|Treat Him Gently|
|Summary:||Rowan and Ryker finally connect at the stables.|
|Date:||25 July 2011|
|Stables — Stonebridge|
|The public stables of Stonebridge are quite large and even have a distinct area for visiting nobility to store their steeds while visiting Crane's Crossing. Saddles are stored within an interior building and out of the elements where services are offered for everything from repair to shining. Feed is supplied as well to make sure that the charges are well cared-for.|
|25 July 288|
There are a number of places slacking, ne'er do well squires and pages go to have a nap. Stables are good for that. Warm, generally quiet, lots of clean hay. And some squires — more than others — have had a very long night. Rowan Nayland would be one of them. The lad looks as though — in his defense — it might not have been his intention to fall asleep. There's a curry comb and some other grooming equipment near his foot, and he's not particularly well hidden. Perhaps he only sat down to rest his eyes for a minute. Whatever the case, the lad is sprawled in a corner haystack and out like a light. Snoring.
Ryker has been down in the stables talking to several different people. Other nobles, mostly, making connections and pressing palms. The man has been busy for much of the tournament being the diplomat that he needs to be. But after a few hours he has started angling his way out and passing by one part notes the sleeping form. Wait a tick. He backs up and notes that it seems to be his brother. The man grins and slips quietly in and leans against the wooden wall by the haystack. A boot reaches out to nudge the squire in the leg. "You know I was once caught doing just this thing and was forced to shovel shit for a week when I wasn't training."
"I shovel shit anyhowlemmebe…" comes the mumbling, barely awake reply. The squire shifts and rolls over, ready to burrow his way back to dreamland — then starts like he's been bit in the ass, sits bolt upright in a shower of straw bits. Sneezes. He focuses on Ryker and stumbles to his feet, blushing. "My Lord brother. I — forgive me, I — " he seems at a loss, and a little pained, grimacing. "I promise you this is far from my typical comportment. Pleas inquire with Ser Jarod, he'll tell you so." It seems very important to the lad he not be lumped in with those 'other squires.'
Ryker snorts, chuckling under his breath at the initial excuse. He's about to toe the squire again when he goes bolt upright and moves quickly to stand. The future Lord of Stonebridge looks his brother over and smirks, reaching out to brush bits of straw from his hair. "Yes, yes. I'm sure. At least, I would hope the Terricks are feeding you. That means they might afford you better hospitality than I was." He pockets one hand and rests his other arm over the top of the stall divider. "Late night, I assume?"
"Quite," says the boy, no small amount of rue in his expression. He squints at the distant light streaming through the big-building's open doors and looks a little ill. Deep breaths, lad. Deep breaths. "Most enlightening, though." He sits on a properly squared-off and bound bale of hay, brushing off his hose and tunic. "You don't seem at all like my other brothers, you know. Or our father." Dark eyes flick up to the older man. "Is that a political expediency, or because you're actually not cold-blooded, conniving wretch?"
Ryker barks a short laugh at the mention of the late night. "Good. My knight used to take me out drinking every few weeks. He said that it was important that I learn personal fortitude in the face of ale." The rest gets an arched brow and a shrug. "Could be both. I take after our father in many ways, but differ from him in far more. If I found him a man I enjoyed then I suspect I would not have spent fifteen years elsewhere. But I also believe in the duty of a man to his family. Let me ask you two questions that may help you understand, though: After spending some years away from Rickart, have you found that there are differing world views that have shaped your opinions into something other than what he tried to impose? Do you believe that spending fifteen years away someplace much farther, like Riverrun, would also influence you more?"
The boy shrugs. "I've a far different view of the Terricks than the one I had in Hag's Mire," he says. "But back then all I knew was that which I was told." He looks down at his hands, cracking his knuckles out of idle habit. "I've loyalty to the people I love, who've treated me with decency and respect, who've given me opportunities, welcomed me at their hearth and raised me in their house." He looks up at his brother. "Does that sound like our family?"
Ryker just listens to what the boy has to say for his own opinions. At the end he just shakes his head. "I suspect your boyhood was much like mine. Quiet dinners, mother sussing out your eating habits while father scowled and tried to teach lessons on how to 'be a man'. Replies were a bit live traversing a field of hungry dire wolves. ..No. It does not sound like our family.. under Rickart." Apparently he plans to change that? His tone and wording seems to imply it. "Aye. He told us the Terricks were weak and all that nonsense." Ryker dismisses it with a wave of his hand as he looks off. "While I was gone I learned to ignore what others tried to impose on me when I had no evidence to their end and only contrary." He takes a breath and looks back. "So far, they have scowled, been rude, and I know Isolde has been smitten with Jaremy. Part of that has been understandable, and others have not. I intend to speak with Ser Jaremy and know the man rather than the reputation. What would you say of him?"
"Oh, Ryker, they hate us! Of course they're going to sneer and be rude — we've given them every reason." At least the boy still thinks himself a Nayland. That's something. "It's taken them the better of five years to overlook my blood. And then we come along and out of blind ambition piss all over the wishes of Isolde's dead father, tearing apart two people who were promised to each other and actually happen to be in love? This isn't loyalty, brother, this is being used as a pawn." She shakes her head. "There's no 'has been smitten' about it. If you cared about her at all, you'd find some way to right this horrible mess. Marry the widow, if you want Stonebridge so much, but leave Isolde alone."
"Mm. It would appear Rickart has been busy while I've been away," he grumbles. The man sits in silence for a few moments while he looks to Rowan. "So you are of the opinion that I want Stonebridge? Regretably, not only was I drug from my home in Riverrun by father's sworn three weeks ago, I was not told of this wedding arrangement until I arrived in Hag's Mire. To assume that I had anything to do with this would be a mistake. As for trying to get out of the marriage? There is nothing I can do. The betrothal agreement was signed under King's Law and is therefore binding. The only thing I could do would be to marry Lady Isolde and then forcibly end the marriage. It would shame her and have her fall far. At this point Lord Jerold is forced to find his son Jaremy a wife that will give him a stronger position in the region via ties. When I say that I regret this situation, understand that I am still grieving the loss of my wife and have no desire to be wed again anytime soon — if ever again."
Rowan listens, looking increasingly crestfallen as Ryker goes on. He's silent for a few moments after, studying his long-fingered, rather feminine hands and their faint tracery of scars. "Sorry about your wife," he says softly, and the boy does sound like he means it. "But brother… there must be something we can do. A gesture like this could go a long way to bringing the Terricks and the Naylands into some kind of accord. At this rate, we're headed for war."
Ryker shakes his head. "Thank you, but I was not looking for sympathy. Only understanding." He's gentle about the words. He means it. "I have looked at the situation from several different angles and there is nothing that can be done. Rickart has struck a masterful deal. The only way out for Isolde would be for me to end it. She would be cast out, in every sense of the term, with absolutely nothing to her name. The Tordane name would be shamed and House Nayland would still hold onto Stonebridge. Given Rickart's view of the world, I suspect he would be all too happy to cast off Isolde. I will not grant him that victory and I will not shame Isolde's name or her lineage — especially when the family name appears to be dying." He sighs, watching the disappointment on Rowan's face. "I believe in love, Rowan. I also believe that war is a last ditch political end to be avoided. I have no intention of seeking armed conflict with the Terricks. But what I do intend is to see that despite the circumstances Isolde and I have been forced into, that she will be as happy and comfortable as I can make her. I know I can never replace Jaremy in her heart and I do not hope to. I would no more hope for her to replace my wife. The sheer impossibility makes the idea preposterous. I will not see her suffer. For any reason. Not if I can avoid it."
Rowan hangs his head as he listens, beset with deep and visible melancholy. The lad sighs and rakes his hands through his hair. "You should say all these things to Jaremy," he states. "And he'll but a right prick to you about it, I can almost promise. But if you can… be patient with him, will you? Abundantly patient. And turn the other cheek s'much as it takes. He's just a boy — " says the boy, " — and he's in abominable pain. You might not be able to help that you're the man causing him that pain, but you are. You're the one who's going to lie with the woman he loves, and give her children, and raise the family of his dreams. So… go easy. Show him kindness. The two of you are going to be the heads of our houses, some day."
Ryker dips his head. "I intend to say all this to his face and give him my word about it being true. And I can understand the initial pain. Loss like that has got to be awful. I'm fairly sure I cannot wrap my understanding around all of it, though. As I am patient, I will try to take your advice. However if he insists on being insulting?" The man shrugs. "I'll leave and we could revisit the conversation again some other time. As for being with Isolde.." He looks to the ground. "Somethings are more regretable than others. I will suffice to say that the timing of those things will be when we feel it is right. Not when I order it so. And not when Rickart says. She shall not be a decoration on the arm of a man, either. You will see this clearly in time." He manages a smile as he looks back to Rowan. There's hope there. "I know you care for the Terricks and I mean no attempt to get you to give me anything os strategic value. We are not heads of home yet. But what would you tell a stranger of the family? Especially Jaremy."
Rowan takes a breath to speak, then shakes his head a bit. He looks apologetic. "Brother, I think we might be friends in time — but I'll not speak of the Terricks to you. Not… not to assess their characters or personalities, anyhow. Trust takes time, and loyalty's earned. Jaremy, Jarod, Lord Jerold, Lu… they're my family, now. They've earned my loyalty a hundred-thousand fold. I would say nothing to a stranger about them, save that they are the best people I know, and I would die for them."
Ryker, rather than look angry, actually seems pleased. He reaches out an arm to clap Rowan on the shoulder. "My brother, now you understand better how I view Isolde. Trust and loyalty. It all takes time." He drops the hand and nods. "But that is fine. Your own loyalty to them is not something unexpected. I was so endeared to the Haigh family after two years that I fell for one of their daughters and never looked back. Thirteen years later my only regret was not marrying her right away." He grins. "Who knows? Perhaps one day you will find a woman from the Terricks to wed. I would not block such a move. I welcome it. When political situations can be at their worst it is often those tied between the parties who can do the most good. Would you agree?"
Rowan nods. "Aye. I'd agree that the more friendly ties between our families, the better." He shakes his head. "This is just… a difficult and delicate time for us all. If we get through it without any incidents or blood shed, that might be by the Seven's grace alone."
Ryker nods to Rowan. "It is. Very. Just remember that I am your brother. We share a kinship and a mutual distrust of Rickart. Our minds may not align on what the future holds and how things play out, but remember that you can reach out to me. You are a Nayland and my blood. If you need to relay something to me in the future or the Terricks do, when doing so officially may prove impossible or impractical, come to me. We will talk privately. For now, I will let you continue with your hangover in peace. It is good to speak with you, Rowan." He dips his head to the lad and stands off his lean.
"Heh," says the boy, softly. "Might actually wend my way to the Crane for some hair of the dog." There's a faint smirk and he rakes his hands through his hair again, squinting as he looks up at his brother. "I appreciate the offer, brother. Maybe someday I'll take you up on it. Remember what I said about Jaremy, though, aye? Treat him gently and forbear. He's not his brother, but he's not a bad lad."
"I will heed your advice, Rowan. I do appreciate it. I mean the man no harm with what has been designed for his love and I. Please take care of yourself if I cannot catch you again before the tournament." Ryker gives him a warm smile and pats the side of the stall wall once with the flat of his hand before he heads off. Turning, just before he steps out, he looks back. "And? If you do need to get me something during hard times? I understand your loyalties right now. But I also understand honor. You will not be harmed and shall be free to go. But, by the Sevens grace, we will have no need of such things. Be well, brother." He smiles once more and ducks his head as he turns out of the stall and heads towards the exit.