Aftermath in Holdfast
Four months had passed since the summer fever attack, and Kenrith and Godwyn were once more in their room.
They were awake this time - it was not so very late in the evening. But after supper, their father had withdrawn, as was now his wont in the continued absence of his wife, to his own rooms, Ser Anders going with him - so they could both drink and talk (if their morning appearance was any indication).
Ser Godfrey had withdrawn to his own manor with his daughter, so the boys no longer had Syndra for company, and it seemed at times as though they were falling into a state of neglect, for even Maester Sewell was away, having travelled south to the Ciitadel to present his findings about the summer fever attack, and see what fresh information he could learn. So they were left without supervision, without even lessons - for Kenrith was adjudged too weak still to train, and no-one seemed to be worrying overmuch about Godwyn - or perhaps they felt it would be inappropriate to rain him rather than his brother.
So the boys were left like young puppies, to tumble about as they pleased, but left without direction and training.
Godwyn had spent almost every waking moment since the attack of fever with his brother. He had always worshipped Kenrith with a younger brother's fanaticism, but now it seemed as though he had also transferred the devotion he had felt for Gavrin to his brother.
This night he was lying stretched out on the floor with his collection of ancient stone arrow heads into battle formations, trying to recall how Eddard Stark had arranged his troops at the Battle of the Bells.
In large part, Kenrith was greatful for his younger brother's company, but his continued hero-worship made Kenrith feel slightly guilty. He had tried time and again to encourage Godwyn to run off and play when he found himself exausted, as was often the case.
The lack of training of any sort frustrated him greatly, especially since it meant Godwyn would be held back. He tried to remember his earlier lessons and repeat them by rote for his brother, but the results were dubious at best. At times, he would work on his letters... but like all Hardies, he had no great love of books.
Tonight, as had been the case many nights in the past, he was secretly trying to train. He was laying on the cold floor, feet shoulder width apart, with his good arm underneath his chest... trying to do a one-armed pushup. As usual, he was not making much progress. The Maester had cautioned him about overexerting himself... but he refused to be bedridden for the rest of his life, even if there seemed to be nothing he could do about it on his own.
At the sound of approaching footfalls, Kenrith rose to his knees and dusted himself off before pulling his tunic on back over his head. As had become customary, his left arm was slung up underneath.
It was some time after supper that the knock came on the door and Egbert, Lord Oswain's private squire came in.
"Your Lord Father wishes to see you in his rooms," he said to Kenrith, politely - but with that certain stiffness people had developed since the fever and the heir's crippling.
Kenrith frowned, then nodded as he adjusted his belt and ran his fingers through his tussled hair. "Both of us, or just me?" Kenrith asked as he looked to Godwyn.
Godwyn remained on the floor, rolling over onto his side to stare up at Kenrith and Egbert over the massed battle lines of arrow heads.
Godwyn remained on the floor, rolling over onto his side to stare up at Kenrith and Egbert over the massed battle lines of arrow heads.
"Just you, Master Kenrith. His Lordship didn't say anything about your brother," said the squire.
Godwyn turned his attention back to his arrowheads and began moving them around again. Only someone paying close attention would have noticed that he was moving them around randomly now, no longer bothering to try to follow the course of the battle.
"Very well then," Kenrith said as he motioned for the squire to precede him as he walked to the door. Kenrith knew full well his brother would probably follow and listen, if not enter the room along with... for he certainly hadn't been told not to attend. If he chose to continue to play at battle, Kenrith wouldn't have minded that either.
Godwyn waited until they had both left the room before he rose and quietly followed behind them.
Without looking back, Kenrith scratched his back then made an unmistakable "thumbs up" gesture to whomever was quietly following behind him, if there was anyone there at all...
They reached the door of the rooms were Lord Oswain conducted business, and his squire knocked. Clearly they were expected, for a voice at once responded, "Come in!"
The squire opened the door and Kenrith saw his father seated at one end of a long table - and looking weary. Ser Anders Tollet was standing, and leaning over the back of a chair close to him, as though he had until very recently been in deep conversation with Lord Oswain.
His father beckoned Kenrith to take another seat, not quite so close to him and opposite Ser Anders, who switched the intensity of his gaze to Kenrith.
"Kenrith," say his father with rather too much heartiness. "How does your arm?"
"It is much the same father. While the rest of my strength returns, it hangs from my shoulder like... like a piece of meat," he said, starting off strong but faltering near the end.
Lord Oswain sighed.
"I feared as much," he said.
"Your father," said Ser Anders, "is afraid that you will never recover your full strength while you stay in these Northern climes. He believes a more southern land would aid your recovery better."
Lord Oswain was not meeting Kenrith's eyes now, staring down into the goblet he was cradling between his hands.
"Southern," he said. "Yes."
Kenrith looked from one man to the other. "I'm not sure why that would be. Are you trying to spare me from some other reason? Everyone looks at me differently now... is it because they are afraid I'll make them sick, or because they -pity- me... why?" Kenrith asked with a measured note of anger in his voice. He was in good control of himself, but clearly bore a great deal of angry fire underneath the surface.
Godwyn watched until the squire either entered the room or left, and then crept quietly to stand next to the doorway with his back to the wall. He listened intently to the voices from inside the room.
The Squire bowed to the Lord and, responding to an easy gesture, promptly withdrew from the room, and moved away without seeing Godwyn.
Once he had moved close to the wall, Godwyn found he could hear his father's voice quite clearly.
And Godwyn could hear his brother and Ser Anders as well, he discovered.
Godwyn listened quietly, imaging the expressions on everyone's face from the way they talked. Ser Anders he imagined as smug, gloating over Kenrith's weak arm.
His father he pictured as he had been recently in
Kenrith's presence, refusing to look directly at him, eyes wandering. And Kenrith, he imagined standing with eyes blazing and expression controlled, like a wolf at bay, watching for his chance to strike.
"People don't think you'll make them sick," said his father. "Well, not the ones with any sense."
"But they do pity you, Kenrith," said Ser Anders, with unusual gentleness. "And while you remain here, they will make allowances for your disability, for your ... weakness. You'll never find a fair fight in Holdfast if you stay - people will yield to you lest you hurt yourself. But in the South ... "
"I was going to send your brother for fostering," said Ser Oswain abruptly. "Ser Desmond Grell, you mother's brother, was to have taken him in at Riverrun. Now ... he's said he'll take you instead. Build up your strength and skill."
"And once I leave... Godwyn will be trained again? He's not been trained since I couldn't be?" Kenrith asked querulously.
"He's been ill too," said Ser Anders. "But ... yes. It did seem wrong to train the younger without the elder."
He looked at Lord Oswain as he spoke - a slightly furtive look. Perhaps the explanation was simpler than that. Perhaps Godwyn had simply been overlooked and forgotten.
"Godwyn will have his training," said Lord Oswain heavily. "There's always been a Hardy on the wall - and he will be properly prepared."
"Did you expect me to object? I don't want to leave home... but I need to train. When do I leave?" Kenrith asked. His thougths were of Godwyn and Syndra, Rhys and the others of the castle who he would leave behind... but also of his mother, whose brother would give him the training he needed.
Godwyn listened in the dark hallway as he heard his future being planned.
"There's a rade caravan leaving from Winterfell next moonrise," said Ser Anders. "If you leave here in two days' time, you could join that, and have protection all the way south to Riverrun."
Lord Oswain looked up at his Master of Arms as though he was about to object ... but then he looked down and gave a curt nod.
"Two days'. Yes. Best ... a clean parting. No time to brood."
It was unclear whether he was expecting Kenrith to brood or himself.
"Then I shall have to write Syndra a letter, I think. She isn't liable to be back in two days, I take it? How long does one foster for... as long as it takes, I understand, but not withstanding that?" Kenrith said as he focused on what he really wanted... to be strong. There would be time for regret at parting later.
"You will be away some years," said Ser Anders. "Until ... until you are fully trained, perhaps to the knighthood."
"There will be times when you will come home though!" said Lord Oswain. There seemed to be some struggle going on inside him between his affection for his heir and something else ... something that Kenrith sensed but did not see clearly. "Visits ... "
"Oh yes," said Ser Anders, "That would certainly be possible - if conditions were right."
He spoke as though there was something significant there and Lord Oswain gave a sigh. "Indeed." Then he roused himself in his seat. "But yes ... certainly you must write to Syndra and bid her farewell, poor child."
"Poor," said Ser Anders, "for the moment."
Again there was that sense of a conversation going on between the grown ups which he was not privy to.
Godwyn frowned in the hallway. Adult conversations were always so baffling. He knew that there was something important that they weren't saying, but he couldn't understand what it could be.
Kenrith didn't have a much better idea of what was going on, but he did have some idea of how to ask so as to not get into too much trouble. "Is there anything else, father?" he asked with a slightly leading tone. He didn't think it would work, but it was his best shot.
"No, no," said Lord Oswain. "You may go, Kenrith. Wouldn't do to overtask yourself, would it?"
He spoke with a certain forced heartiness that seemed in part compunded of relief that the difficult interview was over.
Kenrith frowned and nodded, rising from the table while using one hand for leverage against its edge. He sketched an appropriate bow to his father and step-uncle, then turned and walked towards the door he had enterred through. He was certainly less than pleased that they wouldn't answer his question, but there was little he could do... but when he returned a man, he would get his answers.
As he approached the door, he paused to rattle the handle for a moment before opening it. His footfalls had been nearly silent on the thick carpeting which kept out the cold in the chamber, and if by some freak chance Godwyn had found himself on the other side of the door with his ear pressed up against it so that he might hear what was said within, he did not want to bowl him over or reveal him to the adults inside.
Godwyn moved a few steps away from the door at the sound of the rattle, and waited for his brother to pass him before following him down the hallway.
Turning to face his brother after he had walked a short distance up the corridor, he said "So you heard that they'll begin training you again? They promised..." with a face which was both sad and hopeful.
"I'm to be trained so that I may take my place on the Wall one day," Godwyn said. He stared into his brother's eyes. "I won't go there until you don't need me any more, though."
"That is a long way away," Kenrith said with the sadness momentarily dominating his expression. "Perhaps it will be another Hardy who serves at the Wall... but either way, a life of arms will suit you, I think," he said as he smiled at the thought of an adult Godwyn knocking lancers from their mounts with little more than his fierce intensity.
"I will miss you, brother," he said as he stopped and turned. Sobbing and sniffling would be a bit much, but he did clasp Godwyn close with one arm and a sad smile.
Godwyn threw both his arms around his brother and buried his face in his chest.
"Watch out for Syndra as well, while she's around... well, I don't need to tell you what to do, its just that she was so sad when we last saw her. They mean for me to leave soon... and I need to pack," he said as he released his brother and walked with him along the hall. He was paying more attention to Godwyn than the hall, but as it was his home he was in little danger of tumbling down the stairs or bumping into the extra beam which helped hold the floor straight above them.
"I will help you pack," Godwyn declared. "You'll need a squire to help you when you get to Riverrun, but I can be your squire until you leave here."
Godwyn helped Kenrith to pack, and Kenrith set his words to Syndra to paper.
Years later, all Kenrith could recall about what he wrote was that it had been something like 'Sorry I am forced to leave before you returned. I am going to Riverrun to train with mother's brother, Ser Grell. May The old gods keep you. Kenrith,' although he also knew his youthful hand had thought it a terribly long letter to write.