose some do, and the world won't tell them it's wrong, because somehow they've managed to get themselves to a place where they can be whatever in seven hells they want. Well, good for you, I guess, if you're there. For my part? You know what the one thing I want more than anyone else in this world is, Rowenna? For somebody to call me Ser Jarod Terrick. But that will never happen. I can't just wake up in the morning and make it magically so. And there's nothing so wrong with being Jarod Rivers that I can't own it for my own. So…I'll call you Rowan. That's fine. But I'll not call you Rose Rivers. If others will…well, good on you, you're luckier than me."

"Would you prefer to be called Nayland over Rivers?" Rowan asks softly. "Rowenna has been disowned by even that wretched bunch, Jarod… I'm not a Nayland. Who would you have me be?"

"I don't want anyone's name but that I'd share with my father and brothers and sister," Jarod replies to that. "I don't give a damn about being a lordling, I don't think I'd do well with it, anyway. I want it for the love I bear it. If I can't have that one, mine'll do, but it doesn't stop me wishing it was different. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a Nayland, by the by. Your cousin Ser Rygar is a knight I hold in good regard, though I fear we'll end up on the opposite side of the battlefield again if he keeps serving his family and I keep serving mine. If your lord father and your lord brother are assholes…well, they're assholes on their own terms, it's got naught to do with the name they wear. As for Rowenna…I used to want to meet Rowenna Nayland, you know. When you'd talk about her - or I guess about your minstrel brother - and how she'd up and left her title and all her comforts behind because she wanted to live life on her own terms…I figured that was something admirable. So I don't quite understand why you don't care for it."

"Being Rowenna, that is."

"When I'm knighted, and when I'm a girl again," Rowan says, patiently, "I can't use the name Nayland. It doesn't belong to me anymore. It's been stripped from me. And that's fine — truly — but it's why I chose Rivers." She sighs. "And perhaps, a little, because it was a name borne by someone I loved. A name I admired. All the same reasons you'd be a Terrick." She puts the clean bucket of medicines and other oddments up on a shelf, leaning up on the balls of her feet to do so. "If it offends you, I'll try to devise something else to call myself. And as for Rowenna…" she shrugs, shooing Dragon back into his kennel. "Call me whatever you like."

"You'll never be knighted." Jarod says it as if it's a foregone conclusion, though again there's no harshness in his tone. "If it was just a matter of wanting to fight…I've seen women with some of the mercenary companies. It's looks a terrible, ugly way for a woman to live to me, but a few manage it. And in the North they say there are a handful of women who wield swords and axes, like men. Maybe even a place like Dorne, where the women are supposedly half-man anyway." Which he sounds more intrigued by than anything else. "But to be a knight…that's something different. It's a brotherhood. It's sacred. And even if you're knighted, you'll never be honored by most who're called Ser as a true one. People only hurt themselves wanting things they can't have." As for the last, he shrugs. "I can call you Rowan, if you prefer. Like I said, it's a name I figure you have a right to. I won't call you Rowenna if you don't want me to. But I don't see why you hate your own name so much. I think it's rather pretty." He looks like he half wants to bite his tongue, looks away from her, and shrugs. "I'm just sure as seven hells not calling you Rose."

"I will be knighted," Rowan counters with soft certainty. "And I don't imagine it will be rosy after. But I will do what I've been called to do. And that's that." She makes a frustrated gesture, flinging her hand out to the side. "Call me Rowenna, then. Rowan makes little sense when we both know the truth. I don't see why you hate Rose so much. You explained the Rivers bit — I accept that. But — what's the real matter?"

"You won't be knighted," Jarod counters. But this is showing signs of devolving into one of their arguments that just ends in shouting "SO'S YOUR FACE!" by turns, so he doesn't really press the subject. "I guess I don't like it because it feels like a thing you styled yourself in, rather than what you are, or something you've a right to. And it's also a thing that hurt me, if you want to know." He shrugs. "The Rowan Nayland mask, like I said, I understand a bit. And why you didn't tell me, much a fool as I feel for it. I wish you never had most days. But that one…no. Her I don't understand, nor do I want to."

Rowan looks so frustrated, so completely at a loss that she doesn't even care to bicker about knighthood anymore. "WHAT part of I've been in love with you since I was ten and four don't you understand? Gods! Fine! It was foolish — it was more than foolish — but haven't you ever been a fool for love? It wasn't a joke — I could have lived on nothing but seeing my favor on your wrist and the wild hope that you might write me. I wanted — more than anything, anything I have every wanted — to kiss you. The be kissed by you. To feel your hands on me. And not because you're the sodding stud of the Riverlands, Jarod, but because I've known and adored every absurd nuance of you for years. And it came to a head. And I fucked up. But the lady who wrote those letters, you bleeding idiot, loved you so well. Virtues, flaws, whores and all. So hate the name and call me anything you like — but is there anything else you don't understand? Because I'm SICK of hearing you SAY that."

"I've been a fool for women. I've never been in love," Jarod says. "Sometimes people…they build other people into things they aren't in their own heads. Like they were characters in a story, a grand romantic story they also build all by themselves in their own heads. And it *feels* very real, for what it is, and if you're young and dumb enough you call it something like love, and it's grand for awhile, and it hurts a lot when it's done, and I'm sorry if I've had a part in being that to you. But that's not love. The man in your letters is an invention, Rowenna. I wish he wasn't, and it was all a very sweet fancy for a time, but I outgrew fairy stories awhile ago. That's not a fair thing to put a person up as, I don't figure, as they can't really ever live up to what you create them into."

Dark eyes flash and her jaw tenses. "Do not. Ever again. Presume to tell me what I feel. You think I'm a child and an imbecile, you condescending prick — fine. But I don't want to hear it. Ever. Again. I can't even begin to make you understand how deeply you cut and insult me when you belittle me that way." She takes a breath, nostrils flaring. "What virtue did I ascribe to you that you don't possess? What flaw of yours have I not witnessed in action and in remorse a thousand times? Do you think Lady Anonymous just — suddenly lost all memory, everything squire Rowan ever knew?" She grinds her teeth. "It's very clear that it's easier for you to think my feelings are nothing. Fine again. Take from that whatever comfort you will. But never again tell me I had some silly, empty-headed maiden's crush on you. I was your friend and your comrade in arms. My love was born of those things — and if you can name a love truer that isn't borne of family and blood, I would dearly like to know."

"I loved Rowan Nayland nearly as another brother," Jarod says. "And what we shared together as knight and squire was real enough. I'll not say it wasn't. The rest…you can't have a one-sided love affair with someone, Rowenna, because it's far easier - at least for me - to be a good friend or good brother to someone than it is to be a good lover. And it never gives the other person a chance to hurt you. And you can know somebody very well, well as your own kin, and still build them into…it's not a maiden's crush. That's not what I'm saying at all, it's a more powerful thing than that and I'll not call it little but…that doesn't make it love. But…whatever. I'm doing this no good, and you're right that I can't know another person's heart. Just…" He frowns, trailing off and pausing a moment, like he does when he's got a more important thing to put into words than he feels able to quite articulate.

"…one of these days, Rowenna, I'm going to do something that's going to make you realize and I'm not as great a man as the one you've drawn and written about and thought-on in a kinder light than I strictly deserve. And when that happens…I'll ask you not to write me off entirely. Because it'll probably be nothing that's to do with you anyway, and it won't change all the years of friendship we've had. It'll just mean I can be a shit sometimes, but all people are, and it'll put us down at eye-level to each other, and maybe that's not so bad." He's seemingly mostly talking to himself now. He clears his throat. "Anyway. Let's just leave it and try not to hurt each other anymore, all right? Because we were friends for a long time, and I'd like us to be again, whenever we can manage it without all…this. And I'd like to know Rowenna Nayland, because I don't think that's a bad thing to be at all. I'll see you at your dedication." He turns to leave the kennels.

Rowan rolls her eyes to blink rapidly at the ceiling, then dashes at them with her wrist. "This past fortnight, and you don't think I know you can be a shit? I don't love you on a pedestal. I love you down here in the dirt. With me, and all the rest of us." She turns and departs in the opposite direction.

"Well, so's your face!" Jarod calls over his shoulder. It makes no sense, but he seems to think it gives him more of a 'win' in this argument. So he goes on that note.