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Breakfast with Father

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Godwyn was at some distance, and Rhys and Merivel were speaking with Lady Celia at the other end of the long table, so Syndra and her father had comparative privacy.

He smiled at her, a slightly rueful smile. "How fares my sweetling?" he said.

"Better now that I've rested," she answered, though by the look of her eyes, she did not rest as much as she needed. "I'm still a little in shock though. And I've so much to tell you I fear I should've made a list.

What about you, though? How did the vigil go?" she asked as she daintily sliced her meat.

"As these things usually do," he responded. "Sobering to the spirit. Tedious - and then making one feel guilty for not keeping up the proper respect. Cold. Very cold. If I had known the man, my feelings might have been engaged more." He shrugged. "As it was ... it made me think back ... to the last vigil I stood in Holdfast."

His expression was suddenly bleak.

She smiled at him supportively and touched his arm. "There's no comparison, Papa," she said gently.

He sighed. "No," he said. "No comparison. I think though, being away so long, has made the recollection sharper to me."

It was almost the first time he had spoken to her like this, as though she was an adult rather than a child.

She squeezed his arm tenderly. "I suppose remaining here at Holdfast, I've grown accustomed to the memories. It must be more difficult for you coming back into them." She looked him deep in the eyes, noticing that for the first time, she did not have to look up to do so. "You remember, I'm here whenever you need me," she assured him with a smile.

He managed a tired smile back, then reached down and lifted her hand to his lips.

"Thank you, sweetling."

She changed the subject, hoping to bring him back to the present. "From everything I've heard, this betrothal must have been arranged years ago. Uncle Oswain never told you? You seemed as surprised as I was."

He looked at her, still troubled. "No, Oswain never told me. Perhaps he planned to - but we have seldom been together with the time to speak of such things. It is the custom for the Lord of the House to arrange the marriages of his children; I think he might have held you as precious a charge as his own. But ... a Bolton! And the son of the man who ... "

He shook his head. "I shall see if I can, with honour, draw back. But ..." He hesitated, and then said, "How like you the boy? If you could be always at Holdfast, or our manor?"

Her face twitched with indecision. She wanted to share her suspicions; to reveal her plan to him, but if she did, he might forbid it, and she would not disobey him. Better to say she was sorry later. Instead, she concentrated on his question. "He seemed nice, Papa, but... I don't know. He seems weak around his father. I don't believe he could protect me against Ser Herys, and he's the one I don't trust."

Her father nodded.

"As for the match itself, I can't imagine what Uncle Oswain was thinking. The Boltons harmed Kenrith as well." She paused and shot a quick glance at her aunt talking with the maesters. "Personally, I see Tollet fingerprints all over it," she told him very softly.

"I had my suspicions as well," said her father. "Yesterday, my Lady was very anxious to assure me it was all her Lord's plan. That ... is possible. Oswain believes in his rights - he might well have believed I would be pleased to find you matched. He seemed pleased enough with his work when I saw him yesterday. The curse of it is his illness. If he were well, I could tell him ... "

He broke off suddenly as muffled horns were heard, coming from outside.

"Stark," he said, and then he smiled broadly. "And Manderly. I know who blows that tune."

He rose to his feet. "Come, daughter. Shall we greet an old friend?"

Syndra's wide grin matched his own. "Yes, Father," she said eagerly as she rose and took his arm.

Godfrey escorted his daughter out of the hall and into the courtyard. Syndra's long strides, fueled with her excitement at her friend's arrival, easily allowed her to keep pace with her father. Godfrey, however, might have been surprised at her complete lack of surprise. She seemed to have known the Riverwolf was coming.

But perhaps he was intent on the coming meeting, for he said, as they left the castle, "I wrote to him ere I left Winterfell, asking him to come and lend his support at this time. I feared matters would be hard ... I had no idea ... "

He paused for a moment on the steps, looking towards the gates.

"I did not expect half his army," he said resignedly. Little did he realise that were it not for Leaning Stone, he would have had the other half of the Laughing Knives too, and Killian Snow to boot.

"He does tend to make a splash, doesn't he?" Syndra commented affectionately.

"And he's brought his mistress too," he went on, and there was now a touch of wry amusement in his voice. "Celia is going to be ecstatic." Then they came closer, and Syndra heard her father take a breath. "But ... she's lovely," he said - and there was a note in his voice that she had never heard before - something compounded of longing, and awe.

Syndra's gaze turned to her father, her eyebrow cocked in curiosity. She looked back at the woman, then again at her father. Was it possible? No. Still... She locked several conflicting thoughts away to be considered later and concentrated on greeting her friend and his ... guest?

Page last modified on May 04, 2006, at 07:07 PM