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And Into the Fire

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Rhys fled the castle and strode purposefully toward the Tower. He had only one thing in mind currently, and that was to hear his uncle's explanation of events.

He took the stairs two at a time and burst into the room serving as the impromptu infirmary.

He entered to see Hanley, the Bolton boy that Syndra had rescued, bent over Sewell's bed. He was holding a pillow in his hands.

Although Rhys's jerk reaction was to yell at the boy to stop, he paused instead, still as stone, and watched to see if the boy refuted Hardy hospitality and tried to suffocate the old maester. The crime would be serious and would likely result in Hanley's death and Rhys wanted to make sure that was indeed the lad's intention.

Rhys knew he could be across the room in the space of a heartbeat to stop Hanley. The thought didn't stop his heart from pounding in his chest, though, as he watched.

Hanley hesitated for a long second, as though debating what to do. Then, finally, he moved forward, lifted Sewell's ancient head, and slid the pillow underneath, for support.

Then he turned, and started when he saw Rhys watching him.

"He knocked it off," he said, and ran the tip of his tongue around dry lips. "I ... Did I do right, to put it back? I wasn't sure."

"Beware, lad... Hardy hospitality is not something to thumb your nose at," Rhys warned him, his gaze cold. "Go back to bed now. You shouldn't be up."

Hanley gave a tense nods, and limped away back to his bed.

Sewell was restless, tossing and turning, moaning .... Rhys could see that now.

Rhys crossed the room quickly to attend to the old maester. "Uncle?" he said tentatively as he felt Sewell's forehead for fever with the back of his hand.

Sewell's eyes opened, and they were red-rimmed and rheumy. He stared up at Rhys for a long minutes, and recognition dawned only slowly in he eyes. But when it did, his bony hand reached out to clutch at Rhys's wrist.

"Help ... me!" he said hoarsely.

"How?" Rhys replied. "What's wrong with you? Who hit you? What substance did you ingest?" The questions poured out of him frantically.

"Too much," said Sewell with a groan. "They forced it ... into me ... when they saw what they had done. Perhaps they thought ... a sacrifice ... the tree would fogiven them ... But I could have told them ... it saves ... preserves ... "

"Forced what into you?" Rhys asked with agitation. "I can't help you if I don't know what it is!"

"The sap," Sewell said. "The sap of life ... five drops ... no more. But they forced me ... to drink and lick .... and swallow ... "

His eyes were rolling back in his head.

Gods! A certain amount of relief flooded Rhys--Sewell didn't disfigure the tree, someone else did, and he had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. But who would do such a thing?

Images of what looked like rope bridges in the trees came back to him.

Rhys snapped his attention back to his great-uncle. There wasn't a lot he could do for him at this juncture--he'd gotten Sewell to expel as much of the poison as he could the night before. Whatever it was, it was already in his system, and Rhys had hope that since he'd made it through the night he would survive.

That was the only hope he clung to, for not having encountered this sap before, Rhys had no knowledge of its effects and no antidote for an overdose.

A mystery. He longed to study it--what did Sewell call the substance? The sap of life?--but the weight of responsibility of a room full of wounded hung heavy on him. It would have to wait.

Rhys concocted a generic mixture of herbs and such that might help Sewell--it certainly wouldn't harm him--and enlisted the help of a young girl to try to get it down him slowly by spoonfuls, careful that he didn't start to choke.

That done, he turned his attention back to the room and started making rounds, starting with Ser Godfrey and keeping half-an-eye on Hanley.

Ser Godfrey was sleeping - not without pain, it appeared from a grunt he gave, but his colour was healthy enough, and there was no scent of infection about him. As Rhys approached he stirred, opened his eyes and then frowned at Rhys for a moment, placing him, before giving a brief nod.

"Syndra?" he asked immediately.

"She's away taking messages to Winterfell," Rhys replied. "She'll be back in a couple of weeks, I imagine."

He nodded, and winced. Then he closed his eyes - but his breathing told Rhys he was not asleep. He seemed to be mustering his efforts. "A ... mess," he said finally. "Where is ... Ser Herys?"

"In the dungeons, I assume." Rhys didn't know where Herys was. He'd been so involved with Holdfast folk that he didn't think to ask, and he really didn't want to know anyway--the Boltons were the responsibility of Anders and Kenrith, unless they were sick or injured.

He paused. Strange that he'd not been called to attend to any of them. Surely some of them were injured when the fighting broke out. Where were all the Boltons, anyway?

"Dungeons?" said Ser Godfrey. He sounded bewildered. "Why? He hasn't ... not Syndra ... "

"No, he did nothing to Syndra," Rhys assured him, "but he did order his men to attack after you went down and he struck Lady Celia."

"The Boltons attacked us?" Ser Godfrey sounded puzzled. "At the tournament? When they were outnumbered?"

"Well, Ser Herys ordered the attack on Tamm when it appeared he'd won and that quickly became a free-for-all. At least that's what I remember--it happened quickly and I was preoccupied with keeping you and Syndra safe." Rhys frowned.

"A free for all?" Ser Godfrey was frowning. "What were the results? Where any Holdfast people injured? What about Boltons?"

There was a brisk note in Ser Godfrety's voice, despite his enfeebled condition. Suddenly Rhys could see the man who followed Lord Stark unswervingly, a trusted commander of men.

"We still have control of Holdfast," Rhys replied, laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Don't upset yourself. I'll have Kenrith come talk to you, all right?"

Ser Godfrey nodded without speaking. His face suddenly looked pinched - and very old.

Rhys felt Godfrey's forehead--he didn't expect to find it hot, as there was no scent of infection about him--but he did it just the same. The skin was warm and dry, which was a good sign. "Let me know if the pain bothers you too much," he told Godfrey, "and I'll give you some more poppy."

Rhys stood. He wanted to talk to Godfrey about Syndra, but didn't think this was a good time at all for such a conversation. It would have to keep.

He left Godfrey and started his rounds about the room, looking in on each patient there.

Before he had got very far, a guard hurried into the room.

"Ser Kenrith wishes to see you in the courtyard - immediately," he said, his tone perempitory. And then he disappeared again before Rhys could question him.

Rhys found a servant to keep an eye on things while he was gone--especially on Hanley--and left for the courtyard.

Page last modified on April 18, 2007, at 08:46 PM