Recent Changes - Search:

Girl in the Window

Index | HomePage | GameLogs | HoldfastGameLogs | Girl in the Window

After Syndra left Edlyn, she returned to her rooms. The trip to the dungeons should not have taken so much out of her, she thought, but she was weary to the bone all the same. She checked around the room for hidden Boltons, then, finding none, stripped down to nothing but a shift. She released her hair from its bun, shook it out and brushed, her strokes long and meditative; each one bringing her closer to relaxation.

When she finished, she lit the promised candle for Edlyn and crawled into bed, burrowing under the thick quilts to sleep. Sleep would feel good tonight, she thought.

She was still thinking that a half-hour later. Unfortunately, sleep had failed to arrive.

Syndra tossed one last time, then threw off the covers in frustration. Drawing on a light robe, the one that had once been her mother's, she padded to the window seat, opened the window and rested her chin on her folded hands. The air was chilly, but not cold. Refreshing. The moon shone silver, high in the sky. Syndra loved nights like this, with the crickets chirping and the frogs croaking in the pond. It would've been the perfect evening. If not for... them.

Bolton. The word turned her stomach like sour milk. Why now? Why did they have to spoil her happiness... again? Father was finally home. Granted, the reason for his arrival was certainly not a happy one, but Syndra had been so excited to see him after he had been so long away. She had looked forward to visiting with him, talking about times old and new, about Winterfell. About her future.

Why hadn't anyone ever told her that her future had already been sold? To the Boltons.

They had even stolen her father from her tonight. She gazed at the godswood longingly and sighed. Instead of having that long talk in his solar after dinner, as they had planned, he was stuck in the godswood, standing vigil for a man he never met with a black knight that he despised. He would be there all night, Syndra knew, doing his duty, being as polite to that monster as humanly possible, because Father was nothing if not a good host. Damn them.

Syndra sat up and leaned back, resting her head against the window frame and gazing up at the moon. A wolf moon. She glanced down at the small wooden wolf on her windowsill and smiled. She reached out and turned it so its snout faced the window. "Ooowwwwooo," she made it howl softly and grinned.

Ser Corryn was out there under that moon somewhere. Her old Wolf, on his way to Holdfast as in days gone by. Did he have any idea what he was walking into? A castle full of Boltons and a squire charged with murder? Syndra doubted it. More likely, he was just making his usual rounds now that his step-mother was gone. She couldn't wait to see him. She wondered if he looked the same, or if he had grown as fat as a true Manderly. He had gotten all responsible, he had said in his letters. Guardian of White Harbor.

Syndra felt a twinge of guilt. She had never answered his last letter. She should've at least sent a thank-you for the perfumes, but she hadn't. It wasn't that she hadn't tried. She had started letters many times. She'd just... never finished them. She'd write a few lines, then get stuck. It had been so easy when she was a girl. But she was older now and things were just... different. Surely Wolf wouldn't be interested in the silly things a teenaged girl had to say. Perhaps seeing him in person would be better - if the Boltons didn't spoil that, too.

With a sigh, Syndra crossed her arms on the sill again, and stared out at the yard, and the godswood beyond. If she couldn't sleep, she might as well watch the activity, if there was any.

She saw Ser Anders in the yard, giving orders to the guards. He seemed tired and irritable but his commands were received with respect. Syndra remembered something she had once heard her father say to the Riverwolf: "It would be easier to object to the man if he wasn't so good as Captain of the Guard - and if the men who serve him liked him less!"

He was good. Syndra had to give him that. He commanded when needed, but he also knew when to clap a guard on the shoulder for encouragement. He knew exactly what it took to move each and every man here. As she watched out the window, Syndra hoped to the old gods that Anders was on the Hardys' side. She, for one, could not be sure.

Then she saw Lady Hardy emerged from the main doorway that led into the castle, look around for a moment, and then hasten towards her brother, her skirts lifted high to avoid the mud. She started speaking to him, glancing around to make sure that their words could not be overheard. Ser Anders seemed surprised - and then annoyed. Lady Celia spoke to him again, seemingly to calm him.

Finally, they both moved off in the direction of the guardhouse, still talking.

"Hmm. I wonder what that was about," she murmered to herself as she continued to watch.

She saw Tamlin next, the forester she had known as a boy. Whiteface was at his heels, but he halted the dog at some distance as he went to check the castle hounds in their kennel, vaulting easily over the low wall.

As she idly watched the forester, another person entered her vision from the courtyard. This one caught her interest. "Rhys!" she called softly.

As Rhys started across the courtyard, he saw Tamlin vaulting over the wall of the kennels, presumably to make sure that the castle hounds were no worse for their experiences.

Suddenly, he heard his name called softly from above. "Rhys!"

Staring down at him from an open window higher up in the tower was Syndra, her hair falling over the shoulders of a robe she held tightly around her.

He glanced up at her and almost dropped his tray.

"What are you doing out of your tower?" she asked quietly once she caught his attention.

"I''re....that is..." Rhys stammered, unusual for him to be caught so tongue-tied. He swallowed and looked around guiltily before staring back up at her. It'd been awhile since he'd seen her with her hair down. It made her look...older, rather than younger as he expected. "I'm not supposed to be talking to you. I promised your father."

"Oh," she said, her face falling. "Perhaps just for a moment? I'll watch from up here and tell you if anyone's coming." She pulled her head back inside the window, making it less obvious that she was talking to him.

Rhys chuckled at the mental image of him standing alone in the courtyard holding his supper and talking to himself. He considered briefly continuing on his way, that would be the proper thing to do, but Syndra was hard to resist. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually said "no" to her.

As she scanned the courtyard, paying particular attention to the gatehouse, she asked, "I heard that you went into town earlier with Anders. Why did he let you out of the tower? Do the Boltons know?"

"Yes, to help with the murder investigation, and yes again." He paused and his voice lowered even more, so Syndra could just barely hear him. "Your father offered up a lie to gain me my freedom and I accepted it. I'm sorry, but it was the best way I could see to prevent any bloodshed. I hope you'll forgive me."

There was a pause as Syndra considered how dire circumstances must be to make her father lie. "What was the lie, so I'll know to go along with it?" she finally asked.

Rhys shook his head. "I don't want to say it here. You should talk to your father about it."

Syndra winced. That sounded bad.

" are you?" he asked, studying her. She looked perhaps a little pale, but it was hard to tell in the fitful light of the courtyard and at this distance. She engaged him in conversation and wasn't avoiding his gaze, so perhaps mostly recovered from the afternoon's debacle. She was obviously ready for bed, but instead lingered at the window... "Are you having trouble getting to sleep?"

She nodded. "I tried, but my mind wouldn't stop thinking," she replied wearily. "I had hoped to talk to Father about the..." she scrunched up her nose in distaste, "...betrothal... after dinner, but... " she shrugged in defeat, "you know what happened with that. I just wish I knew if he had ever discussed the matter with my lord uncle."

"And I wish I had your answers... I'll send a servant with lemon balm tea to you. It'll help quiet your mind so you can sleep and it doesn't taste as bad as valerian," Rhys said, smiling. "Promise me you'll drink it?"

She smiled down at him warmly and nodded. "I will," she assured him. "I'll not solve anything tonight, to be sure. At least it sounds like I have some time before the wedding. I should be able to talk to Father in the morning. Perhaps he'll have more ideas." She sounded hopeful, like the optimistic girl Rhys had known before he left for the Citadel.

In contrast, a shadow passed over Rhys's features at the mention of the upcoming wedding. He seemd to withdraw into himself.

She glanced at his tray then. "I'm sorry. It's so late and I'm keeping you from your dinner. I should let you go," she said, though he could tell by her voice that she really didn't want to.

"I should go. I've already risked enough by talking to you as it is. I certainly don't wish to anger your father. Or Ser Anders," he added ruefully. "I'll send the lemon balm to you straightaway. Good night, milady."

"I'm glad you stopped. Thank you," she said gratefully, but she noticed a sudden sadness had come into Rhys's voice. She gazed down at him, her head cocked curiously. "Rhys, are you sure you're all right?" she asked with concern, though she felt rather helpless to do anything about it.

Rhys paused in mid-turn. He was at heart an honest and forthright fellow, and his sudden desire to tell Syndra exactly what was bothering him was great. Then with equal strength he remembered his position (not a noble!), his vocation (a celibate maester!), his promise (I'll stay away from her!), and the fact that Syndra was now herself betrothed. His own feelings and desires had no place here, no place at all. "I'm as fine as I can be," he replied truthfully, though his tone was still morose. "It's been a long day and I'm just tired." The explanation, though plausible, sounded like a put-off to Syndra's ears.

Syndra could tell that wasn't the whole of it. It made her wonder again what lie her father had told in return for Rhys's freedom. She was certain she wasn't going to like it. She smiled down at him sadly. "Well, get some sleep then," she said with resignation. "I'll try to do the same. Thank you, Rhys. For everything."

That elicited a smile from him. "My pleasure. G'night." Rhys turned away and headed for the tower.

[Rhys continues back in Rhys Dines Late And Still Not To Bed ]

Syndra emitted a long sigh as she watched Rhys walk away. If being forbidden to speak with him was the price she had to pay for his freedom, then she'd pay it. She didn't have to like it, though. She'd always enjoyed spending time with Rhys. It seemed like he knew everything! She could listen to him explain the mysteries of the stars in the heavens or the properties of the plants on the earth for hours and never tire of it. He was so patient and kind and... his eyes were so blue. She sighed again longingly, then chuckled softly. Best forget that feeling, she chided herself. You'll not feel it with a Bolton.

She settled back on the window seat, drew her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, turning her attention back toward the gatehouse. She had been watching as she spoke with Rhys, but Lady Celia and Ser Anders had not yet emerged. She wondered again what they were up to.

Now she saw them, moving slowly back across the courtyard. They were still deep in conversation and she knew that, if they came close enough, she would be able to hear them - as she had heard Rhys. Of course, if she remained where she was, they could look up and see her.

Trying not to attract attention with a sudden movement, Syndra eased herself down so that she was curled up on the window seat below the level of the window. With a secret smile, she wondered if Celia had any idea how many times over the years Syndra had eavesdropped on her conversations with Anders.

It was Ser Anders that she heard speaking first. "Celia - for the love of the Maiden! I've spent most of this night attempting to avenge insults against the guest-right. Are you really asking me to breach it so flagrantly?"

"How far does it guest-right extend?" responded Lady Celia. "Beyond our land boundaries?"

Syndra listened intently, now wide awake.

"Till the guest reaches his home," growled Ser Anders.

There was a pause, and then Lady Celia's voice, closer. "Don't be foolish, Anders. You know how dangerous this could be."

"Better than you," said Ser Anders grimly. "In the morning, I may be beheading men for breaching the guest-right, Celia. Are you seriously asking me to do the same thing?"

Who does she want him to kill, Syndra asked herself. She ran through her list of Holdfast guests: The Boltons - Herys, Eryk, their retinue. No big loss there. The two men who came with Kenrith from Riverrun. The men who came with Father from Winterfell. Merivel? Rhys? No. Rhys wasn't really a guest, and Merivel was helping with Uncle Oswain.

Unless she didn't want Uncle Oswain to live. Knowing Celia, that was a possibility. Still, there were other ways to manage that without killing anyone - except Uncle Oswain, of course. Syndra continued to listen.

"No, of course not," said Celia irritably. "But you could arrange it, couldn't you? The escort ... "

"No!" Ser Anders voice was explosive. "Celia - I value our security here every bit as much as you. And I know as well as you that once the old man is dead, the pair of us will be out of Holdfast and begging our way back to the Vale if things still stand as they do. But this is not the way ... find another!"

And then Syndra heard Ser Anders striding away, back into the Castle.

Syndra cautiously peeked her head above the window frame. Celia had departed as well, but Syndra could not tell where. Safe from view, she sat once again curled up on the window seat and stared at the moon. This time, though, her eyes were narrowed in thought.

So there's a rift developing between Anders and Celia, she thought to herself. Good. She wants him to kill a guest, or rather, have one killed. Who? Hard to tell. But they both were concerned about being put out upon Lord Hardy's death. What if...

Syndra gazed toward the godswood again. Damn. She HAD to talk to her father. Speculation was of no use if she didn't have more information. But still, what if they could assure Anders at least that his position was safe when Uncle Oswain died. He was a good captain. There was no need to replace him. If the Hardys could somehow gain his loyalty, give him some incentive to defend Holdfast AGAINST Celia's plotting...

She chuckled at this line of thinking - not because it lacked merit but because she could not imagine explaining to Wolf why she was on Anders' side. One worry at a time...

She continued to study the courtyard as she pondered.

Perhaps she dozed for a little ...

Certainly the moon seemed higher in the sky when she blinked down into the courtyard and saw a tall figure in a long black cloak making his (or her) was across it towards the little postern gate, which was usually unguarded. Only members of the family (and a very few others) had keys to this.

At this time of night, the postern gate should be locked. Syndra watched the figure carefully, paying particular attention to the hands holding the keys to unlock the gate. If she couldn't see the person's face, perhaps she could learn something from the hands - male or female, old or young, dark or fair.

It was too far away to be certain, but the hand seemed to be a woman's, or perhaps a boy's. But was it only the moonlight - or was the hand really so pale - the hand of a lady?

Syndra leaped from the window seat and grabbed her cloak. She threw it on over her robe, slipped on some shoes and snatched up her stiletto still in its wrist sheath. She didn't know why she was doing this. It was stupid, going outside in the middle of the night to follow a tall, slender, pale black-cloaked person who might be, or more likely was not... She couldn't say it, and she tried to stop herself from even thinking it. It was probably a dream. She took comfort in that. Let it be a dream. You could do stupid things in dreams and not get hurt.

She flew down the stairs, her soft slipper-like shoes making no noise on the stone, then made her way silently to the door nearest the postern gate. She went outside, closed the door quietly behind her and surveyed the area, looking for the stranger and hoping she was not too late.

At first she could see nothing - perhaps because it took her eyes a little while to adjust to the darkness outside the walls of the castle. By the time she did look, she saw the the dark-cloaked figure was almost out of sight, heading rapidly down the road towards Holdfast - the road that led past the foresters' cottages and on through the forest - where she, Edlyn and Godwyn had had their adventure with the bandits two years' before.

"Oh, bollocks and damnation," Syndra whispered to herself as she strapped on the wrist sheath. Her best friend's favorite curse seemed appropriate under the circumstances. Why was she doing this? It was dumb. It made no sense. She couldn't count how many promises she was breaking - to her father, to Wolf, to Rhys, probably others she'd forgotten. But something was drawing her to follow, against her better judgment.

She raised her hood and sprinted on light feet across the open area to the gate, where she hid in the shadows again. As a child, she'd played enough hide-and-seek with Godwyn and Gavrin to be good at sneaking about silently. The skill was also handy for listening at doors.

She continued to follow at a distance, ducking in and out of shadows. Only as far as the forester's cottages, she promised herself. The forest was too dangerous.

But the one she was tracking had no such hesitation, for they continued to take the road that led into the forest at a brisk, purposeful pace.

Syndra reached down and picked up a fist-sized rock. She hurled it hard, aiming for a spot in the brush slightly behind and to the right of the stranger. The goal was to make him turn around so she might see his (or her) face.

Night made the distances deceptive; the stone fell well behind the cloaked figure. Nevertheless, whoever it was turned and shot a look back. A pale blur of a face, shadowed by the cloak. They saw Syndra ... standing in the road ...

And at once disappeared into the forest itself.

Syndra's face twisted in disappointment and she cursed softly. It would be foolish to try to follow the stranger through the woods. She remembered well what had happened to Godwyn two years ago, and he had been mounted in the daylight. She turned around and walked swiftly back past the cottages and through the gate, retracing her steps with a sprint across the courtyard to the door she came out of.

Before she quite reached the door, she felt a hand, descending on her shoulder.

"Mistress Syndra?" a voice asked quietly.

Page last modified on May 10, 2006, at 05:04 PM