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Girls Together



"Syndra, wait for me!" [Edlyn] called as she reached the bottom of the steps. She ran to catch up with the Hardy girl.

Syndra slowed, but did not stop.

"Don't mind them," she said. "They're just idiotic men ... you're the one who remembered the boy. Did you know him? Have you seen him before? Where would we find him?"

The barrage of questions made Syndra smile wryly in spite of her foul mood. "He's one of ours, but I don't know him by name. I've just seen him around. I don't know if he saw anything. I was more concerned that he made it back in all right." She paused and looked around the courtyard. "Look, there's Crastow," she pointed finally toward a guard who had paused for a drink at the well. "Perhaps he'll know." She strode purposefully in that direction.

Crastow was engaged in checking saddle leathers for damage, watched by a wretched groom who had clearly been held to have failed in his duties. He nodded curtly as Syndra and Edlyn approached.

"Sergeant Crastow, back on the road this morning, we met a boy with a dog. By his dress, I think he was a forester. I recognized him as someone from here. Do you know if he returned safely?" Syndra inquired politely.

Crastow frowned. "Some woman was around earlier, bleating about her boy being missing. One of the smallfolk who live in the cottahges outside the gate. Could be his mother."

Syndra pulled her court face back on and looked at the guard with an air of disapproval. "Sir, you are aware, of course, that as lords of Holdfast and its lands, the Hardy house has a duty to protect its smallfolk," she reminded him firmly. "With bandits known to be prowling the area and murders taking place in town, are you telling me that you ignored this woman's concerns about her son? A boy that, at risk to his own person, assisted myself and Lady Celia's daughter here," she gestured at Edlyn, "just this morning?"

Crastow coloured angrily under the rebuke.

"Perhaps," said Edlyn, "you should tell us where the woman can be found."

"The last cottage in the row," said Crastow sullenly - and then added, "my ladies."

"Thank you," Syndra said formally. "I think it best if you would ready a few of your men for a search party in case we find the lad still missing when we return from comforting his mother." One last glance at the guard to ensure he realized that was not a suggestion, then Syndra nodded at Edlyn and strode off toward the last cottage in the row. On the way, Edlyn could hear her grumbling under her breath about the arrogance of men.

As they approached the cottage, the two girls heard voices - a woman's, scolding, and a boy's, raised in protest.

"I think he came home," whispered Edlyn - and then pointed to the crude wooden door. It was slightly ajar.

Syndra nodded back at her and paused, as if unsure if she should intrude. But then, she considered that she had come this far, so she might as well finish the job. She knocked on the door.

The voices stopped abruptly. There was a quick, flurried exchange of whispers and then a thin-faced, tense-looking woman came to the door, wiping her hands on a coarse apron. When she saw it was two girls she looked relieved - but when she recognised Syndra, her expression changed to one of apprehension and she bobbed a curtsey that suggested that - in her youth - she had served at the Castle.

"Good day, ma'am," Syndra nodded to the woman. "There was a boy in the forest that helped my cousin and I this morning. The guards thought that he might live here. Pray tell me, did he return safely?"

The woman pushed open the door, and they could both see the young forester, standing bashfully by the table, his hands thrust into his pockets - as though he had recently thrust something there.

"Safe and well, Mistress," said his mother. "I know we have Ser Anders and his men to thank for rescuing you all - and so I shall, the first opportunity I get."

Syndra's eyes narrowed slightly at what seemed to her to be suspicious activity, but she did not comment on it. Instead, she nodded to the mother and smiled at the lad. "I wished to thank you for helping us this morning. If not for you and your dog, we might have ended up like poor Ser Corryn." She sincerely hoped Edlyn could figure out what she was doing, but dared not try to tip her off.

The boy frowned. "They said in Holdfast that Ser Corryn was well - that it was another knight killed," he said. "They was drinking to his health. You was upstairs, mistress - maybe you didn't hear."

"Oh, did I say 'Corryn'?" Syndra corrected herself. "I meant Fouchon. I'm sorry. It's been a long day." At least it answered one question - the boy had followed them to town instead of going back to the castle with his dog. Some details he might have gotten at Holdfast, but probably not the fact that she had been upstairs.

His expression was guarded though, and one hand remained clenched in his pocket.

His mother sighed. "You should tell the young ladies, Tamlin."

The boy shook his head mulishly. "No! I found it. 'Tis mine!"

Syndra smiled at him encouragingly. "What did you find? I just want to look. Perhaps it can help us find the bandits that stabbed Godwyn Hardy."

"It is mine," said the boy sullenly. "I found it - when I went back to look. So I should keep it."

But the habit of deference to the Hardy family was strong and reluctantly he reached into his pocket and drew out something in his clenched hand. Slowly his fingers opened, and the two girls saw the glint of gold ...

A gold coin, stamped with the symbol of the Lion.

Syndra's eyes widened. Lannister gold was not common this far north. That it was here at the same time as bandits and murderers was not a comforting thought. "Yes. You found it and it's yours," Syndra agreed, "but may I? Just for a moment?" Syndra moved to pick up the coin, but made it clear she would not do so without permission.

The boy nodded.

"After you went back to the Castle," he said, as Syndra examined the coin (and Edlyn bent her fair head to examine it too), "I went back through the forest - 'cos'n they said the bandits were gone - and I wanted to see if they left any traces."

Syndra glanced up at him as he spoke.

"The men at arms couldn't find any," put in Edlyn.

The boy grinned. "None that they might find, mistress. But I know how to read the woods, see? There were things there - even after the men at arms had been through - although they'd messed with most of the things I'd been looking to find. The camp was right where Master Godwyn said - and they'd cleared out fast. They knew their stuff, mistresses. Born to the woods, they were - but they had to go fast ... and they must have dropped it." He indicated the coin.

"Listen," said Edlyn, "if you let us keep this, we'll give you another in its place, a good Holdfast coin - and a silver stag besides for protecting us today."

The boy looked up at the girls, his eyes wide.


"Yes, really. You did well today. Very well. We thank you." Syndra smiled at him as she fished some coins out of a pocket sewn into the waistband of her skirt and handed them to the boy. "We shall relay what you've told us about the bandits to Ser Anders. No need for you to worry about it. Hopefully your information will help to locate them." She grinned at him then. "We'll skip the part about the coin, though."

The boy grinned back. "Yes, Mistress Syndra!"

But before they could say any more, there was the sound of a horse pounding at terrifying speed down the road from the castle. Edlyn moved to the open door to look out.

"It's Ser Corryn!" she said. "And riding like the Others were on his tail!"

Syndra raced to the door and tried to catch his eye as he flew by.

But Ser Corryn was completely focused on the road ahead, and did not appear to see her at all.

Syndra's shoulders sagged and concern lined her face. "I wonder what that was all about," she said to Edlyn uneasily. She turned back to the boy. "Thank you again for all your help," she nodded to him and his mother, then hastily closed the door and hurried back to the castle, leaving Edlyn to once again hustle along in her long-legged wake.

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, CastleHoldfast

Page last modified on September 16, 2006, at 01:38 AM