Godwyn in the Kitchen
Godwyn went down the stairs to the kitchen to have lots of cold meat, cheese, and bread, and a couple of ales.
He found he was not the only one to have had the idea - the two guards that had accompanied his brother from Riverrun were there two. The big burly one who had come to Holdfast was making a hearty meal; the other was content to sup ale as he kept his companion company. Both nodded respectfully to Godwyn as he entered the kitechen, pausing in their meal.
"Hello, Jayne," Godwyn said. He sat at the table across from the men and gestured for someone to bring him food. "I didn't get your name," he said to the other man. "Kenrith hasn't had a chance to tell me about his journey yet, with everything that's going on."
"People call me Mal," said the other. "I'm happy to answer to that." He took a long pull at his ale, regarding Godwyn.
"Travelled a fair way with the sellswords. Happen you get to learn a bit about folks on the road. When you're bedding down in the open together. Dealing with danger."
Jayne grunted and added more meat to his plate from the more than generous supplies that had been brought for Godwyn - and his hounds too. But Mal seemed prepared to answer questions.
Godwyn tore a chunk of bread off the loaf set in front of him and chewed it thoughtfully. "What did you think of them, then?" he asked Mal. "Seem the sort to knife a man for no good reason?"
"Seemed the sort to knife a man, right enough," said Mal slowly. "But happen that's what you'd want to watch your back on the road.
"But I reckon there'd be a reason for it. Leastways, there would with their leader. Even if you didn't see it clear like."
Jayne grunted an agreement and poured himself more ale.
Godwyn cut some venison and took a drink of ale. "Unlikely the dead man's lord will care much what the reason was," he said. "And he's a guest, [email protected] him. We're going to be forced to kill at least one of them. They must know that. Must have had a very important reason for killing him." He thought for a minute while he ate. "Their captain's a northerner, right? What about the rest of them, know if they've ever been north before?"
Mal shook his head. "None of them Northern-born or bred. And they were heading for the Wall. If they'd been North a few times, they'd know it'd be no place for a Southron man."
"No place for any man with his wits about him and no crime on his head they can catch him for," growled Jayne, tearing ferociously at a slab of beef.
Godwyn grinned at Jayne. "I've heard that before," he said. Then he frowned at his beer. "Not likely it was a personal thing then, not a feud, unless it was their captain that did it." He shrugged. "That's if they weren't all in it together, of course." He thought for a bit. "Could be an old feud of the captain's, I suppose. What do you know about him?"
Mal leaned back in his chair considering.
"They're a disparate bunch, and he holds them together. Independent-minded too, but they follow what he says. That argues some force in the man, to my mind. He's young, too - perhaps a couple of years older than you, Sir. But he's seen things. And done things."
"Tell him about the crannog," said Jayne through a mouth of beer.
Mal nodded. "We stayed a night with the crannog," he explained. "There was a storm coming. Most of us - we went to a long house of theirs. Evan Tamm stayed with the horses and one of the crannogmen. They were to take the crow road, the crannogman said.
"Come the morning, we met again. Evan Tamm was waiting on the Kingsroad for us, with the horses. No sign of the crannogman. And the woman who brought us back to the road ... she looked at Evan Tamm as though he was a mortal fearsome wight from the old tales."
"The crow road," Godwyn repeated. "I wonder what that means?" He took another thoughtful swallow. "You think he's godtouched or some such?" he asked Mal.
"No," said Mal, giving the idea due consideration. "But I think he's dangerous."
"And here I'm supposed to go and beat a confession out of him," Godwyn said with a sigh.
Mal stared thoughtfully into the bottom of his ale mug.
"They given you permission to get creative?"
Jayne grinned round a mouthful of crumbly yellow cheese.
"Like actually doin' some talkin' before you starts in on the beatin'?" suggested Mal.
Jayne's grin faded and he scowled at Mal.
Godwyn looked at Mal with interest. "I don't have any definite orders on how to handle it," he said. "You think talking will work with them?"
Mal shrugged. "Wouldn't hurt to try," he said.
"Specially if you're heating a brazier real slow in the corner," suggested Jayne. He seemed to become aware of Mal's ironical gaze. "For the cold!" he said defensively.
"We don't torture people like that here," Godwyn told Jayne with a frown. "Not unless we really have to." He turned to Mal again. "If we can get a confession out of one of them without beating them, all the better. If we have to beat them to get it, we will. If we beat them and still don't get a confession," he shrugged, "Well, we already have enough proof that one of them did it. It would just be much better if we can get the real story of what happened."
"You only need the 'what'," agreed Mal. "But I'm thinking the 'why' of it all might be more interesting. Why would you go to a strange place, a place where you're not known, and kill a man - a man protected by guest right. You'd need a powerful reason for doing that."
"I wouldn't," objected Jayne.
"Evan Tamm would," said Mal. "Course, it could be one of his men, and he's covering up. But they've not been in the North before, and Grunther was never out of it. I've been talking to the other men who were left here when you rode away. They all say the same thing. Grunther served Ser Herys since he was a boy."
"Kenrith said the sellswords wouldn't accept hospitality when they got here," Godwyn said slowly. "That was strange. Might be Evan Tamm didn't want to shelter under the same roof as the Boltons?"
Mal looked at him thoughtfully. "That's how it seems to me, Sir. For we were made welcome enough. And to my mind, it was Evan Tamm alone that showed reluctance, not his followers."
"Makes no sense," muttered Jayne. "Why would anyone want to waste coin on an inn when there's beds and ale in the castle?" He waved his knife over the provinder. "Good beef too."
"Could be he thought he might be recognized?" Godwyn said slowly. "If he has a history with the Boltons, is an enemy of theirs. Plenty enough people who hate the Boltons. If that's so, he might have killed Grunther because Grunther recognized him, and he was afraid Grunther would tell Herys he was here?"
Mal seemed to be considering this. "Could be a reason he wanted to stay in the inn," he said. "Nother reason might be he didn't want to be bound by guest right. Even if he was acting on orders. If he killed him."
"Kenrith didn't have anything to do with it," Godwyn said firmly. "He has nothing to gain from the killing, and it upsets things just when he returns. No, it makes sense that it was the sellsword, and it has something to do with his past and the Boltons."
Mal nodded thoughtfully. "If that's so, how do you purpose finding out?"
Godwyn sighed. "From what you say about Evan Tamm, and what little I saw of him, he's not the sort you can beat the truth out of. Best I can think to do is go in and ask him what happened, see what he says. If he won't tell me anything, I try to beat it out of the other fellow. He was wearing the dead man's shirt, so he must know something. May even have been the one who did the killing, whether it was on Evan's orders or not."
"Which of the others was it?" asked Mal. "The Ox, the bald man, the boy or the weasel?"
Godwyn chuckled. "Weasel describes him, right enough," he says. "The fellow with the pockmarks. The dogs picked him out. We have proof enough to say it's him and put this all behind us, if their captain hadn't stepped in and muddied things. Claimed it was his clothes the man was wearing." He shook his head. "I hate it when things get complicated."
"Interesting," said Mal.
Jayne snorted. "Most of the sellswords I've known would have left the man to die. If'en they hadn't a-killed him first."
Mal nodded. "D'you want an escort to the dengeon, Sir?"
Godwyn thought about it, while watching Mal. When he finally spoke he asked bluntly, "Why do you offer?"
"Yes," said Jayne. "Why?"
Mal shrugged. "Call it curiosity. We travelled with them a fair few miles, and I still feel I know nothing about the man. It's an itch I'd like scratched afore we head back for Riverrun."
"All right, then. Might be he'll be more forthcoming if there are people he knows there. I plan on leaving them alone in their cells without food or water or blankets till sometime after midnight, let them worry about what's going to happen." Godwyn took another deep drink. "And that blasted Eryk Bolton is coming along with me. Kenrith seemed to think it was a good idea to let him see we're not plotting things behind his back."
Jayne got up to go in search of more ale. Mal leaned further back in his chair, taking it nearly to tipping point.
"I've not met your Boltons. I've heard of the father. Is the son a twig of the same branch?"
"Doesn't seem to be. He almost seems..." Godwyn thought for a moment before finishing the sentence. "Almost seems likable. If he wasn't a Bolton I don't think he'd be too bad."
"Most families have their black sheep," said Mal. "Must be the same for the Boltons. How does your cousin feel about him? The pretty dark-haired one who's all eyes?"
He smiled. "Yes, I was at dinner. Saw 'em all then. Just keeping Jayne company now."
Godwyn snorted. "She just found out she's expected to marry the boy. Came as quite a shock to her. I can't imagine what Father was thinking, any way I look at it it just doesn't make sense. Why give a Hardy to the Boltons?"
"You ain't asking him?" said Mal.
"I'm surprised you haven't heard servants' gossip about that," Godwyn said. "He was struck down by something. Can't leave his bed, can only barely talk at all. He's been ill for a long time, but this latest turn is the worst yet."
"I heard tell," said Mal. "But kitchen gossip makes a broken arm out of a cut finger. Sounds as though it was true enough in this case."
There was a cough from over near the door.
Eryk Bolton stood there, some distance from them both. There was no indication as to how long he had been there - but it was clear long enough for Jayne to have snuck up behind him, and be holding a wicked-looking dagger against his throat.
Godwyn stared at them for a minute, then said, "That's the very fellow we were speaking of." He cut another bit of meat and ate it.
"Lovely," said Eryk, his voice a little strained. "Now, do you think you might call your attack dog off?"
Jayne growled in response and seemed to press the knife closer.
Godwyn finished chewing, and swallowed, before finally saying, "Let him go, Jayne." He gestured to a chair. "Come and join us, Eryk."
Jayne growled and released his victim with something of a flourish. Eryk cast a sour look in his direction, and then walked to the chair that Godwyn had indicated and sat down, ostentatiously massaging his throat.
"Thank you," said Eryk drily. "I thought I would come and find you - time getting on and all that."
"And you thought you should sneak into the kitchen like a thief, in case there were any wolves or bears lurking here, is that it?" Godwyn asked.
"Next time," said Eryk, "I'll ensure that my entrance to every room in the castle is proceeded by a marching band with drum and fife since that is your preference. After all, it could hardly make the Boltons more unpopular than we already are. Or will it be enough merely to shout out, "Hullo! Is there anyone in there?" before entering a room?"
"Huh?" Godwyn looked puzzled for a moment, then laughed. "Oh, I see. Yeah, you're right. Pretty much anything you do will be wrong." He shrugged. "I'd say I'm sorry about that, but I don't like to lie."
Eryk frowned for a second - and then gave a short laugh. "Well, honesty's something to rely on. It's after midnight, you know. Have I time to enjoy a flagon of ale before we go and see these men?"
Godwyn nodded. "No reason to hurry. The longer they wait and worry about what's going to happen, the better."