Page 168: Waking from Nightmares
Waking from Nightmares
Summary: Ser Jarod and wounded squire Rowan talk on bad war stories, past and present, in the wake of the Ironborn attack.
Date: 01/01/2012
Related Logs: Beyond the Eagle's Reach
Jarod Rowan 
Especially Broken-People Storage — Tordane Tower
Beds and stuff.
Sun Jan 01, 289

The people of Stonebridge are presently having to be creative in finding places to house the wounded from the Ironborn attack. The smallfolk are bedded in various places in the town itself, but the injured who're (vaguely) attached to more important people have been bedded in the tower. Somewhat proper beds, at least, have been found for the more seriously mangled. Rowan is in one of those, and it's by it that Jarod waits now. Sitting on the floor by the head of it rather than in a chair. It's a position that lets him rest his had against the mattress and half-doze. He's either been there awhile, or is just tired enough that collapsing seemed more comfortable.

Rowan wakes from a deep poppy dream rather suddenly, eyes flicking open — but it takes her a few moments to piece together where she is… and why. She lies very still, listening to the quiet sounds of breathing all around her, the occasionally soft footsteps and murmured conversation. Then, turning her head, she sees the knight dozing on the floor at her bedside, his head leaned in. She gingerly moves her arm, wincing and breathing in sharply but otherwise making no sound. Finally, by careful increments, her fingers find their way to comb tenderly through his dark hair.

Jarod is sleeping light, so the feeling of fingertips is enough to wake him. His head comes up, blinking, like he's also taking a moment to mentally right himself. He straightens so he's sitting a little taller, grunting as he positions himself to properly face Rowan. For a moment he just looks at her. Like he can't entirely piece together what he wants to say. So he just swallows and goes for the most basic practical information. "Umm…Jos'll be back soon if you need more dreamwine. He saw to your hurts. They've put him to other work now, though. No short of it."

Her fingers drift down to his shoulder when he wakes, and remain there unless or until he moves from their range. She's pale from loss of blood, almost white as the sheets, which makes her hair and eyes all the darker. Her pupils are still wide with the effects of the drugs, though they're certainly not thick in her blood as they were just hours ago. "I'm fine," she says, after a long silent while just looking at him. Her voice is a rasp; her lips are dry. She searches for what she wants to say next, a frown troubling her placid expression. "I'm sorry, Jarod."

"You look rather shit for fine," Jarod observes with a half-smile that quickly fades. He can't manage much more at present. He doesn't move when she places her hand on his shoulder, save to reach up his own and clasp it briefly. "You want some water or something? They've got pitchers about." But for the 'I'm sorry', he shakes his head. Almost puzzled by it. "Well, don't go on like that, you don't look that bad." He adds, "Why you say that? You've nothing to be sorry for."

"Other than going down in battle faster than an overbooked whore?" murmurs Rowan with a painful smile. "I guess not. But. It seems kind of like a… thing. One to be sorry for. And… I am."

"Rowan. Shut up." His tone is soft, words aside. Jarod does move her hand then. To take it in his, holding it so his thumb is pressed into her palm. Eyes seeking to meet hers. "It's no tourney. Trident wasn't, that wasn't either. It's madness. It just…it's like being in the middle of the nightmare. You didn't make a poor account of yourself, though." And he seems to think it true, if other parts of it grieve him. "You stood your ground, you followed orders, you hit the men who tried to hit you. Shit happens. Doesn't matter how good you are, or how big or fast or strong you are. Sometimes it just…doesn't matter, and all you can do is pray you're lucky, and that the men next to are watching out for you. I tried Rowan, I did, I tried my best but it wasn't quite enough and I'm…" His voice chokes a little. At least it means he doesn't manage the apology.

Rowan's hand tightens around his, tears in her eyes. She swallows them down, unshed, but they glimmer brightly. "You saved my life," she whispers. "If you apologize for that, I'm going to have to hit you." She smirks very faintly. "When I'm able."

"A hedge knight by the name of Tam Cooper saved your life, if you want to be specific," Jarod says. "He was the one who killed the Ironman who was on you. Never got a chance to thank him proper. If he's still about, we should. I…I left you defending that flank alone when I went to see to your brother. Got back as soon as I could but…" He shrugs. "Ser Riordan'll be all right, by the by. He took a hurt by it's nothing so bad as won't heal with a few days rest."

She nods, threading her fingers through his. "You had confidence in me, faith that could hold my own — so did I, for that matter." Her lips quirk bitterly. "When I think of how much time and effort and risk both you and Gedeon have put into me…" She takes a breath, staving off a rising tide of self-pity. "I'll make sure to thank Ser Tam. And of course… it's good Rio's well. Thank you for looking after him."

"He's your brother," Jarod says simply, as to Riordan. It's as simple as that. As to the rest. "You did hold your own. As did the Ironman. He just did it the better. You did nothing to shame yourself, at least." He looks down from her eyes. "First time I saw battle was Stoney Sept. What they call now the Battle of the Bells." Which he never talks about. Even the Trident he does not really struggle to reference, even if it's with regret and bad memories. "I'll say to you what Ser Vernon said to me after…well, not too long after. First thing he did was get me good and drunk. Said I wouldn't dream about it right after, that way. Anyhow. When I was finished being sick, he said to me that I wasn't a coward, and I wasn't the sort of man who would grow to like it. So he figured I'd be all right. Rest is just luck, and trust in those you fight with."

Her hand tightens on his again. "I can't see growing to like it," she agrees, softly. "You're… you had the right words for it. It was like a nightmare. I've never… never, ever seen anything so… chaotic and awful. Everywhere. On all sides. I just… I wasn't prepared for that. I couldn't — I couldn't decide whether I should try to remain aware of anything and everything or… or just focus on what seemed most immediate and trust the gods and my allies. It's nothing like a tourney. Or drills. Or anything. It was…" She smiles grimly, the line of her mouth tight. "It was just a skirmish. How much worse you've seen."

"I didn't see much of the real chaos at Stoney Sept." Jarod says it very soft, still not looking at her, though he does keep talking. "We were with the reserve troops, Ser Vernon and me. And the battle went well for the rebels. It was ugly fighting, though. It was a town, and it wasn't like the other day, with the Ironmen pushed back before they could really get into the streets. There was fighting in the houses, in the shops. Everywhere. Robert Baratheon had been wounded, and he'd taken shelter there to heal. Royalists occupied it and tore the town apart looking for him. Rebels tore it apart right back to oust them. They called it the Battle of the Bells because of the way the sept bells tolled, to try and get people to stay in their houses. A lot did. Some were scared and tried to run. Streets were…Seven hells…" He breathes out long. "…but the rebels managed to route the Royalists out, though they rallied together as they retreated. I didn't think I'd see any action when we heard how things were going. I was…angry, I wouldn't get to test myself. Then they did send the reserve in, to break up the retreat. The fighting was over, but we were still fighting…"

"Jarod…" It's a whisper fraught with pain, sympathy, empathy. And all she can do is squeeze his hand. She can't even roll onto her wounded side to touch him with her free one, or draw him into an embrace.

Jarod just keeps holding her hand and talkiing, like he can't stop once he's started. "…I was with Ser Vernon while we were running in. We went into this house, it'd been abandoned, I think. Everything was broken. We swept it, didn't find anyone, went out to check the alleys. We got separated somehow…can't remember quite. I was in an alley, and I was alone. And all I could hear was those bells…" He stops to swallow. "I saw something move in the shadows. Guess he was hiding back there, must've gotten separated from his men when the Royalists started running. I shouted and when he heard me he stood up. Royalist man, from his colors. No. He was a boy. I think we were the same age. He might've been younger than me. Some of the levies had men as young as fourteen. If you could hold a weapon, some didn't pay much attention to your age in those days. Just a peasant boy, with his pike and padded jacket. A Royalist, and me in Mallister colors. And we just kind of…looked at each other, for a minute. Until we remembered we were supposed to be enemies…"

She doesn't try to stop him talking. She listens, eyes dark and aching, and tugs his hands closer to her — so she can hold them against her, if not the rest of him.

"We could've just let each other go, nobody would've cared at that point," Jarod goes on. "I was just…I couldn't think. And he looked so scared. I guess I looked about the same. So he thrust his pike and me, and I swung my broadsword at him, hard as I could. Ser Vernon had made sure I had a proper sword, and a shirt of maile at least, when Lord Tully called the banners. He hit me, in the side, but he didn't pierce my armor. I swung as hard as I could and I hit in the stomach…" He shudders. "Those jackets are nothing against proper steel. There was so much blood. He just laid there, bleeding. Seemed to take forever. I couldn't move, just stood over him like that, and we stared at each other until we he was gone. Thing I regret about it most is that I didn't have my wits about me enough to put my sword through his throat, end it clean. That's an awful way to die, belly wound like that…"

"You were a child," Rowan says softly. "And war is — merciless. It's not as though you were cruel, or meant him to suffer. You were just — in shock."

"I wish I knew his name. I think on him sometimes still, and I think it'd be better somehow if I knew his name. I don't, though. Ser Vernon told me there wasn't any way to find out, especially with the peasant levies." It's an effort, but Jarod looks back up at her. "If you think on me differently now I'll…understand. But I'm just saying…it's all shit, Rowan. You didn't do any worse than most, and better than some."

"If I think on you differently, Jarod — it's only understanding you better. And that's not a bad thing. I'm sorry for that boy…" she holds his hands tighter. "But I'm as sorry for you. Moreso, even. His troubles are over. You'll carry him with you for the rest of your life."

Jarod shakes his head. "I'm sorry for him, and whatever folk he never came home to. I don't want to forget about him, though. Doesn't seem right. I can carry that, even not knowing anything else. I just…I will try and do better than that for any other man I might have to…and I pray they will have the mercy to do me clean in kind if I'm not lucky one day." He sighs. "This is why I was never…it's not that I thought you were weak, Rowan, it's not even that you're…or that I…" He swallows. "This isn't a kind of a life anybody should want for anybody else."

"A lot of people would have died today, if we hadn't been on hand to defend them," Rowan says softly. "I might not have had to be me… but even though I wish I'd made a better stand… I'm glad it was. This is… the first scar I'll be proud of." She smirks faintly. "If only a little proud. It's a wound I took for the right reasons."

"We didn't need to be out there, really. We're not sworn to Stonebridge. Part of me wishes I'd taken Ser Rygar on his offer to shelter in the Tower. I didn't know how bad it was going to be." Jarod doesn't really word it as an apology, though. "Those weren't just raiders. Raiders never go this far inland. They're…it's an invasion, Rowan. They were trying to take the stone bridge, cut off passage along the road and rivers. There are Ironborn everywhere, and this was just a skirmish. The least of it. Word is they're laying siege to Seagard. And…" His voice chokes. "…and the Roost…"

Rowan frowns slightly. "Had it been a choice between defending the Roost and Stonebridge, I might agree. But… Jarod… the people of Stonebridge are not to blame for what the Naylands've done… and they're the ones who'd suffer most at the hands of Ironborn reavers."

"I know," Jarod mutters. "And they were my father's people not so long ago. I just…I wish I was home, Rowan. I wish I was with them."

"So do I," Rowan says, squeezing his hands once again. "We'll get through this though, Jarod. We'll go home again. I promise."

Jarod regards Rowan steady for a moment when she says that. Thoughtful. "I appreciate you saying such. I know it's not where you truly want to end up when all this, whatever this is, is done. But it's a good place and I…I appreciate it, Rowan. Thanks." He clears his throat. "Can I get you some water or something?"

"Ah, Gods, Jarod," Rowan laughs faintly, then winces, paling at the pain. She breathes in carefully. "S'the only place I've ever really wanted to be. What do you think comes to my mind when I say 'Home'? The Mire?" She sighs, finally assenting to being hydrated. "Sure. Please."

"That isn't quite true, as you told me once. It's all right, Rowan, I'm not trying to argue. We've bigger things to think on now, and I know you've love for Lord Jerold's house and always will, wherever you truly want to go once you've the freedom to head there." Jarod shrugs. Unlinking his hand from hers and standing. "Water, right." And off he goes to fetch it.

Rowan lets his hands go, blinking. "What did I tell you once, exactly?" she asks, when he returns.

Jarod winces when there are actual questions about his not-quite-offhand comment waiting for him when he gets back. "At Riverrun you said…" He shrugs. "I really don't want to talk on that now." Firmer on that note. "I shouldn't have brought it up. It's just hurtful to think on, and we're past that now, I think. We've forgiven each other. Drink up. Anything else you need? I should be seeing to Luci soon, and see if there's anymore news from the Roost. There're a good man refugees, I'm told."

She seems a little hurt and baffled, does his squire, but… this is not the time for drama. And she certainly doesn't have the energy for it. So she takes the cup and does as she's told, then hands it gratefully back. "I'll be fine," she says, finishing as she began. Just fine. "Go ahead. Thank you for looking in on me."

Jarod is less eager to flee, since she seems willing enough to drop the subject. And the hurt and bafflement makes him wince some. He reaches down to rest a hand on her head, idly ruffling her short dark curls. "I can stay little longer if you don't mind the company. Tell some old stories, talk on happier times at home. I'd like to."

That makes her smile, even as the hair ruffling makes her shrug and scrunch up her nose. "I don't mind the company," she says. "If… you can just help me sit up, so I'm not lying flat out like a complete invalid." She begins to gingerly push herself into a sitting position, but it's clear she won't make it all the way without help.

"Aye, I've got you," Jarod says, bending down to sling an arm around her back. And prop her, as gently as possible. "Take it easy, though. Don't strain yourself. I'll see later if Lady Isolde has any books or anything that might occupy you, on the more bookish bits of knighthood. I should brush up on my heraldry of the Iron Islands families myself, come to it. There were Harlaws among the raiders, I hear. Perhaps others." There's an edge of guilt in his voice.

"Thank you," says Rowan, accepting the help with some grace since she unquestionably needs it. She nods as he speaks, but catches the guilt, squinting her eyes and looking perplexed. "Annnnd… you've got that hangdog look about Harlaw heraldry why?"

"Just thinking on a girl," Jarod says wryly. "Lady Kathryna Harlaw, that is. Greyjoy 'ambassador' who was inhabiting the Roost ever since we returned from Riverrun. Said she came to discuss 'trade,' and reparations for the Pyke killed during the Stonebridge tourney." He snorts. "Had her under our nose for near on two months. Seven knows how much she saw, or what she did when our backs were turned."

"The one that's been dancing on the Camden's ginger joypole?" Rowan asks, frowning. "I… guess that makes sense. Advance scout and all." She tilts her head. "But — Jarod, you're not your father's spymaster. Ferreting out things like that isn't your job."

Jarod snorts a laugh. "That's the one." He keeps his arm her for a moment even after she's safely propped, withdrawing it slowly. So as not to jostle her, but also with some reluctant. "Aye. Maybe. Still. Rather hope to meet her again." He settles back beside her bed. "We sparred once, you know. I was just thinking on it. With live steel. I guess that's how they do it in the Iron Islands." He smirks. "She's not a bad hand with a sword, but I bested her. Had her under me. Could've put my blade through her throat, easy as you please. Didn't, of course. Well. Say what you will about me. I learn from my mistakes." There's a grim promise to the way he says it.

Rowan takes Jarod's arm as moves to leave the bed. "Sit beside me?" she requests. It's innocent enough. It's kind of hard to look at him sitting on the floor and all. At his estimation of the Harlaw woman's martial prowess, she wrinkles her nose. "Bet I'm better."

"Oh seven hells, yes," Jarod replies to that with the slimmest of smiles. He's compliant to staying propped near her, of course. "She fights like a barbarian bitch."

"Hah. That sounds more like a compliment," says Rowan, leaning her uninjured side against his shoulder. "Did they say how long it'd be before I'm ready to take the field again?"

"Best ask Jos. I'm just glad to see you awake, for my part, and I'd not strain you. That was a grievous hurt you took," Jarod replies to that. "I'm not sure when anyone will be fielded again, truth be told. Ser Rygar's spoken of the Frey banners marching to meet here in Stonebridge. Both Seagard and the Roost have called for aid. Though Seagard is the place seen as of more import." Which breaks his heart. "And I know the quality of Nayland mercy when it comes to my family." His heart is a little bitter.

Rowan places a hand over his heart, just for a moment. "We'll find a way to help your family, Jare. Soon as I'm able to move again. We didn't have a choice, this last time — our options were stay and defend or retreat, not fight. This time… this time, we'll go and see for ourselves what's settled into the Roost, and then… I don't know. We'll figure it out from there. But we'll do something."

"Something. Aye." Jarod nods. He has no idea what that something is, but it will be…something. It seems to heartening to think of even doing some unknown thing. He clasps her hand, also just for a moment, before settling back. "We'll see how it plays. Luci and I will make a plea to Lady Isolde and Lord Ryker for aid. And Ser Riordan seems to feel he owes me some favor now. Perhaps he will speak on our part to your father and the Frey banners. Anyhow. Let's talk on better times. Of past or to come, I don't care so much which."

Jarod's squire rests her head on his shoulder. "I do love your stories," she says softly. "Even the ones I've heard a thousand times." A beat. "Actually, I think those are the ones I love best. So… the past, please. We'll dream about the future when it's a little easier to see."

"Aye. Whatever it is for either of us," Jarod agrees to that. A note of sadness in his tone. But he settles in to talk on the past easily enough. If nothing else, he knows plenty of good jokes and happy stories. He'll waste a good deal of time here telling them with her.