Recent Changes - Search:

Index | HomePage | GameLogs | OtherGameLogs | Family Man

Corryn left his uncle to his musings and retired for the night. Oddly, he fell asleep quickly that night, rather than tossing as he did when overly exhausted. Nor did the nightmares come for him as he thought they might; a man with so many ghosts would surely dream of his latest acquisition. He felt a soft, familiar hand on the back of his neck, lightly stroking through his hair, which had returned as some things did in dream. Lips touched his neck and a taut, round belly, heavily pregnant and warm, pressed into his back comfortingly.

"You spared her children," Morna whispered tenderly. "To a mother, her children's lives are more important than her own."

He awoke to the echo of her voice and although he found himself alone, he knew he was not. A deep sense of peace remained in his heart, unfamiliar but welcome. For a delicate moment, he could almost feel her beside him still. Their child idly kicking him in the back. It was a good moment and he held onto it for as long as he could.

Eventually, the scent of fresh bread drew him downstairs to the kitchen. He found Fortune busy cooking, while clucking her tongue at some new girl who was busying herself with the dishes. His daughter's age, the tiny brunette must have been Fortune's cousin or niece; the family resemblance unmistakable. Corryn smiled in greeting, "Morning, madam and miss. Would either of you happen to have some strong tea in the pantry? Oh… and have you seen my daughter? I should take her some breakfast, if she hasn't shown up yet."

"I've brewed a pot of tea," said Fortune cheerfully. "Help yourself."

She indicated a large enamel pot kept warm on a corner of the stove. It was a herbal brew, but invigorating.

"Thank you, madam," he said, grinning in return. He poured himself a mug and sniffed at its heady steam. It immediately cleared the remaining cobwebs from his mind. The taste was potent, but pleasant. Corryn sighed with relief as he sat down at the table, sipping the tea slowly. "Wonderful," he added. "I find myself blessed with the perfect head parlour-maid."

"Mistress Limosa hasn't appeared this morning," she began, but as she spoke, the kitchen door was pushed open, and Limosa herself entered.

A night sleeping in the stable had scarcely helped her mother's ill-fitting dress. She had pulled the majority of the straw from her hair and clothes, but traces still remained. As the day before, she was barefoot, and filthy, and now most of her dark curls had escaped from the braid she had tied when she sat vigil.

She hesitated in the doorway, looking at Ser Corryn. She was clearly torn between hunger and apprehension of the man who called himself her father.

Corryn stood up and pulled out a chair for her across from his own, gesturing for her to sit. He hoped with the table between them, she would feel more comfortable. "Good morning, my dear," he chimed agreeably. "Please have a seat. I'll fetch you some food."

He went to help Fortune and her assistant, making a small plate of bread and jam. When she tried to shoo him off, he simply laughed. "Fortune, I'm quite capable of fixing my daughter some breakfast. You'll find this household is a little more lax than most. Until I'm physical unable to, I'll be helping when I can. Old habits from the road."

Corryn paused as a sense of déjà vu hit him. For a moment, he could almost see Morna, Gavrin, Trey, and Syndra at the table. Breakfast with Morna and children had always been a special treat. It had amused her to watch him clearing the plates and helping the staff. How long ago had that been? He laughed lightly to himself and carried Limosa's plate to her.

Limosa was watching him suspiciously. Clearly she'd never seen a lord who prepared food for himself - or anyone else - before now. In fact, she'd probably never seen her lord father awake at all at this hour of the morning.

"Here you go," he said, smiling. "I hope you slept well. After you've eaten, I have a present I'd like to give you. And then maybe we can talk a little about what's happened? And what will happen."

He took another sip of his tea and settled into to watch her eat.

She watched him, still suspicious for a moment, and then settled down to eating, her eyes widening as she tasted the freshness of the new bread. Once again her table manners left a great deal to be desired, as did the belch of repletion she gave at the end of the meal.

Corryn laughed at the thunderous sound and grinned at her brightly. "Lords, she is my daughter," he chuckled. "Although if I'm to take her to Winterfell any time soon, we'll have to work on that. Lady Cat will turn seven shades of red."

Fortune shook her head. "Poor girl," she said compassionately. "Ever since she was seven or so, her mother has been too ill to pay heed to her - although they spent long hours together, with her lying on her mother's bed, and listening to the old tales. Or so Cameron says - there's been no women here in Leaning Stone for a long time. Well, none but a few who were not worthy of the name."

She looked around the kitchen with something like satisfaction. "It will be grand indeed to bring the place back to what it should have been."

Corryn listened and sighed, his mood darkening slightly. He knew life would change for her from now on, but having Limosa's terrible past confirmed did little to warm his heart. There was more than stone and mortar to repair here. Souls had been fractured as well. The process of reconstruction would be an arduous one. At least Fortune saw the hope in things and her exuberance was contagious.

"Indeed," he said. "I've given Lord Killian some monies to help with that process. However, he'll need a woman's wisdom on how it should be spent. He may be grumpy and morose, but he'll warm to you quickly. Oh… and keep him away from the spirits, if you can. With his sister's passing, he may be prone to slip back into a bottle while I'm away.

"The trip shouldn't be too long. Holdfast is close by and, with luck, I can resolve the problems there in short order. And then I can focus better on our own."

Fortune ducked a quick curtsey in acknowledgement, but there was something in her strong young face that suggested she would manage Killian - without his being aware in the slightest that he was being managed.

Corryn grinned at that. He'd been given a small blessing in this woman, he suspected. Killian would need a firm, guiding hand, and a subtle one at that. "Thank you," he said, finding himself liking the woman immensely.

Limosa, her meal finished, was sliding from her seat and looking towards the door.

Corryn stood up and smiled tenderly, offering her his hand. "I have something for you, Limosa. Please come with me? I promise, you'll like this present. Fortune can come with us if you'd like, so you don't get scared. Won't you, Fortune?"

Fortune cast a rueful glance in the direction of her pots and the cooking for the mid-day meal, but dropped a proper curtsey. "An you will't, Ser."

But Limosa shook her head, and then lifted it proudly. She wanted no companions, that was clear. Nor did she reach for Ser Corryn's hand. But she made no further attempt to run away, and stood passively waiting for his instructions.

Corryn smiled over at Fortune, "We'll take my leave then. Thank you for the wonderful breakfast." He nodded to the other serving girl and then gestured for Limosa to follow him.

As they walked towards his room, he looked over at her from time to time. Although his words were serious, he revealed the truth of his emotions with every smile and the warmth in his hazel eyes. "I know how difficult this must be for you and for that I am truly sorry, Limosa. So much change in so little time. If things could be different, I would do anything to make it so. I want you to know that.

"And, I want you to know how special you and your brother are to me. Although I wish the circumstances had been more pleasant, I consider gaining a daughter and a son a great blessing. I intend to care for and raise you both as my own flesh and blood. So, as a Manderly, I intend to spoil you terribly. It certainly will not make up for what has happened in the past, but maybe it will give you the future you deserve."

Corryn opened the door to his room for her, guiding her inside. "Please sit," he said, nodding at the made bed. He went over to his saddlebag and rummaged through it until he retrieved a beautiful dress. The undergarment was a cotton shift covered by a wool petticoat. Hung over this was a brocade gown with flowing sleeves. There was also a sleeveless surcoat. The entire ensemble was an intricate mix of the Manderly colors of silver, black, and blue-green. He turned around to present it to her.

"This is for you," he said, "A proper dress for a proper lady to wear. But…"

She reach out a small grubby hand and stroked it tentatively over the material. Her expression changed - from suspicion to one almost of awe.

"It's yours," he said encouragingly. "To keep and wear. I will buy you more when I can."

He smiled tenderly, "All I ask is that you don't sleep in the stables anymore. I believe your mother would want you to become a proper lady like she was. That means a room of your own with dresses and things of your own. I intend to buy you the many things a lady deserves. That a daughter deserves."

She flinched again. Perhaps she had been told too long that what a daughter deserved was kicks and blows.

He worried his lip, frowning sadly at the flinch. This was going to be a challenge. The poor thing didn't even know affection from anyone but her mother. And now Lilith was gone. Corryn offered her another gentle smile and sat down on his chair, to give her the distance she needed. "You deserve love and gentleness," he said honestly. "And all that comes with those things."

He smiled, almost shy and timid. "Will you accept this gift from me, Limosa?"

She hesitated, and then she nodded. Her expression was determined, but then she pointed at herself and then made an open-handed sweep towards Corryn, accompanied by a questioning look.

Corryn cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. "I'm not quite sure what you mean, my dear," he said humbly. He tried to think this out, but it could mean a great many things. If he was wrong in his assumption, he could easily scare her. "Forgive me, but I'm still not sure what you mean. You pointed at yourself… so is there something you need for me? If there is, just name it and it will be yours, Limosa."

She shook her head and made the gesture again. Herself ... Corryn ... and the questioning tilt of her head.

Then she shook her head again and pointed to Corryn, then to the dress. Then the openhanded gesture again. She looked at him to make sure he was following, then repeated the pattern.

You ... dress ... me.

Then she repeated her previous gesture.

Me ... you ... what?

And again she looked at him questioningly.

Corryn watched carefully as Limosa went through her motions, nodding as she did so. For a moment, he misunderstood… or at least he hoped he did. Was she asking if he would dress her? Considering the way her father had treated her previously, there was no telling how low he had stooped. Corryn's ears turned a bright red and he shifted with embarrassment. He was about to protest, but she repeated the motion and it started to make some sense. Fortunately, it was far from what he'd originally thought.

"Let me see if I understand you," he said, talking with his hands and moving them as she had. "I have given you the dress as a gift. From me to you, yes? Are you asking if you can give me something in return? Is that it?"

She nodded, clearly pleased by his understanding.

He smiled brightly, "If it is, then no. I don't want anything. That's what being a father is, giving to his daughter unconditionally. You don't have to give me anything at all, Limosa."

She frowned. Clearly, this did not seem fitting to her.

Corryn paused for a moment, considering this. Finally, he shook his head lightly and gazed up into her eyes. "Well, that's not completely true. You could do one thing for me. I'd like for you to be my friend. To trust me. I know how difficult that may be for you. And I can understand if you can't."

He looked down at the floor and sighed deeply. "Barring that, all I ask is that you be patient with me. I want what's best for you. Hollow words, I know, considering your life. But they are true words nonetheless. As hard as they will be for you to believe, considering that..."

A sad smile played across his lips. "I will be leaving for several days. There's another young girl that needs my help. Her father called me to his aid and I can't refuse. So, I perhaps we can talk more when I get back…"

She looked startled - and then apprehensive. Perhaps she had already come to value his protection.

Almost at once, though, she lowered her eyes, perhaps so that he should not see the rapid play of emotions that crossed her face.

This took Corryn completely by surprise as well. Until now, he'd thought she want as little to do with him as possible. Perhaps she was actually warming to him after all. But that posed a problem for him. If he left now, she would feel abandoned and he would lose whatever ground he'd made with her. No, he couldn't leave her now. But also couldn't break his word to Godfrey and Syndra.

He thought for a moment, "Unless you would like to come? Maybe meeting a girl your age would be something you'd enjoy? Her name is Syndra. She also lost her mother when she was very young. I've watched out for her ever since. Maybe she would be able to tell you more about me. So you can see I am worthy of your trust."

Leaning back in the chair, he cocked his head curiously, "Maiden watch over us, have you even been allowed out of this castle before?" He almost feared the answer.

She looked up at him slowly, and shook her head. Clearly, for all her life, the desolate castle and its grounds had been the only place she had known.

Corryn slumped in his chair and sighed. For a moment, he could feel the sorrow build in him and she could read it in his expression. The thought of this young girl, so full of life and curiosity, trapped within these dank walls made him sick with rage. The decision was made immediately and without hesitation.

"Then you shall come with me to Holdfast, if you want," he said. "I'll arrange for a wagon to carry us, as I doubt you've been trained to ride a horse. That way, I can show you all the wonderful things along the way. You can finally see the world outside these walls. I'll be with you the entire time, so you have nothing to fear.

A shy, tentative smile was beginning to hover on her lips. It changed her whole face - her rather sullen (and, at the moment, somewhat grubby) beauty seemed about to become radiant.

Maiden preserve him, she was beautiful. Once the grime was washed away, Limosa would steal hearts with a single glance. His already belonged to her. And that simple smile was like a blessing from the Seven. He grinned in return, hardly able to contain his excitement.

"And Holdfast is a wonderful place. Syndra will adore you, I'm certain. She's a beautiful young woman, just as you are. You will be close friends in short order, I'm sure of it."

At the mention of Syndra, the smile faded, and the slight frown reappeared, as though she was struggling to understand something.

Corryn caught this and smiled, "It's okay. She's a family friend. And she'll be your friend too. Think of it; a girl your own age. You probably need a companion after all this time."

He stood up slowly and approached her. Kneeling in front of her, Corryn gazed up into her eyes. He attempted to touch her hand and hold it. "Would you like to come with me? That way, we won't be apart and I can watch over you as I promised."

She reached out slowly to him, and her hand slipped into his, while she stared up at him. For a moment her expression was hard to read, and yet hauntingly familiar.

And then he realised.

It was trust.

Relief flooded into his heart and he squeezed her fingers tenderly. That single expression erased any traces of guilt residing in his mind. "You've made me a very happy man," Corryn chimed, daring to kiss her grubby cheek. He guided her arm into his and grinned with exuberant glee.

"I will make the proper arrangements for our trip," he said. "We will be leaving before midday. So, I want you to go to Fortune and get cleaned up. You are a noblewoman, Limosa. No more dirt and grime to hide that beauty. And you are beautiful. Never forget that. If she can, have Fortune find you a dress for traveling. We'll want to save your good dress for our arrival in Holdfast. Everyone will be so impressed with you."

He led her out of the room and towards the kitchens. "Now, I want you to bring whatever you need to feel comfortable. We'll be gone for several days. Once we're at Holdfast, I can buy you anything you want, so bring only what you truly need.

"Now, is there anything else you need or want before I go down to the courtyard, my dear?"

She shook her head, a little dazed by all this, but seemed willing to return to Fortune.

Categories: WinterChills, WinterChillsGameLogs

Page last modified on April 01, 2006, at 06:51 PM