|Well Met by Moonlight|
|Summary:||Lord Jacsen Terrick and Squire Rowan meet for the first time and discuss a great many things.|
|The Green, Terrick's Roost|
|The Green is a large field of deep green grass, nearly flat, that runs along the base of the towers. The road into town runs along the far edge, hemming it in neatly to a confined area where beyond a line of trees serves as a subtle windbreak. This area is most often used for drilling or practice for the guards but also serves as home for festivals, tournements, and another other gathering that might require the space for a large number of the local residents. A well-trodden path winds around the side of the wall and moves towards the coastline.|
|15th of Eighthmonth, 288 AL|
It's late night beneath clear, star-scattered skies, a swollen gibbous moon hanging low over the distant trees. The walk between the Tower and town is typically a peaceful one at this hour, with scant few souls traversing between the two and the practice green deserted. Usually deserted, anyhow. Tonight, however, there's the sound of harsh breathing and fierce, martial cries disturbing the velvet, silver-shadowed dark. And what comes into view, out there all alone, is a slender, almost feminine figure with a blunted practice blade, whacking the seven hells out of an unlucky practice dummy. The figure shifts footwork, pausing to perfect a stance before delivering a flurry of blows that knock the damn thing's head clear off. Which… apparently wasn't the intention, because the figure freezes, then tosses aside its weapon in consternation and disgust. "Fuck."
There is peace and serenity to be found at this hour in most places that don't draw conflagrations of drunkards and bards, fewer places to find relief from the heat of the summer, a minor torture only dulled by the lack of sun, not diminished. A cool breeze winds its way across the practice green, bringing with it momentary release and the sounds of a swordsman at drill.
It is entirely possible that Rowan senses the approach of the Terrick Lord, given that his somewhat stinted step is marked with the sound of a cane striking the hard, baked dirt he walks across. Should Rowan be too wrapped up in 'his' trial against the dummy, perhaps he then notices Jacsen when the man's cane stops the roll of the dummy's unfortunate head. "Hmm. I think /he/ is dead," the man observes, his blue eyes reflecting the wan light of the moon better than his small smile could.
Still heaving slightly with his breath, the Nayland boy pushes back his dark curls and smirks. "Yes. Well. I didn't mean for the inconsiderate bugger to go and die on me," he notes, strolling over to retrieve the dummy's noggin. "Primarily because that means," he tosses the head lightly into the air and catches it again, "that I have to mend him." A squire's work is never done. He tucks the head beneath his arm, studying Jacsen a moment. "You…" he begins, then suddenly beams a bright and brilliant smile. "Fuck me, you're Jacsen Terrick, aren't you?" He draws a breath and reconsiders the merits of that statement, grimacing faintly. "And that was a piss poor way to greet a lord." He glances down at the head beneath his arm, instructing it, "Take note. You can learn much by avoiding my example." Finally, he bows. "My lord. A belated but warm welcome home."
"And you…" Jacsen's cane presses into the ground as he uses it to lean upon once again, "Must be Rowan Nayland." His lips quirk upwards at the corners when he notes, "Unmistakable because I do not know of any other young men about my father's hold that would be called pretty." He nods at the weapon the squire was forced to abandon in his pursuit of the rogue cranium, "And you'll have to spare me any ire for calling you so. Only fair, when you know me for the sight of a cripple, right?" He chuckles a bit and haltingly steps forward, offering his hand towards Rowan. "Well met."
"Hah," the slender boy shakes his head. "No, my lord, I know you for the sight of your blood." He tosses the dummy's head over his shoulder and clasps the proffered hand in both of his. For all the hands are delicate and long-fingered, there's good strength there. "I've grown up these past four years much in the company of your brothers and sister. I daresay I know their faces better than my own — and I've heard much of their prodigal brother. You've been sorely missed." He flashes a grin. "And I daresay the Terricks are prettier."
"Well, you seem to have the advantage of me," Jacsen remarks, as he looks about for a place he might reasonably seat himself. "Four years spent in my father's house, serving as squire to my very own brother… and now I hear you are to leave us." He winces slightly as he bends, making good use of a worn log like as not serving as a perch for many observers to the training work done here. "I fear I will not have the same pleasure of my siblings, getting to know you, Rowan Nayland." He stretches out his right leg, the lame one, while lightly holding to his cane, around it's middle.
"Well, I don't suppose I'm leaving any time soon," Rowan replies, throwing a long leg over the log and sitting astride. "Seems like my Lord Anton has intentions toward Lu — that is, the Lady Lucienne," he corrects himself, rubbing the back of his neck. "And as I'm now squired to his Ser Gedeon…" He looks out over the green, toward the Tower. "Right," he says softly. "We'll be about a bit longer, it seems. But… aye, my lord, I will miss this place sore when I'm gone indeed."
Jacsen pivots slightly to better face the squire beside him. "Mm, it would seem that he does, for all that the whole of Terrick's Roost knows of it," he remarks. His intent blue eyes search Rowan's features for a few moments, weighing the squire in no uncertain terms. "So you've traded my brother for Ser Gedeon. I suspect there is a tale to be told in the space between…" His brow rises archly. "Will you share it with me?"
The boy's dark eyes — black in the moonlight, fringed with those absurdly long lashes — cut sharply to Jacsen. "I would not have traded your brother for the world," he says softly, the statement somehow all the more passionate for its simplicity of inflection. His jaws tightens slightly, and he has to look away again, the hurt too raw to keep from his eyes. "We decided Ser Gedeon and Ser Anton would be… better tutors for my ultimate ambition of joining the Kingsguard." His throat works in a swallow. "It was — " He sighs, then shakes his head. "Never mind any of that. That's the reason we're going to tell the world, you see. The real reason is — slightly more complicated. And no, my lord, I cannot share it with you."
His lips form a humorless smile. "Well, you're either smart enough or kind enough not to lie to me," Jacsen remarks, setting down his cane as he busies himself stretching out his ruined leg with the assistance of both his hands, a quiet sigh passing through nose as he puts his foot back upon the ground. "And I'm certain there is some good reason for your reticence in this matter." He lightly applies his fingers to the upper calve of his right leg, eyes upon that task rather than the squire beside him. "Does the truth stretch beyond you and Jarod, Rowan? Surely you understand why I must ask; a Nayland whom runs in any direction but that of his name, squire to my brother and treated near as kin from accounts, now suddenly turned to an unknown and untested house that counts among its knights a man with claims against a Nayland hold. A hold that was, until recently, considered all but ours." He looks back at the squire's dark eyes, so framed by those long lashes. "Were I to believe in coincidence, I would not believe it in such quantity as that."
"I don't believe in coincidence, either, my lord," Rowan admits with a wry smile. "But neither am I a great subscriber to conspiracy. Dreadfully dull as it is, the middle road is often where the truth lies. You've only to look at my brother Ryker to see how belief in conspiracies can drive a man to wild paranoia." His lashes lower, considering the wood of the log, worn smooth by countless backsides over centuries. "What I can tell you about the… unseasonable end of my service under your brother is that — the secret he's agreed to keep affects me and only me. I will be the only one harmed by the truth of it. But, if I thought it might harm another, I would gladly face any consequence related to its revealing. With all the secret keeping and lies, I cannot claim to have much honor, but I've enough that I would not have my own selfish desires cause any other person grief. I am not so entitled."
He listens without interruption, allowing the young man to speak his piece. Intense eyes follow the cant of the younger man's gaze, and then glance out into the vast shade of the night time, beyond where the wan moonlight can illuminate. "There is honor in that, Rowan. Not all honor is that of the tales of knighthood, made by gleaming blade and strong arms," he tells Rowan, his voice softening a touch, eyes still searching the shade. "I am sorry you are made to carry such a burden, and I hope it brings harm upon neither your head, or that of my brother."
"Please believe me, my lord, when I say there is nothing in this world I love so well as your brother," Rowan says, his smile melancholy and ruefully askew. "Even though he can be a stubborn ass with a head full of rocks." He looks a bit sullen, adding, "Not even sharp rocks. Dull, roundish, samey ones that go 'thunk.'" He nods to himself. "But what I mean to say is — if I thought this might at all hurt him, I'd never have it."
Jacsen turns a glance upon the young man beside him again, and nods once. "It is not your sincerity I doubt, not in the least. I believe what you, Rowan Nayland." He reaches down for his cane and props it up again, his hands curling about the middle. "But I too was once an earnest squire, with much more of the world ahead of me than behind." He draws a quiet breath, and begins to heave himself up from the log, the process not without an earnest wince on his features, though it is quick to pass. "It is not your sincerity I doubt," he repeats, reassuring. "It is your ability to see all the myriad ways in which a secret can fester, the unintended consequences it can unveil." Steadied on his feet, he looks back to the squire. "I hope you are as capable of that as you seem confident, for my brother's sake if nothing else."
Rowan smiles faintly, standing as Jacsen does. "Jarod always said you were the smart one," he notes. "You put me a great deal in mind of your father. Speaking of brothers, though — " he hesitates, then says, "It's not my place, my lord? But… Jaremy? He rather desperately needs you, I think."
If the Lord Jacsen Terrick has a thought on that, he does not outwardly give much sign. He gestures to the place to his left, and invites, "Were it not for those whom thought to step outside their place…" He smirks faintly. "Perhaps you will do me the kindness of an escort indoors, and tell me what it is you see."
"Of course, my lord," the squire agrees readily, dashing the fetch the practice blade and fall in beside Jacsen. The dummy won't rust, should it chance to rain. Its mending can wait for morning. "I — obviously, I've said the enormous affection I have for your family, but…" he sighs. "My lord, Jaremy is credulous and impetuous and easily led. And he listens to my brother, I think, which I can assure you is a very bad idea indeed." He clasps his hands behind his back as he matches his stride to that of the man beside him. "I don't know that he listens to your father very well — certainly, being in conference with my brother seems to indicate Jaremy and Lord Ser Jerold may be of… different minds on much."
"My brother has a good and warm heart, and would see the world as a reflection of the same." It is clear by the sound of Jacsen's voice that he does not believe the world up to that task. The lord's pace is not the speed one such as Rowan would dictate on their own, every other step punctuated by the soft rap of his cane. "I assume you and your kin are not close," he remarks, his eyes diverting to the young man at his side at the question.
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Rowan says dryly. "Please don't mistake me, Lord Jacsen, I don't fault your brother's heart. And as you're a Terrick, I'm sure your heart's much the same — though tempered by wisdom and experience. Your father's style is very — direct. If Jaremy is an idiot, Lord Jerold will tell him so. You seem to have much of your father's mind, but a more subtle hand. It's… a combination I'm rather hopeful will save Jaremy from himself."
This more tempered Terrick lets those words hang in the air betwixt them, turning his face into a breeze that offers the pair at least a moment's respite from the warm evening air. "I love my brother well, Rowan, but I am not blinded by that very love I have for him. Of that you can rest assured," Jacsen remarks. "Tell me. While I do not seek to venture to the topic of your… secret once more, you have taken so unknown a quality as a knight, when surely another could have been found. One, even, that might have lent itself to your predilection towards my kin. Why Ser Gedeon Rivers?"
"The secret," sighs Rowan, sounding weary — and perhaps even a little embarrassed — at the melodrama it's become. "It's because Ser Gedeon discovered it, and so can be said to have made an informed decision taking me on. This… unfortunate quality of mine which has made me unfit for Jarod — Jarod would argue it makes me unfit to serve any man. As a squire, anyhow." He shakes his head. "Obviously there are worse things than being a Nayland, eh? And yet, not everyone believes so. Ser Gedeon and Lord Anton are content with me as I am." He tucks a lock of hair back behind his ear, looking at the road ahead. "I would argue, my lord, that Ser Gedeon is not an unknown quantity at all. As much time as your family spend with the Tordanes in the past, he's nearly as well known to your family as Isolde herself. War may change men, but I cannot believe that a mere five years renders a friend of childhood a wholly unknown quantity. Ser Anton is a man of such merit that he was elevated from a common knight to a lord — no small feat. I cannot see how Oldstones lacks in any virtue, truly." He shrugs. "Be that as it may — Ser Gedeon and his lord were willing, despite being aware of the truth. And that is that."
"And would, five years ago, have anyone ever thought Isolde would be party to such betrayal?" Jacsen asks of the squire at his side, "War was enough to change the face of all Westeros, Rowan, I hardly think it beyond war's capacity to change a man." He lets out a faint breath, and waves his free hand. "Yet you are satisfied, and surely my brother would not have agreed to such a transfer were he not as well, no matter his thoughts upon your qualifications. So be it." Another few steps, and a faint grimace from the lord. "Perhaps you will tell me what you make of this business of letters, Rowan?"
"I believe Isolde is her mother's daughter," says Rowan, simply. "That the letters have been confiscated and attempts made on Gedeon's life lends them more credence, in my mind, than an unbroken seal ever could. My brother wishes to turn Terrick against Oldstones, and told me I would see the banners of the Mire and the Roost march together against it. Unfounded rumors and baseless claims are made every day, my lord. They do not provoke such a reaction."
He shakes his head a fraction, "No. They do not. Though it is not lost on me that all of this drama does much to put the matter of Isolde's betrayal behind us… When the matter becomes one of your brother /defending/ his and his wife's rights to Stonebridge, with the Roost called for by each side as some arbiter of fair judgment and honor, it rather neatly ignores the fact that Stonebridge by rights should belong to Jaremy." Jascen glances to his side again. "I think it more likely there is some measure of truth to the letters than not, at this juncture, but I cannot discount the usefulness of these claims in distracting from other matters." He chuckles a touch, rueful, as they near their destination. "I remember a time when life here was simple. Hmm. Or perhaps it was always this complex, and I too young to have noticed."
"It was Valda Frey and my cousin that orchestrated Isolde's marriage to my brother," says Rowan, shaking his head. "That, in itself, was not Isolde's fault. She was traded like chattel, with no more choice than any maid. Where Isolde has proven herself duplicitous and craven is in the matter of the letters, which she vowed to return to Gedeon once she'd examined them. That bit of malfeasance is hers and hers alone." He sighs. "Either way, the late Lord Geoffrey's wishes get pissed on, left and right. It's sodding wrong, my lord. He was a good man, and died a hero. He deserves better than my kin and some other man's daughter run roughshod over his legacy."
The lord's steps slow as they walk inside, the soft rap of his cane more pronounced upon a harder floor. Jacsen's voice lowers for the sake of privacy against curious ears, saying, "If she were duplicitous enough to do as she did with those letters, I find it no vast leap of my imagination to find her playing a role in other matters." He does eventually stop, and turn to face Rowan. "Many good men died, and too few will ever be done by as they rightly deserve." His chin rises. "I share your distaste, and I've little desire to see it permitted. But time shall tell." He gestures to the stairs that lead upwards, where more private chambers wait. "I think, though, I have had my fill of the evening. It grows late, and I find myself tired. Perhaps we can talk again soon, Rowan?"
The Nayland boy steps back and bows with a flourish — a trick he likely picked up from Jarod. "My lord. I am ever at your leisure." He straightens, smiling with warmth and apology. "I fear I've taken advantage of your patience, Lord Jacsen, but I thank you for hearing me tonight. Rest well. Perhaps next time we'll speak of more pleasant things."
"Patience I have a wealth of. And I find this measure well spent," Jacsen assures him, his lips forming a small smile. "Spare the practice dummies your wroth, at least for the eve, and rest well when you might. It was a pleasure to meet you." He turns at that, and begins for the stairs, his aided gait portending a slow climb.