|Two In The Heart|
|Summary:||Rowan's act of heroism at the Joust has its consequences.|
|Related Logs:||Tournament at the Roost|
|Stables and Kennels — Four Eagles Tower|
|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.|
|22 October 288|
It may be that there's simply no one else to do it, or it may be that it offers an easy retreat from festivities Gedeon is not feeling inclined to participate in at the moment, but either way, the blond knight has guided his horse to the stables. After removing the last of his own armor and the saddle and tack from the chestnut creature, he's settled into a rhythm of quick, crisp brush strokes that are a bit firmer than really necessary. The horse, with his head in a bag of oats, has no complaints.
Neither, it seems, has Rose remained behind. At least not for long. After accepting enough accolades to be politic and polite, shedding borrowed armor in haste, she walks her borrowed horse back to the stable, her mood subdued and contrite. It seems she fully expect to find Gedeon there. In silence, she stables her mount, making sure the beast — more hero than she in today's endeavors — has water and oats before finding her knight. She'll tend the horse properly in a moment — right now, the air needs to be cleared.
Stepping up to the door of the stall where Gedeon labors, her question is soft and to the point: "You're angry with me?"
"Yes," is his simple answer, though he doesn't look over at his squire. "Go see to your horse and then see to your knight. I'm sure Ser Jarod is eager to celebrate with you. Congratulations."
"I am sorry," she says, quiet and sincere. "Truly, Gedeon. I didn't mean to embarrass you — but I promise, you're not the first knight to come off the field and find his squire missing. It happens, usually because they've snuck off to tumble a pretty girl or have a nap or what all, but… just give me a sound thrashing and extra duties and be done with it. There wasn't time to ask your permission, or I would have."
"Good, Rowan," Gedeon murmurs with a shake of his head, "I'm glad to hear you've decided to model yourself after those squires who drop their duties for a tumble in the hay or an hour extra sleep. Excellent." The horse gets a couple more rough, vigorous brushes. "You'll compete in the melee, and if you make a good showing, I'll declare you ready to be knighted. You can spend your night in the Sept and then ask to swear fealty to Lord Jerold. You'll have what you need of me and we can be done with this."
Rose blinks, going a little pale. "Gedeon," she whispers, her expression pained. She reaches out to touch his shoulder. "I wasn't — I had to step in on Anais' behalf. It wasn't something I was planning on. Please…" She swallows. "Talk to me? You can't possibly know me so little to think that I meant to hurt you."
He jerks his shoulder away from her touch, keeping his attention on the horse. "I think," Gedeon replies softly, "you do as you like and you justify it afterwards. And I think it's clear now that whatever your words after, I cannot trust you. You didn't mean to hurt me, you just didn't care that your actions would humiliate me. You saw your greater goal and damn anything standing between you and what you wanted. So, very well. Knighthood is what you want. Take it."
"This had nothing to do with knighthood, Gedeon!" Rose rasps past the lump in her throat, tears in her eyes. "This was keeping a sweet lady from being humiliated — and yes, I knew it would look bad for you to be squireless leaving the field, but how much the worse if fucking Valda Tordane was declared Queen of Love and Beauty at Anais' wedding? There was a time when you loved me enough to see my actions in the best light — are you now forever going to see them in the worst?"
"Fuck missing a squire to remove my maile!" Gedeon snaps, dropping the brush and turning to look at Rose, quiet fury simmering beneath his careful control. "How do you think it looked to have my squire best the Frey that defeated Jason Mallister after I got unseated in the first round? What do you think the folk in Stonebridge will think of me as a potential lord when that gets back around to them?"
"A squire is only as good as his knight," replies Rose softly, unshed tears still on her lashes. "If what I did exhibited skill, it's a credit to you. If it was noble to defend a lady's honor, it's a credit to you. You're my mentor. That's how it's going to look. And as for your fall, sometimes the damned contest is nothing but luck. Remember Lord Anton's showing in the joust at Stonebridge? Yet no one questions his skill." Her hands rise again, cautiously, as though meaning once more to alight on his shoulders. "Please, Gedeon. Listen to me. You know I'm speaking true."
"The difference, of course, being that Lord Anton is a lord with an intimidating reputation who then won the grand melee the following day," Gedeon points out flatly, "and somehow, I suspect the smallfolk of Stonebridge won't see it as magnanimously as you do with Ser Rygar and his men to influence them and Ser Jarod bragging to all and sundry that your triumph was all his doing. 'The Bastard of Stonebridge' can be a curse as easily as it can be a rallying cry. I do not think, when you cobbled together armor and climbed on your horse, that it was of me you thought. It was the Terricks and perhaps your own bit of glory, and you can speak as sweetly as you like, now it's done and you've got your way, but I think we both know the truth of your loyalty. It never lay with me and it never will."
"I love you," Rose says softly and with feeling, dashing away a tear that's finally spilt with the back of her hand. "But I loved them first. Why must it be one or the other?" she pleads. "Can't I be loyal to you both?"
"No," Gedeon says softly and with a shake of his head. "That's what loyalty means."
"I don't believe that. That's ridiculous," Rose insists. "We all have loyalties to any number of people and things — and sometimes they conflict, but we manage them as best we can. Our families, our teachers, our liege lords, our houses, countries, kings — the blessed Seven. I am no different than anyone else in that respect! Certainly I've stumbled a few times and I've made mistakes — but none of them so unpardonable a sin that you should treat me thus!"
"Rowan, this is not one incident nor is it a question of putting an oath before your family, which, I will point out, you do daily anyhow," Gedeon says. "You cannot serve two lords at once and in your heart, you do not. So after the melee, we'll make it right and you can go back to the family to which you belong. You love me. Just not enough. But, I'm growing used to that."
Rose scrubs her cheeks with her palms, no longer able to keep up with the tears one-by-one. She swallows hard and looks away. "And what if I throw the melee? What if I perform so poorly that no one in their right mind would declare me ready?"
"Then I guess you'll have forced me to keep a squire who I cannot trust and who would see me humiliated twice in near as many days," Gedeon answers softly. He bends down to pick up the brush, running his hand slowly down his horse's side.
She breathes in a short, sharp breath. "Then… I will strive with all my might not to fail you, Ser," Rose whispers. "I swear by the Warrior and the Mother both, I will fight in the melee with no other aim than victory. And pray you'll forgive me if I'm unequal to the task, after all." She swallows hard. "By your leave, Ser, I should see to my horse."
There is a small nod from Gedeon. "You may take your leave, Lord Nayland," he replies softly, turning so that his back is to his squire and he can return to brushing out his own mount. He waits until Rose leaves before closing his eyes and resting his forehead against the beast's flank.