|With a Little Help From My Friends|
|Summary:||In which Jarod and Bruce get by rather well all told.|
|Related Logs:||Life's a Strange Journey and Eschaton of Stonebridge|
|Town Square — Stonebridge|
|The surrounding terrain has several small gullies and streams that feed into the waterfront area just adjacent to the town square, the sails of the boats visible over the tops of the buildings. The square is floored in the same heavy stone that the east docks and castle are constructed of while the buildings are a mix of the stone, wood, and mortar. There are quite a few fish vendors with their fragrant catches for sale among groups of tables which tend to be busy most of the time.|
|Wed May 02, 289|
Bruce is walking through the town square at a slow, leasurely pace. Despite his evident lack of sleep in the past few weeks, Ser Bruce looks in remarkably good spirits. For one reason or another, the Captain of the Guard in this town is wearing an elaborate set of ceremonial leather armour. The cuirass is painted or dyed with an orange top and green bottom of House Nayland, its white harpy prominent in the centre. A braided silver cord runs down one of his shoulders and is fastened, while the man has a a highly polished brass helmet with an orange plume tucked under his arm. He cuts a rather dashing figure, despite being a bit on the short side and average looking.
Jarod is dressed in reasonably plain green tunic, dark trousers and spur-less boots as he exits Crane's Crossing. He still carries his sword, however, and can still pass well enough for a hedge knight in civvies. He's on his way to the stables, though he spots Bruce's dashing figure on his periphery. And, smirking, places two fingers between his lips and lets out four sharp, high-pitched whistles. It was a favored 'battle cry' of his on the Iron Islands, when he was still sworn to the Four Eagles proper, and he doesn't seem to have tired of it. Though many other people probably have.
While meandering slowly through the streets is a pleasant thing to do, Ser Bruce's attention is immediately snapped to the source of the whistle. At first he has to squint to make out who it is that offered it, even if he does know in his mind. A smile is quick to his face and the man lengthens his stride considerably with a turn towards the man. "Ser Jarod!" He calls in greeting, raising his hand not clasping the helmet to wave.
"Ser Bruce." Despite the greeting that seems half-cheekily designed to annoy, Jarod's air isn't particularly chipper. The smile's returned with a quick enough grin, however. "What're you all cleaned up for? Not sure I've ever seen you so polished. Could almost take you for a knight, I daresay."
Bruce snorts mightily at Jarod's cheek. "Ha! Why, thank-you-very-much, Ser Jarod! Well, I had the men do a full dress inspection about an hour past. And to be truthful, I was a bit too slothful to get back into my other clothes. You might not believe it, but even I like to peacock sometimes. Besides, Aleks likes the pomp. She'll like it when I walk in wearing this… well, I hope." He motions at the Inn. "Wanna go in for a pint then, mate? I did want to talk to you."
"I'd like to meet your wife, while I'm in town," Jarod says, nodding about the pint. "Aye. I'm hoping to meet with the Lady Danae later this afternoon, but I'll confess I'm putting it off. Best get in a proper drink before, anyhow." He laughs. "I recall you did. Lord Riordan rather interrupted. I like him. Family sort. Good right hook."
Instead of snorting this time, Bruce laughs. "Family man, aye. Well, that's something you can't take away from House Nayland, that's for sure. Come, I'm buying. I don't want arguments, you daft bastard, I came into enough war booty on the Isles that I can afford to be stupid and generous. Besides, it's not as if a few pints will be noticed by the ever scrutinous wife, who I'm absolutely sure will be thrilled to meet you in a few days." Why it's in a few days he doesn't yet explain, but his nature is good in the rest.
Jarod does not argue with any man who's willing to buy him food and booze. Certainly not at this stage in his life. He remains still technically an unemployed knight. "A few days?" Jarod is not quite so daft as not to pick up on the length of time implied as he seats himself at a table in the bright common room. He flashes a grin at the minx-ish brunette serving maid who was laughing at him the last time he was in here. She catches his eye, and rolls hers, though the sniff she offers him in return is not un-fond.
"Lyla, m'dear," Bruce begins, obviously familiar with the serving 'maid' who Jarod is making faces at, "a pitcher of ale.. no wine, er, wait." Bruce puts his helmet down on the table and raises his scabbard to sit, looking at his companion. "Wine or ale? I've mind for either, really. But you're the guest in Stonebridge."
"Ale," Jarod says definitively. "Better way to start your day than wine. Aye, guest for a bit longer. I still have to present myself for censure at Seagard, and perhaps it'll go well enough with the Mallisters that I can enter Ser Kamron's service." He sounds doubtful, though not so much worried anymore. "I suppose since the Naylands retain Stonebridge, Lord Riordan's offer here still stands." It's unclear what he makes of it, save that he's very thoughtful on the matter. As for Mistress Lyla, she smiles winsomely at Bruce and says a breathy, "Right away, Ser." Before flouncing her skirts off to get them drinks.
Bruce snickers. "I think I drink too much wine, then. Ach, you remember, I did promise you that bottle and we didn't get a chance on Pyke. So here's what; you're more than welcome at my house at some point. Like I said, a few days from now. Aleks is um… pretty fresh." He scratches at his neck uncomfortably for a moment. "I'd love if we served together, Jarod, but I completely understand if that's not possible. Still, I want to help you out if I can." A motion at Jarod's tunic. "It's a shame your father stripped you of your armour. I'm going to try and rectify that. We took a lot of loot on Pyke. So. I wanted to know what happened the other day on the bridge. Aleks was giving birth that day. Nice baby boy, dark hair like her, though I suppose that changes. Anyways, I've heard it from the Guardsmen but I wanted to hear it from you."
"Ha!" Jarod leans over to clap Bruce on the shoulder at the announcement about his new babe. Hard. "Nicely done, Ser Longbough!" As if he had done the birthing himself. "What'd you name the lad? My lord father got a bit carried away with calling us all alike, though his lady wife seemed to put her foot down where my sister Luci was concerned." As for the armor. "You're a good friend to ask after it. Perhaps, if I do end up kneeling to Tordane Tower. I think I'd settle for just a leather jerkin to start, honestly. A knight's supposed to gear himself. I never had to, though. Lord Jerold gifted me my horse, and armor, and sword, when I entered his service. Same to my brother Jaremy, don't take me wrong, he would to any of his sons. Not saying I enjoy the lack of it but…don't know. There's something about the idea of earning if by my own means that seems not so bad as all that."
Luckily, Bruce is wearing leather armour. And leather armour with shoulder doubling, too. Still he laughs and dips his head. "Thanks. I try. Named him Henry. After Aleks's mother's father, Lord Henry Drell. Tim was named after my father's father. Kind of a family tradition." As the topic returns to more serious concerns, he falls silent and simply nods. "Aye, I can understand that. Did you get to keep any coin you won on the Islands?"
Jarod shakes his head. "Not enough to speak on. I got a pretty ransom off the Harlaws for Ser Harras, but that all went to the Terrick treasury. I could ask for a portion of it if Rowenna and I end up truly strapped, I suppose. Lord Jerold can ill-afford to part with it, but I suspect he'd feel honor-bound to give it. I'm not so desperate enough to try and take it from them yet, though. I had a little saved. From when I was thinking I'd end up running away to the tourney circuit after my business with she who was Rowan Nayland was done." He laughs. "Knew I'd need to leave Four Eagles for a bit. Didn't figure at the time I'd want to take her with me, or that she'd want to go. And that was before the war, besides. The idea of just running away from this land seemed simpler then."
"As I said. I'm going to see if I can help you." Bruce doesn't elaborate on how and he stops as Lyla delivers the ale, flashing her a smile. He pours two cups full. "I won't see a man who served honourably and well brought low by this. I'm not a noble, and I don't have to worry about their sleights. You're a comrade. That's that." He raises his cup, eyes fixed on Jarod seriously.
"Ser Kamron said much the same to me," Jarod says with a grin. "Perhaps I'll get by with a bit of help from my friends, which is not a poor way for a man to live. I've better ones than I'd hoped to count on." He lifts his ale mug, drinking deep from it. "I think my dismissal would've bothered me less, before the war. Not just because I want to aid the rebuilding. I do. The Roost is my blood. But…I got to thinking about things on the Islands. How we could turn the volunteers we'd raised into a proper levy. Work more with the Mallisters, and Groves men, on security of the River coast as a whole. What things in town - like our sept - would look like built back up with Grey Garden stone. There're things I wanted to do, Ser."
Bruce nods deeply after he's taken his own drink. "Aye, I understand. But really I think that the War put us in a position of understanding, or at least I'd hoped until the claim and the duel. We've /all/ fought together. No matter how much the Houses quarrel, on positions of defense they need to all work together. That means Terrick, Mallister and Groves, yes, but it means also Nayland, Charlton, Erenford and Haigh. And Darant. We come back and divide up and the next time the Ironborn reave they're like to find us in exactly the position we were. But, on the balance, your ideas are very good."
"I pray the duel decided matters once and for all, in the eyes of the law and the gods," Jarod says. "It was a judicial challenge, after all. Ser Gedeon may've died Lord Tordane, but Ser Rygar and the Naylands won fair enough. That should be the end of it." Though he says it like a man who is, by no means, convinced it will be. "Did feel, watching him bleed out from the neck like that, that the war'd barely happened at all. Makes me wonder if Ser Rygar wasn't right about some things…the way things are in Westeros now…"
"Aye. It was a shame. I liked Ser Gedeon, and he was a good knight. Obviously not everyone shares my opinions but I'm an outsider from a very old, very feud oriented part of the Riverlands. I know how these stupid feuds work. They're counter productive, and I say that as son of a Blackwood yeoman whose name has served that House for as many generations as we remember." Bruce replies, nodding. "That said, I hope it's over now. First, what did Ser Rygar say about that? And second, tell me how the duel went, if you would."
Jarod has no comment of agreement Ser Gedeon being a good knight. He drinks deep before he says anything in reply. "He was my friend. We were boys together, when the Tordane lands still belonged to the Terricks. He and his sister Lady Isolde were of a like age with me and Lord Jaremy and Lord Jacsen. The years made us very different men, but I think we were still friends to each other, at the end. I'll get by with that." He drinks some more, before adding anything to those two questions. He starts with the first. "It was a long time ago. Nearly a year. Not long after Stonebridge had changed hands, and Lady Isolde wed Lord Ryker. We got to talking about the Rebellion. When he fought for the Royalists. He said to me…fealty had died with the Targaryens. And that power in this land belonged to he who was strong enough to take what he wanted, damn the law, and damn honor, and damn any right they had to it."
"Maybe he was right. I just followed my Lord, as my father and his father had done. And so on. The side wasn't really ever something that I thought about. Now, you know, I think much more. But I'm older. I have a family. You too." Bruce smiles briefly, before continuing. "That said, really, there's no point in arguing over the claim now. The claim is over. One can't say the Naylands performed anything illicit in marrying Lord Ryker to Lady Isolde. Ryker was… a good friend. But a bad lord. And he knew it. He just wanted to stay in Riverrun where he wouldn't do any harm. Especially after his first wife died." He falls silent.
"I was a squire serving my knight in the Mallister armies. I didn't think too much about sides myself, either, save which one my liege was one. And my family was on," Jarod says. "My uncle, Lord Revyn, objected to the Terricks marching with the rebel host. He didn't go fight for the king, but he refused to take part. I never understood why. I wish I'd sat down and talked to him about it now, while he lived. Might've understood better now that I'm a little more grown." As for the Naylands. "Lady Valda spent all her life looking for a way to put Stonebridge on its knees to the Twins rather than Seagard. She's a Frey daughter, after all. She defied her late husband's wishes as he outlined in his will, the one she hid until it served her to present it at Riverrun, but that's the only wrong I can truly find, and I doubt your masters had any part in it. The Naylands married to better their house, and the Terricks hadn't done enough to secure our own claim to hold it. Ser Gedeon had his own claim, and the Terricks did at least get his promise of fealty in writing," He cracks a grin, albeit a wistful one. "But he's dead and gone now. I pray there's no more argument over it. I think Terrick and Nayland could get more out of reaching some accord between themselves. Though Lady Danae may have her own plans, and I'm not sure they're in anyone's good interest. Even her own."
"We don't have all the information, Jarod. We're neither of us nobles, though you lay far better to that claim than I will ever. I don't mean to say that to sound like an arse, but it's true. Who wrote the wills, who sealed the wills, who signed the wills, whether Lord Geoffrey spoke the words himself while coherent, or dying, or spoken by someone else. We don't. Let's not make this into something that it isn't. The neither of us know, and Lord Geoffrey is dead, leaving Lady Valda to conduct the affairs of the house. That's it." Bruce shrugs, waving dismissively. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make this the main topic. You're right. As for the Lady Danae's plans, I know not, and it's not in my realm to speculate or deal with them. I simply think that for real defense to work in the area, we must all be working together. A strong rivalry fine, intrigues will happen unless the Gods themselves stop them. But Frey and Mallister houses will always fight against the Ironborn on the same side. So recognition is important of that." Bruce then repeats his question from earlier, "How did Ser Gedeon and Ser Rygar fare in the fight?"
"I know Lady Valda Tordane mostly by how she treated Lord Geoffrey's children. Both of whom I cared for very much. That is everything I need to know of her." There's a sharpness in Jarod's tone about Lady Valda that's uncharacteristic of the bastard knight. Even his enemies, whether they be Naylands or Ser Harras Harlaw, there never seemed to be harsh, personal ire for them. But he has spent time around nobles, and at least knows better than to speak open ill of a noblewoman. He takes a breath. "Anyhow. I agree. That's one reason I'm thinking so on swearing to Stonebridge. Don't think I could do it to the Mire, with how much Lord Jerold hates Lord Rickart personal. But Lord Riordan seems a decent man, Nayland or no, and Lady Isolde and I have always gotten on." There is, perhaps, a spark of mischief in his green eyes. But he totally doesn't dwell on that. "Might anger my lord father, but might be a small way to make a tie between his land and this one as well. I don't know. We'll see how it plays, I suppose. And what my non-lady wife thinks of the idea." He chuckles.
Bruce's bushy eyebrows shoot up at the last part. "Non-lady wife eh? Oh, cat's out of that bag. She might be a mighty warrior, but she's a Lady now. Proper L." He chuckles, good humour returning. He waits for an answer to another question, drinking from his cup.
"I was so sure Lord Rickart would keep her disowned," Jarod says with a chuckle. Though he sombers some, thinking on the duel. Frowning. "They were fairly even matched. Ser Gedeon younger and faster, more given to improvise, Ser Rygar taller with more experience, and perhaps more discipline. Both ruthless enough for what they were fighting for. I figured it balanced. Save perhaps that Ser Rygar had a bit better armor, though I'm not sure how much difference that made in the end. They were trading blows about even until Ser Rygar got in a solid blow to Ser Gedeon's head with that polearm of his. That was the end of it, really, though Ser Gedeon made it last a bit longer, and gave Ser Rygar some parting wounds to remember him by. Perhaps it was down to luck. Or the gods, in the end."
"Luck and the Gods. Aren't they one and the same, mate? I don't know. I'm maybe too religious to answer that impartially. I don't know if it's the lands around here, but I find that people doubt the Gods more than I've seen anywhere else. It's… odd." Bruce shrugs that thought away. "Truthfully I wasn't sure what would happen. Ser Gedeon was a fiersome fighter. Ser Rygar's skills, I thought, lay more in command. But I guess I don't pay much attention to people's individual skill in battle unless they make a point of using it often. I know my focus is usually on the lads, even if I like to lead from the front."
"I think I come to believe in them more, as I grow up some," Jarod says. "The world's a shit place, in a lot of ways, but that's to do with the way men are to each other, not the gods. I've got to hope there's something out there that wants us to be…better and braver. Ser Rygar believed in what he was fighting for. Righteousness is a damned dangerous thing when it's attached to a polearm."
"I think everything's intertwined a lot more than we see by looking. Aye, it is at that. They were both fighting for honour. It's a funny thing, eh? I don't put much stock in duels, but they're still law." Bruce offers.
"Law of men, and the law of the gods in a trial by combat, at least the way the righteous reckon it," Jarod says. "And it's the law of the land, which is supposed to hold for both. If that still counts for anything, Lord Tully's man will put an end to this squabbling over Stonebridge once and for all."
"Aye. I don't know who he's sending, but the last time it was Lord Daemon Blackwood. A good man." Bruce smiles as he mentions the name. "Of course, I might be a bit biased. Heh."
"Hate to see what you'd say if he was a Bracken," Jarod chuckles. He's seated at a table with Bruce, drinking ale companionably. "Perhaps there's not so much difference between them as the others would like to believe. My lord father always spoke of Lord Rickart like he was a monster made flesh, but he was very kind to Rowenna when she returned to the Mire. And me by proxy. He still threatened to lose me in a bog, but I did defile his daughter." He grins, not looking terribly sorry about the defiling.
Bruce snorts. "Eh, the Brackens aren't bad. Except when two groups of lads foraging found eachother." He taps his knuckles against the table. "A few bruises from that. And I don't think you've anything to worry on that part, Jarod. You're their family and they know you're a good sort. Listen, I've to go and tend to my wife I think. I promise in a few days time when she's recovered, you should come over and we'll have that wine and you can meet her."
"Should find my wife as well." Jarod's still new to it enough to get a doofy sort of novelty out of saying 'my wife.' "Someday, we should all the four of us have a very strange dinner together. Miss Lyla can serve us, and we can see how much we can get away with staring at her pretty curves before we're bludgeoned."
"My wife's not a warrior like yours, Jarod, but she'll find a way to slip a knife in between my ribs I think." Bruce laughs, getting up, and extending his hand for a clasp.
Jarod claps Bruce's hand firm and lets the other man go, offering him a parting whistle.