|What We Confess|
|Summary:||It doesn't always bring peace. Rowan and Jarod renew their post-girl-outing acquaintance and talk on current Four Eagles Tower events. Afterward, Septon Josse speaks on the current string of murders, and long-past sins.|
|Related Logs:||Quick and Dirty; Paranoia|
|Jarod's Chamber — Four Eagles Tower|
|The bar is more-or-less open.|
|Sun Aug 14, 288|
Ser Jarod Rivers has finally made it back to Four Eagles Tower, and his chambers, after spending the day in town nosing around about the murder at Rockcliff. And he's managed to separate himself from his Nayland counterpart in that nosing. Though he's retained the company of his favorite septon. "Fuck, Josse, that business makes me want to swear off the whores at Rockcliff for awhile," he comments as he kicks off his boots and pours himself a glass of wine from his ever-present flagon. "Or at least make sure I pat them down for sharp objects first. Which might be kind of fun, actually."
If there's one place Josse ought to be right now it's the sept, what with the chaos at 'home'. But perhaps it's all piled up a little too high for him right now, not that you could tell by his ever-calm demeanor. The reaching for a second wineglass might be the only indication, the cup extended for Jarod to fill. "Just try and use an expendable limb for cavity searches, will you? There are certain places on you I really do not want to have to stitch."
Knock. Knockity knock-knock knock. "H'lo?"
That would be a voice well known to both men. Rowan. Or Rose. Or —
"Your cat was in the kennels taunting my dogs, Rivers! Open up." There's a faint yowl of kitty complaint to underscore the point. "Fuck you, too, Ser Pussy."
Jarod grimaces, raising his wine cup. "Here's to that never happening." Drink. He sits on his bed, kind of flopping on it. He's not particularly tidy, though the castle servants at least manage to keep the place clean enough to live in. A weapon's rack for his sword sits by his bed, and hunting trophies decorate the walls, along with a small black banner with the golden eagle's wing on it that serves as his bastard heraldry. No books are visible, though there is a writing table and some spare parchment, and a drawer where he can keep documents and letters. His wardrobe is larger than one might expect. He would probably deny attention to fashion, if pressed, but a good deal of his pocket money goes to clothing that he thinks makes him look good nonetheless.
He's just settling in when the knocking, and yowling, interrupts him. "Leave my cat alone." The cat would be a new addition to Jarod's life since he and Josse last spent any time together. He stands, opening the door. "Rowan? Leave the puss and go, it's not proper for you to be here."
If Josse has any sense of fashion himself it's been long buried under poverty and various vows. He's taken a good drink from his cup and is reaching for parchment and a quill when that knock comes, and the voice he knows as two different people — his eyes come up to look at the wall in front of him and then back down to the page. "Since when have you had a cat?"
Ser Puss is shoved unceremoniously into Jarod's arms. "Hello to you, too," says Rose, looking irritated. "I need to talk with you, we've been in the same room alone together before a thousand times — " she leans to the side to see around him, waving at Josse. "'Lo!" Then, facing Jarod again, "And we've a chaperone besides. Unless you'd like to talk out in the hall for all ears and sundry. We can do that, too."
"Seven hells…!" The cat does not take kindly to being shoved at Jarod, and some clawing ensues. "Don't get mad at me, you blasted creature." Repairs will likely be in order for a few tears to the green tunic (with little leaves embroidered on the sleeves), that he's favoring today. The cat is kind thrown onto his bed, where he lands with a hiss, and then disappears under said bed with an angry flick of his tail. "Everyone's always mad at me for matters that are *not* my fault…" He goes to toss himself back to sit on his bed. "That was different, Rowan. You were a…" He looks askance at Josse. "It was different, and you know why it's different."
To Josse, Jarod replies with a shrug. "He belongs to Amelia of Seagard. My favorite of whores. Or did. Not sure if she'll ever come back for him. If she's wise, she won't. She asked me to look after him. His name's Mittens, but I'm likely going to change it. Just haven't quite landed on something fitting for him yet."
Rose comes in, anyways, and shuts the door, leaning against it. "You liked Ser Bartholemew well enough before I lost my imaginary penis," she mutters, just slightly bitter. "And it wasn't a bit different. The difference is in your head — which is equally full of rocks and women's underthings." She folds her arms and draws up a leg, propping her boot on the door. "I'm worried about your brother, Jarod. Has he been spending a lot of time with mine, while he's been visiting?"
Josse sets the quill down slowly and sits back in the chair, apparently deciding the wine is more important than the parchment just now. A brow arches sharply as the cat hisses and disappears, with just the dry comment: "Cute." Clearing his throat quietly, he looks back at the two as Rose blazes onwards, and the complete lack of shock probably communicates more than he could say aloud. "Rose." And that seals it. "At least watch your mouth."
"Rowan, perhaps we should go somewhere less…and discuss this…" And then Jarod slowly clues up to the fact that Josse is showing no surprise when she references her imaginary penis. And is calling her Rose. He turns sharply to face the Septon, jaw set, green eyes hard. "Something you feel like telling me, my dear old friend?" His tone is hard and lacking in any of its general glibness.
Rose stares at Josse. "He doesn't know you know?" She thunks her head back against the door, closing her eyes and groaning. "Can you please not do this now?" she laments. "Of course he knows, Jarod. He's my septon. My spiritual guide and confessor. He couldn't possibly of told you — he has vows and things."
"That I had a confidence to keep?" Josse's own voice doesn't change at all, his eyes unafraid to meet Jarod's. "That I have kept very many, including quite a few of yours?" He glances at Rowan and then looks back at Jarod. "Yes, I did. And you of all people, Jarod, know that it never matters my opinion — I keep what I am given and I counsel. I regret what's happened between the two of you, but I cannot regret my duty."
"So am I the only idiot in the Riverlands who didn't know you had tits, my Lady Rowenna?" Jarod asks of Rowan harshly. His fingers tighten around his wine cup but, after a deep breath, he finally just manages to set it down. "Because between your favorite new bastard knight, the lithe and rapier-built Ser Gedeon, and this, I'm beginning to feel like the last ass to figure it out." His anger is directed more at Rowan and Josse, who just earns a terse shrug. "Spiritual guide for your personal mummer's show? How very lovely. Fine. Whatever. We're all in on the joke now, so we can all talk about it together. What do you want, Rowenna?"
"My new fav — " Rose gapes. She opens her mouth to say something, then takes a deep breath, apparently thinking better of it. "Whatever. Jarod." She closes her eyes and counts to three under her breath. "Right. Let's try this again. Your brother," she raises her eyebrows. "Jaremy. Has he been spending a lot of time with Ryker, that you know of?"
"If it makes you feel any better, she didn't outright tell me," Josse says, sitting forward and resting his arms on his knees. "I have a terrible penchant for walking in on things…a lot." He turns his wineglass between his hands, lifting it to take a hearty drink from the alcohol. If there's more to say on this matter, it'll wait, then mention of Jaremy holding his attention for now.
"And I'll ask you not to call her by that 'Rose' farce in my presence, Jos, if you hold me in any friendship," Jarod says to Josse. "That was a cruel joke, and even if you couldn't have told me anything of what she was, it wasn't right of you to let her do that to me." There's actual hurt underlying his general snippiness there, and he takes a moment to drain some of his wine, not looking at Rowan. Deep breath, and he's collected himself some when he focuses back on his ex-squire. "I know. I've been meaning to get a moment alone with him about it, though I've not been able to, with all that's afoot in the household. There's a smell I don't like about Lord Ryker's visit all around and this nasty business with the killing of his man…it's all leading to more trouble than one murder, I can't help but feel, though I pray I'm wrong."
"A joke," Rose echoes, momentarily derailed. Again. From her point. She actually pales. "You think that was a joke?" She closes her eyes again, bowing her head. "Sweet Seven, I don't even know how to reply to that," she whispers. It takes her a moment. And at last… she just leaves it. "My brother is delusional," she finally says, lifting her eyes. To Josse. She can't bear to look elsewhere. "As my father has long been. He's dangerously paranoid. He believes one moment that Oldstones means to murder me, then him. He thinks he has 'information' about Lord Anton but refuses to say what — in a manner most peculiar. As though he knows he knows nothing, but is clinging to a fantasy. They say madness is in the blood, and I fear my brother may be set to inherit more from our father than just a wretched swamp." She takes a breath. "Jaremy… is highly credulous. Vain and easily led. I fear — before he departed in haste today, my brother said I would see the error of my ways when Nayland and Terrick matched together on Oldstones. I fear very much he's manipulated Jaremy into… something. And if that's the case, it's doubtless something about which Lord Ser Jerold does not know."
Josse opens his mouth as if to answer that, but there are two things going on here. Though there's no way his silence can be mistaken for blowing it off; the cut of the accusation flickers in his eyes. "One thing at a time." Which for him is going to be continuing to drink, just now.
Jarod mutters "Aye, and not a very fucking funny one" into a refilled cup of wine. The bit about Oldstones makes him frown. "Lord Ryker did suggest the Valentins might be behind the murder of his man. It's honestly not a possibility I can entirely discount, much as I can't discount anything. We know very little about the Lord Ser Valentin or what Ser Gedeon went through in his adventures across the Narrow Sea. And if the Nayland camp was behind the attempt to poison Ser Gedeon - and yourself, in advertently - then they may be seeking revenge. Still, that's speculation without proof, and I'll accuse no one. As for Jaremy…Jaremy wants very much to see the good in everyone and everything." They aren't so unlike in that way, though Jarod has a rougher edge to him on at least some matters. "And I do think, given how aggressive Nayland is being and how suspect Lord Ryker's visit here was, my brother would be too hasty in taking him into his trust. For what it's worth, I'm not sure what he could've manipulated him into. We're still piecing together information from the Westerlands that might - or might not - credit or discredit Ser Gedeon's letters, and my lord father has orders all around in our camp not to break the peace. Apart from that, the only business on the horizon for Jaremy is his wedding to the Lady Banefort, which is only for our good. And thank the Seven Jace is home now. That'll make matters between Jaremy and my father easier to deal with." His 'younger' brother, Lord Jacsen, who Jarod always speaks of with great affection. Perhaps more than Jaremy in some ways, though from his descriptions Jace and Jarod seem far less alike.
"If my brother has put it into Jaremy's head that he — Jaremy — is right and Lord Ser Jerold wrong…" Rose sighs. "He will do what he thinks is right." She shrugs and pushes off the door. "You have my concerns. I'm done." She not longer addresses Josse with the words meant for Jarod, but — still. She can't look at him. "You're not my problem anymore."
"If Lord Jaremy has been fed something incorrect, then Jarod is undoubtedly the best person to find out," Josse agrees under his breath. He looks up and actually at Rowan for the first time in a while. "Don't walk out of here on those words."
"True enough all around. But…thanks, anyhow, Rowan. I do appreciate the affection you hold my family in." Jarod manages to sound somewhat gracious. He looks up at his ex-squire, expression rather more moderate, and takes a breath. "Before you go, there was a matter I wanted to address with you. Concerning the…various requirements of your service to Ser Gedeon." He seems quite earnest. And a little uncomfortable.
Rose stops with her hand on the doorpull at Josse's words, seeming to consider them — and then Jarod speaks. Her hackles rise visibly, her shoulders and back straightening in imperial disdain. She turns slowly and levels a look at her former knight. "Do go on," she says mildly.
Josse sips his wine, staying well and far out of whatever this is about to be said. The hazards of being a septon.
Jarod stands up as well and strides closer to Rowan, though there's nothing imperial or disdainful about him. He looks like he often looks when trying to figure out how to articulate something that can't just be said straight out. "Look, I don't know what sort of…arrangement you and Gedeon worked out but things between you and him…they can't be the way they were between you and me, you see that, don't you? Him knowing you're a woman. Matters like sharing his tent and the like…it's just not proper, Rowan, and it's not good knightly conduct if he's asking you to do it and…" He trails off for a moment, then gets himself back on track. Sort of. "…look, I meant what I said before, I can't ever have you in my service again, but if anything ever happens with the Valentins that you don't…I mean…that you aren't…I mean…if they ever treat you in a way you don't care for, you can come back here. I mean, not to stay but…I'd help you as I can, and we could figure something out."
The imperiousness and disdain melt from her posture as Jarod stumbles and lurches through his intentions. She looks up at him all the while, expression shifting from exasperation to bemusement to tenderness to mirth to pain and back again. Rose presses her lips together tightly and looks at the ceiling a moment, drawing a deep breath. "I'm tremendously flattered that you think no man would me capable of controlling himself, faced with the reality of my sex," she says, finally. "And your offer is very sweet. I'll be sure to keep it in mind." She raises her eyebrows a notch. "Done?"
Josse stands up silently while they talk, retrieving Jarod's wine flagon and refilling his cup. He paces slowly to the window ledge and turns his back to it, sitting down and lifting the cup to his lips.
"Not all men are kind, Rowenna, you don't know nearly so much about them as you think, and believe it or not I'm far from the worst sort of them when it comes to girls," Jarod says quietly, meeting her dark eyes for the moment. He lets out a long, heavy breath. "Aye, I'm done." With that, he turns away and heads back to flop on his bed. His cat has reappeared by now and is lounging on it, and Jarod idly scratches the beast between the ears.
Those dark eyes track him back to the bed. "Gedeon is very kind," she says simply. "And for what it's worth, I've never thought you unkind when it comes to women. Just — " she shakes her head, rejecting the words on the tip of her tongue. "I've never thought you unkind." She looks to Josse, lips lifting at the corners in a painful smile. "Take good care of him?" As though Jarod might wander out into the street and be struck by a runaway cart, if not properly minded.
"Everyone has their place," Josse replies to Rowan. Which might sound cryptic without the echoes of their last conversation to place it. "Good night." He doesn't move from where he is.
Jarod grunts something unintelligible into his winecup, and keeps drinking, petting his cat and not looking at Rowan.
And with one last glance in Jarod's direction, one that never quite brings him into view, Rose slips out the door.
Josse sets one hand down on the window sill next to his bent leg, some weight rested on it. The other holds his wineglass on his knee, wrapped loosely around the stem. Rowan is given plenty of time to depart down the hall. "It was never about hurting you, Jarod."
Jarod shrugs. "Nah, I was just easy to use for…whatever in the seven hells she was trying to do." Not said without some bitterness. "Not my trouble anymore. Look, I understand why you couldn't tell me about this, but I think I'd rather spend the rest of the evening by myself, if you've nothing more to talk on about poor dead Jens Howard. I should get word to my brothers - and my lord father - about all of that once I've been able to sort through it in my own head. Rowan was right about one thing, Jos, there's much about Lord Ryker's conduct in this affair I find damn odd. But he's not wrong, in that there's much unknown and much that can't quite be trusted about the Valentins."
"It's always wise to be cautious." Josse lifts his cup, finishing the wine he'd poured. "The entire thing is troubling. I didn't have a good feeling in that inn and I still don't now…something is happening and we are only seeing a small part." He stands up, using his hand on the ledge to push up. "She was trying to protect you. She has a great…a great love for you. Now it's gotten tangled in things that it should not have. But that is what it was." He puts the empty cup down on the table, leaning over to get his bag up from the floor.
"She is a seventeen-year-old girl with a lot of stupid ideas about knighthood and romance and the warrior's life that come from songs and dreams and not from anything real," Jarod says. "Well, she'll learn. We've all got to learn someday." He tops off his wine. That flagon is emptying fast, between the pair of them. "I know what you mean. About only seeing a small part of it. It just keeps getting darker, Jos. First that pennyroyal in Gedeon's wine, then that boy in Stonebridge, and the Nayland man, and…" He suddenly blinks at Josse. "…oh, Jos. Damn. I never did say I was sorry, did I? About the Septon."
Josse's back is to Jarod, and so the slight tension that suddenly creeps into his posture is visible. His thumb slides under the bag strap weighing on his shoulder, and his head turns onto so far as to let Jarod see the very back of his profile. "I've never seen a man die quite like that," he says, at some length. "There was blood from his ears, his eyes…men shouldn't die that way. Amery saw Ser Gedeon's letters. Whether or not…there is anything of that, I do not know. But he did." He licks his bottom lip. "And so did I."
"Saw them?" Jarod sits up straighter, removing his hand from the idle stroking of his cat, to focus on Josse. "What do you mean he…saw them? What do you mean *you* saw them?"
"Do you think I'd guessed that the seal on them was ruined?" Josse turns halfway back around, looking at Jarod. "I don't say things I don't know for truth. Ask me no more, for I've crossed lines already to give your Lord Father truth." And a lot good that did anyone. "I tell you this so you know there well may be no boundaries like we've known…if there is a connection. And if there is, there will be things that even I can't forgive."
"Why did this Septon Amery have them to look at?" Jarod asks. "To be honest, I'm surprised Lady Valda or Lord Ryker let them out of their claws, if they managed to get them away from Isolde. Or didn't just burn them the minute they could manage it."
Josse just shakes his head slowly at the question. When the septon said no more, he meant it. His eyes stay on Jarod's, the struggle in them visible for a moment as candlelight flickers. "All I can tell you is that they do still exist. Please, just take that from me and be very careful with it. Please."
"Do you think the Naylands - or Lady Valda perhaps - or whoever put the pennyroyal in Gedeon's wine…do you think that Septon was murderd?" Jarod asks it very quietly.
"I've seen men drop dead, Jarod," Josse replies, his voice low and very controlled. "Never…never like this. Gods help me I could be wrong." His eyes are directly on Jarod's and have ice in them that the knight has never seen before. "This will be the first night in my life that I will pray that I am."
Jarod meets Josse's eyes. His own green ones are sometimes hard, but never icy, and right now there's fear behind them. "Whoever's playing at this game, my friend, and I won't claim I know who…they're very dangerous. To my family, to the Tordanes or whatever remains of them, to the Naylands as well it seems…to do murder to a holy man…one who'd turn to that will do just about anything…"
Blue flickers from Jarod's left eye to the right and back again. It takes Josse a few moments to speak, some weight pushing words back down twice before he starts. "Just before the end of the Trident, I killed a man." His low voice has neither pride nor shame, just that struggle in telling Jarod this. "He wore the Targaryen crest. Had his sword out to kill a pageboy running water to the wounded. A child. I…have smelled his blood on me every day since." For a second he abruptly can't keep eye contact, looking to the side and then back. "I don't know what you'll think of me now. But remember this…whatever you have to do to protect the innocents, your family, these people. It won't always be something you can say is right or wrong. But know that I will understand."
"I killed my first man at the Battle of the Bells," Jarod says, after a long pause once the septon has stopped talking. Josse's probably heard the broad strokes of this before, though it's not a story he tells in full if he can help it. "I still think of him sometimes. Man. Boy. Peasant pikeman. He was…fuck, fifteen, sixteen maybe. Looked younger than me. We were in an alley. There was fighting in the houses. The Royalists were tearing the town apart looking for Robert Baratheon. We were tearing it apart after we routed them, they were running and we were just trying to keep the army scattered. The fight was over but we were still fighting. We'd got into this alley and we were alone and we just kind of…looked at each other. It was so strange. And I was wearing Mallister colors and he was marked as a Royalist and we just kind of realized we were supposed to be enemies. He raised his pike and I raised my sword and…he wasn't even wearing hardly any armor. Not real armor. I never knew how easy steel could cut through somebody. I just swung really hard, I think I had my eyes closed, and I hit him in the belly and…that's an awful way to die…wound to your stomach…I just watched him laying there, choking, it felt like forever…I should've put my sword in his neck, I suppose, ended it quick, I just…I couldn't move, I felt like I was frozen. And he just kept staring at me…"
He shudders. "We all did ugly things during the Rebellion, Jos. Those were ugly days. I pray I can be forgiven for those parts of it. I don't want to live in days like that again."
Josse's story, Jarod has never heard. Not in bits in pieces, not even breathed in his sleep. As he listens to Jarod he doesn't look away again. The incredible tension in his forehead and at the corners of his eyes slowly lessens, though instead of a weight lifting it makes him look suddenly ten years older. "In war there are no unwounded soldiers," he murmurs. Very briefly, he touches his palm to the side of Jarod's face. "I will pray the gods forgive you…I do." His hand is shaking, such a tiny bit that Jarod might not even notice before it's gone again. "I should go. We both have work to do."
"I forgive you, too," Jarod says softly. He nods, standing, to see Josse out. Though he does say, before the septon goes, "I've got to tell my family what you said to me about the septon. About him and the letters. And I've got to tell them where it came from. It'd be better if you could tell them yourself. Just the truth of it, nothing more."
Josse steps back as Jarod stands, starting slowly for the door. He looks back, his hand settled on the curved door handle. "I will tell them what I have told you. It's all I can say. And I will pray that somehow it brings peace…if not now then someday. Goodnight, Jarod."
"It's the truth. Truth doesn't always bring peace, I don't think, but at least if worst comes you aren't dying on a lie," Jarod says. He nods to the septon. "I pray something other than that comes of it, though. All right. Goodnight, Jos."