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A Summons For Corryn

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It had been a hard two years.

Ciara Manderly had taken a long time to die. Maesters had saved her after her terrible riding accident - but they could not repair her broken body. For nigh on two years she had lain in her bed in the Keep, alternately raging against the gods and her own impetuous nature that had brought her to this pass. Proud, wilful and passionate she had been in full health, and her husband and stepson had loved her for it. Proud, wilful and passionate she was still - and their hearts ached to know that she would always be in terrible pain - though she would not show it, and that never again would they hear that swift, light step on the stairs, never again would they hear those laughing, imperious commands to follow them as they rode, never again would they see her standing on the deck of a ship, her head thrown back to feel the salt spay on her face, her red curls glittering with droplets of water as though she was wearing a mesh of diamonds.

The Maesters warned that death could come at any time - an infection might set in and carry her off within a few days. And so Corryn Manderly, Riverwolf, found himself trammelled by love, the love for a woman he had never possessed and never would possess.

His father was in silent, agonised despair, never wanting to be apart from his wife for more than a few hours. And yet the exigencies of his duties drove him to take to the sea, chasing down pirates, ensuring that the trading vessels that were the lifeblood of the Manderly fortunes, and the necessity of the North, were able to move in freedom and security. There were days when Corryn took his place, finding some relief in the open water and the stiff breezes. But always he came back to that lavender-scented room, to be greeted by his stepmother, always smiling to see him, even when her sunken eyes were darkened with the pain of a bad day.

Slowly, the Maesters increased the milk of poppy that held the pain at bay - as much as she would let them, for she refused, as she said, to have her wits befuddled as long as she had strength enough to look out of the window at the sun, sparkling on the ever-changing sea. But there were days when the pain was too great even for her spirit, and then she would accept whatever was given with a mute misery that was heart-breaking.

When the end came, it was as swift as the Maesters had promised. She died with her husband's arms around her, and Corryn seated on the bed, holding her hands.

It might be thought that her passing might, in the circumstances, be a relief. But it broke down Ser Marlon entirely. All the strength he had put into keeping his emotions in check for the sake of his dying wife was now lost as he gave way to his grief, and Corryn Manderly became essential not only in supporting his father (a task which, in truth, could be accomplished almost as well by devoted followers such as Ser Demos Porrit), but in taking on his task of overseeing the refortification of White Harbour and in the raids against pirates.

It was a sign of Ser Marlon's slow return to health that he began to quarrel with his heir once more - although it did not make Corryn's life any easier.

But it also was an indication that life was ready to move on once more, and the thing that sealed it was a message, brought overland, and sealed with the familiar seal of Ser Godfrey Hardy.

"My Old Friend," it began.

 "I was saddened to hear of your loss.  Lady Manderly was a bright spirit in 
 this world that is often too dreary.  It is said that the good die young - 
 as did my Morna and our boys.  Believe me, I feel for you and your father, 
 remembering my own pain.

As I remembered mine, Corryn thought grimly, reading the missive with a deepening sense of trepidation. Watching Ciara slowly die had reopened old wounds and inflicted new ones, carving his heart with excruciating sloth and cruelty. But like the forge's flame, the last two years had hardened him into the man he'd become. The impurities that weakened his mettle prior to his return had been refined and cast-off. Death and blood had tamed his wild spirit, and he'd become more like his father than he cared to admit.

He read on.

 "And I fear there is more pain to come.  My brother Oswain, the Lord of 
 Holdfast, has long been ill with a complaint that has defeated the art of 
 the Maesters and now, on a visit to Winterfell, been stricken grievously. 
 It is believed that he will have little time left - which leaves affairs at 
 Holdfast in chaos.  The castle is in the hands of the Tollets - a venomous 
 brood for whom, I know, you have as little love as I have myself.  Kenrith 
 is the heir - but he has been reared at Riverrun and is, moreover, 
 crippled; I fear a Southern upbringing might mean he lacks the strength to
 take on and defeat the Tollets, even with my aid.

 "Will your duties at White Harbour spare you, old friend?  I would welcome 
 your support as I ride to Holdfast and wrestle with the affairs of my House.

 Godfrey Hardy." 

Corryn slammed the parchment down on the table, startling timid Wynafryd so badly that she almost upended her inkpot over the harbor reports. She regarded him from across the table with brown eyes brimming with worry and confusion. He smiled apologetically in return, which appeared to soothe her. Wylis' eldest daughter, Wynafryd had utilized her skills of charm and tactical whining to convince Maester Theomore that she would do well as Corryn's personal secretarie. In truth, he welcomed the additional help, and found her quiet demeanor to be a welcome relief.

However, he couldn't help but wonder if Lady Leona Manderly, Winnie's mother, had a hand in this logistical assignment. They were distant cousins, after all, and a marriage between the two would solidify House Woolfield's ties to White Harbor. He couldn't deny the nineteen year old girl's poise and beauty, a feminine softness that spoke of unrealized sensuality. Unfortunately, although well-versed in courtly pursuits, the girl possessed the personality of a boiled turnip.

"Ser?" she said, concerned. "Bad news from abroad?"

"Aye. You could say that, Winnie," he replied.

Frustrated, Corryn ran his fingers over his head, the trailing locks of yesteryear now replaced with a crop of dark stubble. Godfrey's loyalty to him remained a source of constant amazement. "My Old Friend." Had the man truly never known Corryn had made him a cuckold? Guilt snaked through his chest and squeezed his heart. Such a dear friend he'd been, oh yes. Good enough to bed his wife and watch over his children as if they were his own. No. That had been the Riverwolf. He was Ser Manderly, governor of White Harbor now.

At least, that was what Corryn told himself.

"Winnie, would you be so kind as to tell Ser Demos that I wish to speak with him immediately?" he said, standing up. "And then go to Maester Theomore's library and fetch me every map of the Hardy's holdings you can carry."

Wynafred rose from her chair and stared up at him with doleful eyes. "Ser? Is everything alright?" She touched Corryn's hand, a habit of hers when she thought him angry with her. He sighed faintly. She was growing too fond of him.

"It is the way of the world, Winnie," he said, giving her a chaste kiss on the cheek. "But worry not for me. Now run along, tender sprite." Blushing, she pulled up hem and ran out as quickly as her little feet could carry her.

Corryn walked over to the fire and slid a yellowed parchment from the pocket over his heart. It was folded delicately, but its edges were worn from a hundred readings. A sad smile curled his lips as he opened it. He knew the words by heart, of course, but they comforted him all the same.

 'I of all people understand what you must be feeling now and believe
 me when I say that my heart will be with you.'

"And my heart is with you," he whispered.

He leaned against the warm mantle and closed his eyes. The governor in him knew the ramifications to White Harbor should the Tollets take Holdfast as their own. Logic told him that it was his proper duty to help Godfrey and Oswain's heir retain what was rightfully theirs. But his heart told him that his closest friend was in the deepest danger of all. He would not fail her as he had her mother.

"I'm coming, Little Bear," he said softly, his words a pledge.

It had been four months or more since Corryn engaged in the controlled chaos of preparing for a campaign. Although he did not expect open conflict, he would never underestimate the scope of Celia's greed and Anders' pride. Combined with a taste of power on their forked tongues, the pair was likely to make a grab for Holdfast and its holdings. Godfrey's assessment could not have been more correct. Kenrith would never reach the Wolfwoods before the Tollets reinforced their position. By then, the game would be forfeit.

He'd spoken to his father and Lord Cousin the night before regarding Godfrey's request. It wasn't difficult to persuade them. They had but to look at a map to know the danger this posed to Manderly interests. True, the Tollets were a minor House, but they had strange bedfellows. They were too familiar with the Boltons, in particular; an old adversary of the Manderly family. If the two houses form an alliance, they could effectively cut off the White Knife and all trade with Winterfell and the north. Even Lord Wyman, as far into the cups as he typically was, could see the dangers that posed to their House's investments.

Corryn specifically left out the true reason for his actions. It would only infuriate his father. Stubborn as the man was, he might change his mind solely out of spite. Although he had never pushed his son on the issue, Corryn wondered if Marlon knew of his past.

No matter. The choice had been made and permission given. There was no turning back from this point forward. Corryn had sent word to the Laughing Knives in Rivertown and they had answered his call dutifully. The jaegers had been with him for years, some as far back as Dragonstone. They were unsavory, crude, and sea-touched, but they were also the finest men he had ever served with and brutally efficient. They were also undyingly loyal to one another, especially their captain. This latter characteristic they had proven time and again. Of late, they had been helping Corryn cleanse the Bite of pirates and raiders. Time and again, they had earned their namesake: their laughter being the last sound a man heard before a knife found something tender and important.

Their barges were ready to head north; four knights with squires, supported by thirty spearmen and archers. Not enough to fight a war, but more than enough to support Godfrey's claim should it come to hostilities. They would be leaving in the afternoon, but Corryn wanted to go over his river approach one last time.

"We will push for Winterfell first," he said, demonstrating on the map. "Once Eddard resupplies us, we shall head through the Wolfwoods and approach Holdfast from the northeast."

Phalan scratched his beard and nodded. "Ye don't want them to know ye've come a knockin', eh?"

Corryn smirked, "Not until I need to. We're nothing but shadows until I say. This is Godfrey's play and we are but actors upon his stage. I don't want to force his hand by riding in like the White Cloaks."

"Har. I doubt they'd make that mistake with our lot," Phalan snorted. "But if things turn bad?"

"Then we kill them in their sleep and ask the Maiden for forgiveness come morning."

"Aye," the bear-like man said. He regarded the map further, but found something far more intriguing his ear. He was anxious to get into the field. It was where the man thrived. Corryn decided to elevate his tension.

"Go down to the Spears and get the boys ready to sail. And find Killian if you can. He's probably whoring somewhere."

"That randy tosser? We're bringing him again?"

Corryn smirked, "The boys like his songs and he's a villain with a spear. At least when he's sober. Besides, I promised he could see Winterfell before he died. I owe the bastard that much. He's seeking his death. Better he take a few Tollets with him before he goes."

Ciara's illegitimate 'brother,' Killian had followed her north when she married Marlon. Ever since, he had been a strange uncle, but a protective one. He'd take Ciara's slow decline even harder than her husband. Since that time, he had flung himself into battle with wild abandon and risked all. He would surely kill himself, be it by drink or the sword. Corryn thought it better he die with some dignity left.

"But won't your father be upset if we take him," Phalan asked.

"My father isn't going to know."

"Know what?" a familiar voice snarled. Corryn knew his father was standing in the chamber doors before he even looked up.

"I said you could go on this tomfool errand to Holdfast," said Marlon, conveniently forgetting all Corryn's careful and patient explanations of the sense that it made to go. "I said nothing about you taking Killian, boy! Do you want to see him dead, too?"

Corryn nodded to Phalan. The giant hesitated, his protective nature coming out. Corryn nodded again, "Just make certain we're ready. We aren't stopping until we hit Winterfell and I want no delays." Finally, Phalan left after casting a menacing look at Marlon.

Corryn began rolling up his maps for storage in their waterproof tubes. "Father, Killian is his own man and my uncle. I am not so callous as to wish him dead. Indeed, that is exactly why I'm taking him. He has been dying ever since mother fell. Only he's been doing it at the bottom of a bottle."

He smiled weakly at his father, "Would you rather see him stumbling around Rivertown or singing songs with my men and having something to live for?"

"Dammit," roared his father, "do you mean to remove everyone she cared about?"

He was silent then, gazing at Corryn, perhaps appalled at what he had revealed of his emotions. Then he turned away abruptly. "Do what you want. You always do."

Bollocks and damnation, Corryn muttered to himself. He had been where his father was now. He understood that loss all too well. To see the old salt like this broke his heart. For years he had despised his father. On many levels he still did and always would. But seeing him undergo the torments of watching Ciara die had softened his spite. And the man was his father and he loved him.

He walked over to the man, resting his hand on Marlon's shoulder. "Father," he said. "She would not want her foolish Snow to abandon his fire. Such a spirit should not fade away like smoke, but burn out like the desert sun. He needs to find his peace again.

"We all do," he added quietly. His fingers squeezed the man's shoulder, lending him strength.

"I will watch for him, father," Corryn said.

His father nodded, curtly, moving abruptly away from the physical touch.

"Don't allow yourselves to be killed," was all he said. It was his form of a tearful farewell blessing.

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, WhiteHarbor

Page last modified on March 20, 2006, at 10:13 PM