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An Unconventional Match

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When morning came, she rose finally from her seat and made the sign of the Seven - first to her mother's still corpse - and then to Corryn. It was only when she frowned and repeated it that he realised she wanted him to fetch the Septon.

"Of course," he said, rising slowly. His bones and muscle protested, having sat in one place for so long. He nodded to her again and wandered out of the castle in search of the old septon. In the dawn's light, it finally struck him as odd that Killian had yet to return.

It was as he was going down the stairs to the Sept that he heard the sound of horses in the courtyard.

That drew his immediate attention and he hurried his pace.

It was Killian and the company of the Laughing Knives. The gate guards, acknowledging Killian and the Manderly sigil, had let them through and were watching from an awed distance. The Laughing Knives were looking around Leaning Stone, not overly impressed by what they were seeing. Killian was grim-faced and perhaps more sober than Corryn had ever seen him. He dismounted and came striding across toe where Corryn was standing.

"We need to talk," he said. "Privately. Now."

Corryn nodded and gestured for the man to walk with him. "Of course. You can tell me on the way to the sept. I'm making final preparations for your sister."

Once out of earshot of the others, Corryn narrowed his eyes. "If you tell me he got away…" He bit his lip to suppress the rest of the statement. The expression on his face spoke for him. He had been a murderous mood much of the night.

"He didn't get away," said Killian. "And he suffered for what he did. Death came as a relief to him. But as for you ... Do you even begin to realise what you've done?"

Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, he swung a powerful blow at Corryn's jaw, a blow designed to send him crashing into the pile of mouldy straw behind him.

Caught off guard, Corryn spun off his feet and sprawled onto the straw in a dusty tangle. He lay there, stunned for a moment, staring up at his uncle with dazed eyes. But soon the pain cut through his exhaustion and made the world very clear and sharp. He let Killian rant, patiently waiting for the man to get closer to him.

"You've planted the name of Snow on those children - the stigma of bastardy! You've stripped them of all honour, all status, all hope! Do you know how it feels to live your life under that stigma? The boy ... yes, he might win his way through by feats of arms. But what of the girl? What of my niece? What man will look at a penniless Snow dependent on the Riverwolf's charity?"

With serpentine speed, Corryn snapped his legs between Killian's. He scissored them viciously to trip the man's legs up beneath him, his knees folding painfully. Cracking his tailbone on the ground, Killian yelped like wounded animal. It allowed Corryn the time he need to get to his feet and back away defensively.

"You short-sighted fool," Corryn hissed, tasting blood. "I was protecting them."

He pressed the back of his hand to his mouth, wiping away crimson. The exhaustion and spite from the last hours came rushing out, transforming his voice into a growl. "If Cerwyn had lived, he would return for them. Use them to further his greed. And it would be his right to do so. He might be dead, but he still has family, damn you! You don't think they'd claim the boy as their own? Or the girl? They'd be chattel and we'd be helpless to defend them.

"That son of a whore sold this land to the Boltons. Did you know that? How long do you think that girl would last in the hands of Roose or his son? Because they'd surely claim her as compensation for their losses here. Would you leave her to their tender mercies? This cesspit is virtually Sunspear compared to the Dreadfort."

The growl softened to a low voice, "We can now claim them as our own. They might be Snows, but they will still be Manderlys. I can arrange for a good marriage for her. And if I can't… I'll take her for a wife.

"As for the boy, he can become a captain in our navy. A merchant. A noble. He can make his fortune away from this place. He will have a family and lands and they will be his and his alone."

He threw his hands up in the air, howling with frustration. "Bollocks and damnation! There is more to this world than a name, uncle. Maybe if you'd crawl out of your bottle for awhile, you'd see that."

"And if you'd walked in my shoes," said Killian Snow grimly hauling himself back to his feet, "you'd see that most of the world sees the name before they see the man and long, long before the see the woman who walks behind it. You wear your Manderly lightly, nephew. Yet it runs in the heart of you, in the core of you. Why else have you given up two years of your life to serve your father and your house? Oh, aye, Ciara played a part in that choice too. But you're Manderly. It's the bedrock of your nature, the source of the pride in your eyes and the lift of your head. And it comes not by gift or favour. It comes by birth. By the blood that flows in your veins. You can call these orphans Manderlys till your face is blue, but the world will see Snows. The world will see what their father declared them to be.

"Cerwyn was dead from the moment I set my eyes on Lilith - and you knew it. His family ... my claim to them is as good as theirs, and they'd see the back of two landless drainings on the family purse. There'd have been no opposition. As for the Boltons ... a day's ride would have brought us back to Winterfell - do you believe Lady Catelyn would have refused them as fosterlings when you told a tale as would melt her heart? Don't you believe that she has the strength to stand up to the Boltons? But now ... can we take Snows to Winterfell and expect to see them made welcome?"

"Lady Stark may have a soft heart, nuncle, but Eddard does not." Corryn said flatly, "And it would be his decision, not hers. He is stubborn and unyielding. He follows the rules of law to his own detriment. If the Boltons demanded the girl, he would willingly hand her over and that would be the end of it and of her."

"Lord Stark has a sense of law. He also has a sense of honour - and that would not be pleased to see one of his banner lords profit from another by gambling," said Killian. "He'd have punished Cerwyn. He wouldn't have taken it out on the children."

Corryn shrugged, not convinced yet. "I didn't say he would. But he wouldn't stop the Boltons from taking claim to this place either. You don't know him like I do. I served with the man. And the Boltons can be far more convincing than a mute girl and starving babe."

He cast his gaze to the south, frowning. "Besides," he said coldly, "There are enough Snows in Winterfell as it is for the Starks' liking."

Corryn sat down on bale of straw, spitting the last of the blood from his mouth. "And that's if the Boltons allow them to live. If they maintain their name, the Boltons merely have to dangle some coin in front of these men and the boy will die in his crib. The girl will have an unfortunate fall. And all that is truly theirs will be gone. Lilith's death will be for naught. And do you truly want those two saddled with the Cerwyn name? A man that robbed a sept. A man that let his wife starve to death. A man with debts to everyone he could sell his soul to. They would be forever marked by that name. It would be better they are Snows."

Corryn cocked his head and smiled darkly. "Besides, in a few years' time, these children will be forgotten. The septon will be dead and the men-at-arms not loyal to us will be on the Wall. We can weave a story befitting their true ancestry. The girl is of Dornish blood, a descendant of Sunspear. Men of the North will give up their first born sons for such a woman. And she will have a suitable dowry. I can promise you that."

He stood up and dusted himself off, "A name is as much of a curse as it is a blessing, Killian. If we claim them as our own, the children will be safe. If we renounce the contract, this castle falls to the Boltons and the children will be murdered or disappear. It is an inevitability. So I leave it to you. Shall you condemn them to an uncertain future for the matter of pride? Or will you swallow your own and let them live out their lives in peace?"

"Now," he growled, "I promised to fetch the septon for the girl so we can bury her mother. For one so fixated on matters of family, I would think you'd believe that more important right now.

"I don't concern myself overmuch with thoughts of the dead when there's the living to be considered," said Killian. "And all your bragging and grandiose reasons come down to this - the children are now dependent on your favour for the clothes on their backs and the food in their mouths. And don't preach at me about the unimportance of a name. Save it to tell to Lilith's daughter when she sees the girls ingnore her or the young men think they can take her with impunity because she's only a Snow."

This gave Corryn pause and his body appeared to deflate. He sank forward, rubbing his red, puffy eyes. "They are dependant on my favor now, Killian," he said through his hands. "The men-at-arms had a nice discussion about killing them and taking this place for their own. Oh yes. Wonderful chaps. I'm lucky they didn't hang me from something after you left."

He straightened up and nodded, "But you're right. You're right. I would not see the girl harmed thusly. Not her." His voice betrayed an emotion he'd not felt for some time. A part he'd almost forgotten.

Corryn planted his hand on Killian's shoulder. "They will always be Cerwyns, nuncle. They will always be Lilith's children. Namesakes are forever. And when we're ready to hold off the wolves at our door, we can give them back their name. Yes? I will burn the contract. No one will question it. After all, the man was a renowned liar. I can act as regent until the boy is of age. In this place, we can build the beginnings of a new family. Considering the amount of money I'll be putting into this pit, it seems as good a place as any to begin a new life.

"But let me deal with the Boltons first. Once I've wrested this place from their grip, the danger is gone. Until then, we need to move carefully. For both them."

Killian straightened, and then pulled down his jacket, preparatory to his meeting with the Septon.

"What's her name, by the way? Lilith was too weak to tell me, but she wanted the boy named Arrys."

"I don't know," he said sadly, as they walked. "I wish I did though. She is…" He paused and blushed. "She is a strong woman. I think Cerwyn stole her voice when he…beat her too severely. And your sister. The girl was forced to watch it. I'm sorry, my friend."

They soon arrived at the rundown shack that had been the former Sept. For Corryn it was a relief. He felt as if he needed to be cleansed of his sins.

The Septon greeted them a little vaguely. It was clear that his elderly wits were wandering somewhat, but the importance of the occasion had not been lost on him, for he had made some feeble efforts to tidy up the place.

"And which of you is the happy man?" he asked tremulously as they entered.

Corryn raised an eyebrow. It was an odd turn of phrase. But he was senile after all. "If you mean who has acquired this place," Corryn said, "That would be me. We met briefly yesterday. This is Ser Killian, Lady Lilith's brother."

He looked around the building and sighed deeply. Cerywn had certainly worked his cruel ways on the sept. It would take a significant effort to return it to its former glories. "Although we will have to discuss the matters of reconstruction, there are more pressing matters, ser. The lady of the house requires your presence, so we might put her mother to rest. We are to escort you up to the keep. Is there anything we can carry or help you with?"

"Put her mother's mind to rest," echoed the Septon. "Ah. Is the young lady ... ah ... expecting the happy event? Perhaps we should say the blessing to the Mother, not the Maiden ... "

"He thinks you wish him to marry you to the girl," growled Killian, not without a certain sardonic humour.

Corryn sighed faintly, pinching the space between his eyes where a migraine had begun to form. "No, father," he said, talking a little louder now. "As honored as I'd be to marry the girl, that's not why I'm here. Lady Lilith died during the night. Her daughter and I sat in vigil over her last night. Now we need to bury her with the proper rituals. Can you please help us with the funeral for Lady Lilith?"

"And she is still a maiden," he added for good measure.

"Lady Lilith a maiden?" said the Septon. He shook his head. "Oh no, no, I do not think so. Why, she must have borne upwards of seven children, you know. But they all died ... save the first. They say she's had another one ... And now she's died? Poor, poor Lady."

He turned away to light the candles that would reflect upon the cracked crystal.

Corryn nursed the ball of tension at the back of his neck. It seemed a better thing to do than strangle the Septon, but didn't offer quite half as much relief. "Yes, quite true," he relented, knowing full well that an explanation would simply muddle things up all the more.

"Thank you," he said. "Shall we bring her body here or you to her?"

Corryn glanced over at Killian, smirking. "And stow your remarks. I'd make her a good husband."

The Septon turned. "You wish to marry the dead woman? But that would be irregular ... most irregular."

"Unless," said Killian quietly, "you wished to claim her children as your own."

"I…" Corryn began, then stopped at Killian's suggestion. "What?! I mean, yes, I had intended something along those lines when I wrote the contract, but I sense you mean more. Won't that only strengthen our claim that they're Snows? Forgive me, but I haven't slept since Winterfell."

"I believe," said Killian, "that if you could persuade the Septon their mother was still alive, and merely on the point of death, he would marry you and you could legitimise the children as Manderlys. It would, I agree, be somewhat unusual. And probably not too popular with your father.

Corryn's jaw fell open and his tongue flopped in his mouth like a beached fish. He stared at his uncle for a moment, wide-eyed and dumbfounded. But then the gears began to work in his head, calculating the various angles and factors that such a suggestion held. It would, after all, solve each and every one of their problems. Once married, he could simply tear up the contract and accept the regency with full legal rights. Most importantly, the children would be safe and legitimate.

"Ciara, of course ... might have felt differently." He shrugged. "Or we can just plant her in the crypt and ride on to Holdfast."

Corryn narrowed his eyes, "Oh, ill played, nuncle. Don't twist my thoughts by mentioning mother. I know her feelings already. And as for guilt… I need no more added to my collection."

"You wish to bury someone alive?" said the Septon in horror. "In my crypt?"

Corryn gazed up at the ceiling in exasperation, balling his fists. Killian's plan could work. It certainly wouldn't add to his stellar popularity, but they could pull it off. "Bollocks and damnation," he muttered.

"No. Not yet, sir," he said to the septon. "I've been informed Lady Lilith may still live, but not for long. I won't have her children thrown out onto the street. Would you marry us, so I might raise her children should she die today? If she dies, then we'll bury her."

He glanced at Killian, "You'd better keep the girl out of the room while he does it, nuncle. She's been traumatized enough. I was just getting through to her. Slowly, but surely. I doubt it'd help her trust much to see me marrying her mother right now."

Corryn ran his fingers over his stubbed head and sighed mournfully. "I'm going to hell for this," he muttered. Then he shrugged with a wolfish smirk, "Was there any doubt?"

Categories: WinterChills, WinterChillsGameLogs

Page last modified on March 24, 2006, at 09:00 PM