A Cause to Champion
"Perhaps now you should leave Lord Hardy to rest," said Sewell.
Ser Godfrey nodded. "Lady Celia," he said. "After you."
He moved to hold open the door, and nodded to Godwyn to accompany them.
Lady Celia moved quickly down the hallway and turned. Then her gasp rang out.
She was staring at Syndra, silhouetted in the window alcove, with Rhys' hands resting on her shoulders, while they gazed deep into each other's eyes.
Ser Godfrey stiffened behind his sister-in-law.
Godwyn came to a stop behind Ser Godfrey, and looked puzzled.
Syndra heard Celia's gasp and turned. When she saw her father behind Celia, she called out and ran to him, hugging him tightly. Though she was no longer crying, Godfrey could see she had been recently.
Rhys straightened. "Ser Bolton, he made...advances on Syndra. She was not harmed. I'm sorry...the water is here...Syndra was crying and I wanted to make sure she was all right..." Normally very self-possessed, Rhys looked out-of-sorts. He ran a hand over his face, frowned, then turned to retrieve the water.
"He did WHAT?" Godwyn roared. He stepped forward, his fists clenching. "There's a Bolton here, and he dared do this? Where is he? WHERE?"
"WAIT!" Sir Godfrey's voice cut through the air like a whip - a voice used to commanding on the field of battle, and used to being obeyed. In a quieter but no less forceful voice he continued, "If a wrong has been done here, it falls to me, not you, to right it."
He looked at Godwyn for a moment, a measured, level gaze.
Godwyn met his eyes, his face contorting. Then he gave a quick nod, and looked back to Syndra. His hands did not unclench, and his shoulders betrayed the tension and anger he still felt.
Then he moved Syndra slightly further away, looking at her face intently while keeping his hands on her shoulders. "Is this true, my daughter? The Maester was not mistaken in what he saw? This is the gravest of charges, Syndra, and, if made, must be answered." His voice stressed the gravity of what he was saying. Lady Celia's hand went to her throat.
Syndra was aware of the severity of the charge and she didn't want her father acting on something that might have been just her reaction to fear. So she composed herself with a deep breath, looked her father in the eye and related the events as objectively as she could.
"I was showing Master Eryk the rooms for the Bolton party," she began. "Ser Herys entered the room and dismissed him. I tried to take my leave as well, but he was standing in front of the door, blocking it. We spoke and he started walking toward me, talking about paying a debt to the Hardys.
"Then he said..." her voice started to tremble, "I was a 'spirited little thing' and he was 'thinking about renegotiating the debt here and now'. He reached out like he..." she cringed "like he wanted to put his arms around me. I... I got scared and tried to run away, but... but he grabbed me by the hair and pulled me back. Then Rhys came in and he let me go." She looked down at the floor as the tears started again. "I just ran then. Rhys found me here." She nodded toward the window.
Ser Godfrey nodded slowly.
Godwyn growled under his throat, clearly considering this serious enough to merit a violent answer.
Ser Godfrey half-lifted a hand from Syndra's shoulder to still him, and then lowered it again, his eyes never leaving his daughter's face.
"And you are sure, Syndra, that his intent towards you was ... " He hesitated, clearly searching for a word that would be in her vocabulary. "Unseemly. That he meant to ... harm you?"
He looked towards Rhys now for confirmation.
"I cannot ... I must not challenge him unless you can assure me of that," he said.
"I believe he meant to," Rhys affirmed, unsmiling. "He was blocking her from leaving the room and tried to catch her in an embrace when I saw them from the doorway. Syndra ducked under his arm and he grabbed her by the hair and yanked her back. That's when I spoke up.
"Had I not been there to intervene, I do not know how far Ser Herys would have taken the situation. He may claim it was only in jest, and that she misinterpreted his actions."
Rhys's eyes flicked from Ser Godfrey to Syndra and his voice softened. "However, there was no mistaking the tension in Syndra's voice as she responded to the Ser's comments. She was uncomfortable with the situation."
There was the sound of mailed feet hurrying on stone - and then Kenrith came round the corner, two armed men in his wake - one in the livery of Tully, the other clearly a sellsword.
"Kenrith," murmured Lady Celia, with a palpable wince. She advanced towards his, a gracious smile once more one her face. "Welcome home to Holdfast, Ser Kenrith."
Syndra smiled at Kenrith, promising a true welcome once the present business was finished.
Rhys appeared happy but unsurprised to see him.
Kenrith took in all of them with the ghost of a smile on his face. His eyes, though, were hard.
Ser Godfrey acknowledged his arrival with a nod, his hands still resting on Syndra's shoulders. "Ser Kenrith. Your father is sleeping - unless all this row has awakened him once more. Perhaps Lady Celia should show you to your rooms."
Little hard lines formed around Lady Celia's eyes, but the smile did not so much as flicker.
"Of course," she agreed.
"Then I agree I should not disturb him now... but I have also heard Godwyn and seen the banners in the courtyard. Has the hospitality of Holdfast been violated?"
"That," said Lady Celia, "is what we are attempting to discover. Ideally without disrupting my poor husband's much-needed rest."
Rhys took this moment of distraction to slip past the crowd and back into Lord Hardy's room.
Syndra watched him go, then turned back to her father. "What Rhys said is correct, but I can't be absolutely certain about Ser Bolton's intentions, Father," Syndra explained honestly. "I know what I thought they were, but it's possible I was frightened and misread him. He never actually touched me until he grabbed my hair and I did rather shove him as I tried to run."
She looked up at Godfrey with concern. "Perhaps it would be best not to confront him right now. But I don't want to be left alone with him," she shook her head vehemently. "I don't want that man near me ever again.
His arms tightened on her as he drew her close to him once more.
"Why is he here, Father? Do you know?"
Kenrith turned and looked at his uncle. Clearly, this was a question he wished to hear answered as well. While he did not strike it against his leg, he showed his agitation as he twirled his helm in little circles by his side. He watched Syndra, but did not stare at her.
"I don't know," said Ser Godfrey. "But I am beginning to have my suspicions." He looked hard at his sister-in-law. "I think we should speak together. And Kenrith too, perhaps."
"We should speak," she agreed.
"For the moment," said Ser Godfrey, "Godwyn - can you act as bodyguard to your cousin? Don't let her from your sight for a second." He looked at Godwyn, considering, and then added, "And if anyone does approach her, don't kill them. Just glower. And send someone to alert me.
"Aye," Godwyn said. Then he added, "Kenrith, it's good to have you back where you belong."
"Yes. We should talk later, and catch up. Someone should also watch after Edlyn, for similar reasons... perhaps you and Syndra could look for her? I believe she was heading out as I came in," Kenrith suggested as he moved to Godwyn's side and gave him a brief one-armed hug.
"Now, let's withdraw to somewhere where we won't disturb my brother," said Ser Godfrey. "Or trip over Boltons. Is there anywhere we can accomplish that?"
"The solar is perhaps more public than we wish. Has my old room been repurposed, or should we try to meet there?" Kenrith asked.
"I believe my daughter and your cousin have prepared it suitably for you," said Lady Celia. "We can certainly go there."
Kenrith then turned to Mal and Garyn. "Mal, if Jayne is finished with the horses, perhaps you both should find some rooms. Ask Rhyk to find you some, and let me know if there is a problem... Garyn, I expect your companions chose the Goose and Gander. If they didn't, you ought to ask for them first... again, let me know if there is any trouble and thank everyone for me. I'll be by before you all are off to the North."
The two men nodded, and left. Both seemed eager to be away from the tense situation.
Ser Godfrey held his daughter close before releasing her again. "Syndra - stay with Godwyn. I need to get to the bottom of this. And when we do, I shall come and find you."
She squeezed his hand before releasing him. "Yes, Father."