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Dinner at Holdfast

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Dinner was served in the Great Hall. Two long tables ran the length of the room for the accommodation of smallfolk and servants (apart from those required to cook and serve). At the head of this was the high table, where the Lord and his kin sat. Unless there were noble visitors whose rank meant that they filled the spaces at the High Table, it was the custom for those of rank who served the Lord to eat here too - the Maester, the Captain of the Guard (although Ser Anders' noble birth qualified him for a place over and above this) and the Steward.

A visiting Maester would certainly be included at the High Table unless there were other visitors. But today the only members of the family at home were Godwyn, who took his father's place, and Syndra, who took the place of Lady Hardy.

There was no formal entrance to the Hall on such a day - people arrived when and where they would.

Rhys arrived in the Great Hall with another man who, from the scuttlebut making the rounds, must be the visiting Maester from Clearwater. He led the man to the High Table and made introductions.

"My Lord and Lady Hardy," Rhys said, smiling, "may I introduce you to Maester Merivel from Clearwater. Merivel, this is Lordy Hardy's son Godwyn and his niece Syndra." Rhys nodded to Godwyn and Syndra, then winked at Syndra.

Merivel was a dark haired man, curly, who dressed relatively well for a Maester, perhaps betraying more than common origins. He bowed to the High Table's occupants.

"My lord, it is a pleasure to meet you and I thank you for the hospitality of Holdfast." Merivel begin. "My lady, it is a pleasure to meet you."

Godwyn, a tall broad-shouldered young man of fifteen or so, had been intent on his dinner and not noticed Rhys and his guest as they approached. He had just taken a large bite of meat as Rhys began speaking, and he looked up with a startled expression.

Syndra smiled as the two approached. At Rhys's wink, though, the smile twitched slightly and she turned her attention fully to Merivel. Syndra stood and extended a long, shapely hand to greet him. "Maester Merivel, welcome to Holdfast. We're so pleased to have you share our meat and mead."

Syndra Hardy was about fourteen years old and pretty in a mismatched sort of way. Her face was a bit too small for her features, but her blue eyes sparkled with spirit and her wide, easy smile made one feel welcome. Her light brown hair cascaded in soft curls over her slender shoulders, and when she stood, she was a bit taller than Merivel might have expected.

Merivel took the offered hand and bowed over it. "A pleasure, lady." he said softly.

Syndra nodded sweetly in acknowledgment and looked to Godwyn expectantly.

Godwyn swallowed, his meat not yet fully chewed, and suddenly began to choke. He reached out for a large flagon of ale, managing to knock it over, spilling ale over the table top.

Rhys reached for someone else's cup--he wasn't picky about whose--and handed it to Godwyn. As long as Godwyn was still breathing, he let him cough and drink his way through it.

Syndra, meanwhile, called for a servant to bring something to dry the table, then placed her hand gently on Godwyn's shoulder, watching him with concern.

Godwyn gulped from the cup, and once he'd recovered said, "Sorry, sorry. Ummm. Thank you." He rose then, and with an attempt at dignity, said, "Yes, Maester, indeed. Be most welcome to Holdfast. Ummm. Would you sit and dine with us, Maester..." He paused, obviously having already forgotten Merivel's name.

"Merivel," Rhys supplied wryly. He turned to Merivel and indicated that he could take an empty seat across from Godwyn and Syndra.

"Thank you." Merivel said quietly, nodding. "It would be a pleasure." Merivel took a seat on the opposite side of the table from Godwyn and Syndra, seating himself across from Godwyn, leaving space for Rhys to seat himself across from Syndra.

A serving maid scurried in with dry cloths to clean and reorganize the table and refill the ale mugs. Syndra waited for her to depart, then seated herself. She greeted Rhys with a brief, polite smile and demure nod as he took the chair across from her.

Before Rhys sat down beside Merivel, he gave Godwyn a penetrating look, one that clearly asked, "Are you all right?"

Merivel, too, looked at Godwyn with furrowing eyebrows and a curious look in his eyes.

"So, Maester Merivel," she began brightly in an attempt to take the glaring spotlight off Godwyn, "I understand you're from the Vale. I hear it's beautiful there."

"Not so far south as Dorne, at least," Godwyn said.

Syndra kicked Godwyn under the table for being rude as she continued to focus on Merivel. Surely Godwyn remembered that Rhys was Dornish.

"Ow!" said Godwyn. He looked at Syndra. "Why did you kick me? It was but a jest."

Syndra blushed and shot a quick glare at her cousin before turning to smile again at Merivel. "Pardon me, Maester. Please continue," she apologized, all the while wondering how boys could be so tactless.

Merivel cleared his throat, and nodded to Syndra. "The Vale of Arryn is very beautiful." he admitted. "And although colder than some might like, the North has its own beautiful places and things to discover."

He smiled to her.

"Icewine being one," Rhys contributed. He smiled his thanks to the servant at the bowls of stew and trencher of crusty bread placed in front of Merivel and himself.

Syndra nodded at that. To Merivel, she said, "Yes, it can be beautiful here. Have you yet seen a frosty morning, when the sun shines and everything sparkles crystal-white? It's lovely."

Merivel smiled.

"How was your journey?" she asked.

Merivel continued his smile for the young woman. "My journey to the North, or my journey to your fine holding? The former was some time ago, and perhaps may not be of interest. As for my journey from Clearwater, I was fortunate to have company for half of the journey, from Clearwater to the Road. The last half, I walked alone."

Godwyn frowned. "Clearwater," he said. "That's Draupaud, as was Steffan Dustin, aye? The one who was fostered to the Dreadfort?"

"The same. Its where I am based, Godwyn." Merivel admitted. "The reason why I was invited here was, as it so happens, messages by Raven exchanged between Clearwater and Holdfast."

"I solicited Maester Merivel's opinion on your father's illness," Rhys told Godwyn. "The Maester had not visited Holdfast before, so decided to visit and see Lord Hardy."

"Oh, I do hope you can help Uncle Oswain," Syndra said. "Rhys was called back as well for the same reason, as I'm sure he told you." She smiled at Rhys and Merivel.

"Rhys was called back for many reasons," said a fresh voice, as Maester Sewell took a seat beside them. "Not the least to keep another old man company, and perhaps to interject some fresh ideas into a classroom that had grown a little stale for its scholars, eh, Mistress?"

Dressed in the robes of his order, grey-haired and stately, Maester Sewell might have presented an austere figure. But none could mistake the smile as he spoke, nor the humour as well as intelligence in his dark eyes.

Syndra turned to greet the Maester, but caught Rhys's eye on the way. Her cheeks began to color. "Yes, sir," was all Syndra could think to say.

Rhys, busy sopping up soup with his bread, missed Syndra's glance.

"Sir" Merivel turned and nodded respectfully and pleasantly to the arriving elder magister. Only then did he turn to the bowl of soup that had been placed before him without even his noticing it.

"It would be..." Godwyn paused, and then began again. "We would all be most grateful if there is anything at all you can do for father."

"I'm late, I'm late again," said another voice, young and fresh, and careless.

It was Edlyn, dressed in a simple gwon of blue that brought out the vividness of her eyes. She smile at Syndra, and looked demure for the gentlemen as she slipped into her seat, fair and enchantingly pretty (and very well aware of it).

She lifted her eyes to the stranger - and waited to be introduced.

Syndra returned her smile. "Lady Edlyn, this is Maester Merivel, recently arrived from Clearwater. He'll be consulting with Maester Sewell and Rhys on Lord Hardy's illness." She turned to Merivel. "And Maester, this is Lady Edlyn Martyn, daughter to Lady Celia. She joined us from the Vale about two years ago. Maester Merivel also hails from the Vale," she added for Edlyn's benefit.

Edlyn's eyes widened.

Merivel's did, too. He smiled.

"Really?" she said eagerly. "The Vale? Oh ... oh what part? My grandfather - Lord Tollet - holds his lands there."

If Merivel knew Lord Tollet at all, it was as an impoverished follower of Lord Jon Arryn - for Lord Tollet was as notable for his numerous and attractice children, coupled with a disaterous lack of funds to support them or his estates.

"So now we have two here who have left that amazing paradise for the forsaken North," Godwyn said. There was more than a hint of teasing fondness in his voice as he looked at Edlyn.

Edlyn stuck her tongue out at him, but only a very little and only because she was sure Maester Sewell could not see. Then she smiled at him, a saucy little smile that usually had the effect of rendering all the squires in training quite tongue-tied. "I will grant you that the North does have certain ... advantages," she said, very demurely.

She turned again to Merivel. "How long ago did you leave?" she asked. "What was the weather like? Do you know Lady Lysa? Have you seen her recently?"

The eager questions came tumbling out.

"I've been up in the North a couple of winters." Merivel replied, holding up a hand in mock protest but his eyes had a laughing look as he regarded Edlyn. "Not as cold as here, of course, although we did have an unusually harsh winter just before I left for the Citadel."

"As far as Lady Lysa, I've only had the grace to meet her once." Merivel replied. "But it was in that very winter season."

Edlyn sighed happily. "I remember! We were all snowed in ourselves, and it was weeks before we could reach any further than the village ... I remember going for a winter ride and seeing the Eyrie in the distance ... all covered in snow ... "

She shivered a little at the memory.

"And don't tell me that the snows are worse here!" she added severely to Godwyn and Syndra. "Deeper ... whiter ... better ... I know, I know! Winter is Coming, and it's going to get horribly cold. But I've seen the sun shine on the snow on the roof tops of the Eyrie in the clear morning air... and that's something to treasure."

Rhys listened with interest to the conversation around him. He watched the people, their faces, their gestures as they talk, content for the moment to fade into the background and observe.

Godwyn laughed. "Winter can be beautiful," he agreed amiably. "One can admit that something is beautiful without loving it."

Syndra nodded agreeably, not wanting to speak with her mouth full.

"Like Mother, do you mean?" asked Edlyn, with wide-eyed innocence.

Syndra coughed suddenly and covered her mouth daintily so the snort of amusement would not shoot food across the table. With just her eyes, she looked quickly from Edlyn to Godwyn.

Merivel swallowed his spoonful of soup hard, in surprise.

It was fortunate that Godwyn wasn't eating when she spoke, or he would have choked all over again. Instead he just gaped foolishly at Edlyn for a long moment. "Uhhh..." he said, finally.

Edlyn took a demure spoonful of soup and then looked up limpidly to meet the stern gaze of Maester Sewell.

"After all, Mother is always expressing her admiration for beautiful ladies, is she not? But somehow ... she never seems to quite like them."

"Thin ice," said Maester Sewell drily, "is also much admired by some people. Yet I would not advise skating on it, Edlyn."

Edlyn nodded sagely. "I shall remember that, Maester Sewell. When Winter comes."

Then her tone changed. "Oh look! Venison!"

For, the soup coming to an end, a great haunch was being carried to the table, along with steaming platters of other choice foods.

Rhys pushed his bowl away. "The ice is thin today," he added mildly, with a slight smile. "By the time Winter actually comes, the ice has grown thick and there are other things to worry about."

"Maester Merivel," Rhys continued, turning toward the man, "You lived in the Vale and you've obviously been to Oldtown... are there any other interesting places you've visited?"

Syndra nods slightly in approval of Rhys's turn of the conversation. She awaits Merivel's answer attentively.

Edlyn gave a little pout as Rhys turned the subject. But then she turned to Godwyn and smiled hopefully.

"Will you carve some venison for me? You know how unhandy I am with such things."

Godwyn finally closed his mouth, and then laughed good naturedly. "For well-appreciated beauty," he said, "Can I do any less than offer the service of my blade?" He carved a thin slice from the venison for Edlyn and served it to her with a mock bow.

Edlyn received it with a little smile, and started to eat daintily as she waited for the Maester from the Vale to speak.

"Places I've visited." Merivel said, as he looked a little hungrily at the venison but he turned his gaze to briefly alight on Edlyn, Rhys, Syndra, Sewell and Godwyn.

"Well, I took the overland route from the Vale to Oldtown, so I've gotten to see the Trident, the Reach. King's Landing." Merivel smiled. "As I told Rhys before, I didn't get the chance to see Dorne, even with it close at hand. And of course, I went through Winterfell on the way to Clearwater."

The mention of Winterfell caught Syndra's attention, but she did not interrupt.

"I'd like to see the continent, too, someday." Merivel added.

"A long held wish of mine too," agreed Sewell. "And one I am not now, alas, likely to accomplish. I did travel as far as Braavos in my youth, and saw there the great statue ... Godwyn, is you wish to carve, will you do so for us all, please? Dorne now ... well, Rhys can tell you more of that."

"Sand, sea, river, and red mountains--that's Dorne. A little something for everyone," Rhys grinned.

Godwyn nodded, and carved a moderately sized but choice piece of venison for Maester Sewell. After that he served Syndra, Merivell, and Rhys, cutting thick slices for the two younger men.

Syndra looked at Rhys curiously. "Red mountains? How can mountains be red?" The only mountains Syndra had ever seen were those of the North, which were primarily formed of granite and shale.

Rhys shrugged. "That's the color of the rocks and the soil. It's not red like blood...more like the color of rust." His eyes looked past Syndra at something faraway. "You should see them in the light from the setting sun. They glow red, almost as if they're on fire."

Merivel listened intently to Rhys description. "You miss them, don't you, Rhys?" he asked quietly once Rhys finished. "The sand-stones of Dorne? If they are half as enchanting as you describe them, I can see why."

Rhys glanced at his great-uncle before answering Merivel's question. "I do miss their beauty, but beauty is found everywhere if one only knows where to look." His gaze casually strayed to Syndra, lingered briefly, then slid past her and back to Merivel. "Did you take the Roseroad across the Reach to King's Landing when you came north from the Citadel?"

Syndra was slicing up her venison and missed Rhys's glance.

Godwyn listened while continuing to eat. They clearly hadn't passed through Riverrun, and that was the only place in all the South that held any interest for him.

Edlyn, however, was listening with a wistful expression on her face.

"Don't you wish that you could travel too?" she asked Godwyn in an undertone.

"Hmm?" Godwyn looked at her curiously. "I suppose it would be interesting to visit Winterfell. And I want to see the Wall some day."

Edlyn looked at him with despairing amusement.

"Papa took us to Winterfell once, when I was young. It was grand," Syndra smiled wistfully. "It was one of the harvest festivals, I think. My father is a knight in Lord Stark's service," she added proudly for Merivel's benefit.

"That is an honorable berth and taskyour father has, Syndra." Merivel turned to her and smiled at her words. "I only spent a night and a day in Winterfell, and it was just an ordinary day like any other. I would like to see such a festival there, sometime."

"Corn! Corn!" A harsh cawing suddenly sounded from one of the windows - and they could all see a glossy black raven perched there.

"A message," said Sewell. "If you'll excuse me ... "

Syndra's attention was suddenly focused on nothing but the raven. Her expression was anxious.

Rhys also gazed at the raven, looking for any tell-tale emblems showing where the raven was from. "When were you at Winterfell, Merivel?" he asked.

Merivel hesitated a moment before answering, distracted, too, by the arrival of the raven.

"A year and three quarters ago, it was." Merivel answered, finally turning to face Rhys. "I've not been in the North *that* long." Merivel admitted.

Godwyn looked from Syndra to the raven and back again. He looked concerned.

Sewell rose and walked to the window, extending an arm so that the raven could hope onto his sleeve. As he did so, all noted two things - the gravity of his expression - and the banding on the raven's leg - the colours of the Flayed Man of the Boltons of the Dreadfort.

Merivel blanched, and took a sip from his cup at the sight of the banding on the Raven.

"An ill omen." he said softly.

"What is it, Maester?" Syndra asked uneasily.

"Nothing to worry about, Mistress," said Sewell. "But you must excuse me .."

With a somewhat tight smile he walked from the hall, the raven still perched on his wrist like a bird of prey.

"So," said Edlyn, looking around, "where was the raven from? And why are you all looking like some just died?"

Rhys followed his uncle with his eyes as he left the room, then turned back to Edlyn. "The raven was from the Boltons of Dreadfort. Their arms show a flayed man, as you know. Did you ever wonder why? In times past, certain lords of Dreadfort liked to disguise themselves in the skins of their enemies." He shook his head, the distaste for that practice openly apparent on his face. "I don't know why they would send a raven here, but I agree with Merivel. It's an ill omen."

Edlyn's eyes widened, and she gave a little shudder. "Really?" she breathed. "How ... horrible."

"Nothing good ever comes from the Dreadfort," Godwyn said flatly.

Edlyn nodded, apparently prepared to accept his word on this.

"Why doesn't someone wipe them out, then?" she asked. "Rather than let them send ravens ... "

"The Boltons are fellow Stark bannerhouse and a formidable force, Edlyn. Roose Bolton is a shrewd commander. They're best left alone as long as they're behaving. If not...," Syndra shrugged, obviously not at all comfortable with the alternative.

Edlyn looked the way Sewell had gone, a faint frown wrinkling her brows.

"So why should they send a raven here?"

"Not sure," Rhys answered truthfully. "We'll find out soon enough. Best to go ahead and finish our meal."

Godwyn continued to mutter darkly about the Boltons under his breath, but the meal otherwise quietly continued until all were finished eating.

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, CastleHoldfast

Page last modified on February 15, 2006, at 12:11 AM