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Godwyn Into the Woods

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Upon leaving the great hall Godwyn sent servants in several directions. "Find the Master of Hounds," he told one. "We need the dogs immediately, to try to track a man." "Bring Tamlyn," he instructed another. "Tell him to bring another couple of foresters, we have important work to do." A third he sent to gather torches.

Then he headed for the knot of men at the gate.

"Master Godwyn! Master Godwyn!" A shout rang out across the courtyard. "It's the dogs!"

The servant who Godwyn had dispatched to collect the Castle hounds (as opposed to Godwyn's own dogs) was runnng towards them, looking worried.

"Feed this all to the Ice," Godwyn muttered. "What now?" He waited for the man to arrive, then asked sharply. "What about the dogs?"

In response the sevant held out his hand, careful to keep it away from Godwyn's own hounds, and the pungent smell of anise arose.

"Someone's been befuddling their senses so they can't do no tracking," he said.

His voice was loud enough to carry to Rhys in the Tower, and to Ser Anders, who was still organising his own men and who turned sharply.

"What? Has anyone seen anyone near the kennels?" he demanded.

"Ask the guard at the gatehouse!" Rhys shouted from the tower window.

"D@mn!" said Godwyn, looking up the tower at the young scholar, "He's as bad as the old Maester at knowing everything that's going on." He spotted Tamlyn walking towards them, his massive hound Whiteface trotting beside him. "Tam," he shouted to the young man. "Someone's determined we don't track them. Let's show them what we can do!" He started towards the gatehouse, saying to the knot of Bolton men, "Get me something that belongs to the man you've lost. We'll find him for you."

One of the Boltons nodded and sped off.

Ser Anders though strolled out to stand beneath the Maester's tower.

"Did you see who drugged the dogs?" he called. "Would you know him again?"

"He had the nightsoil buckets, but I could tell from his walk he wasn't Tommo. Nothing else about him stood out, so I don't think I'd know him again. After feeding the dogs, he went out past the guard at the gatehouse," Rhys replied.

"What's up, Master Godwyn?" asked Tam, his skilled hands reaching out to stroke the head of Godwyn's best b!tch.

"The Boltons lost a man," Godwyn explained, as he led the way to the Gatehouse. "He chased a cutpurse, apparently. I had thought it no great matter, but now it seems someone deliberately fed anise to the hounds in the kennel, to keep us from tracking the man." He laughed. "We have a hunt afore us. The night is looking far better than when I thought I had to sit to dinner and play the friendly host."

Tamlyn grinned. "You be no man for fine manners and fancy foods when there are woods and wolves to call you, Master." There was definite approval, even admiration in his voice.

Godwyn grinned back at him.

As they reached the gatehouse Godwyn called out, "Maester Rhys claims someone saw someone at the dogs. What about it?"

The guards shook their heads. "You can't see the kennels from here, Master Godwyn."

Godwyn thought a moment then asked, "Well, did anyone come from the direction of the kennels recently?"

Again there was the general shaking of heads - and then one of the guards said, "The nightsoul man came in earlier, but he hasn't come out again. Unless he went by way of the postern gate." "The postern gate," Godwyn repeated in exasperation. He shook his head. "Rhys is like his uncle in another way," he said to no one in particular. "He forgets to mention details."

He turned to the guard in charge of the gate. "See to it that all our men who aren't sick or drunk are up and on duty," he ordered. "Send out orders, no one else goes in or out without permission from Ser Kenrith or Ser Godfrey." He let a second go by before he added, almost as an afterthought. "Or Ser Anders." He glanced back towards Bolton's men. "Keep an eye on them," he said in an low voice. "But remember that they are guests. If any man of ours starts a fight with them I'll feed him to my hounds, and whatever is left I'll give to Hairy Bolton as a present. Got that?" He waited for their nods before he turned. Taking Tamlyn by the shoulder he said, "It looks like the Boltons have a legitimate complaint. Let's find that man of theirs."

Ser Anders, still closer to the tower, looked up at Rhys.

"Come down, Maester Rhys. Consider yourself released into my custody."

"Yes, Ser," Rhys replied out the window.

He turned to his great-uncle. "Go get some supper. It's venison, my nose tells me. I'll let you know later what becomes of all of this."

Rhys turned to leave, then paused. "Oh, I almost forgot. An urgent message from Clearwater came in for Merivel." Rhys dug it out of his pocket and held it up. "You're more likely to see him before I do. Can I pass this off to you?"

Rhys stepped down the stairs and out of the tower, pausing only long enough to grab a cloak on the way out. He strode over to Ser Anders. He wasn't sure how much help he'd be in the present situation, but he was happy to be out of the tower.

Ser Anders nodded at him in greeting. "You may be able to spot him, or you may not. But better we have you with us." He glanced around and then added in an undertone. "And if you are able to do the Boltons a favour, much as it might stick in your craw, it will do you no harm later on."

"Do you really think that would make a difference to Ser Herys?" Rhys asked in an undertone, dubious. "He doesn't seem the sentimental sort."

"He's making great play with guest right," said Ser Anders. "Let's see if we can retort with some obligations of our own."

Godwyn, Tamlyn and the knot of hounds joined Anders and Rhys. "The guards say the nightsoil man came in, but didn't leave by this gate," he reported.

"And Maester Rhys says it wasn't the regular nightsoil man at all, and that he was by the kennels," said Ser Anders grimly. "Make sure your search is good. I mislike this - I fear me there's foul work afoot that could reflect badly on Holdfast. Maester Rhys and I will check out the town with our men."

"Aye," Godwyn said with a nod. "If the man's to be found in the woods, we'll find him. And if anything's happened to him, Bolton's men will see that we're as eager as they to find out who is behind it." He patted one of the hounds on the head and added thoughtfully, "Any of our people would know that dosing the hounds in the kennels wouldn't do the job, not as long as Tamlyn and I have our own hounds. It's an outsider. One of Bolton's men settling a personal score, mayhaps." He shrugged.

Ser Anders nodded in return. "There's more," he said. "Keep this to yourself, Godwyn - but Edlyn told me that one of Bolton's men spoke with her in a way she misliked. I looked for the man, but saw no sign of him. Now, I wonder if it was he was the one who disappeared. But ... "

Rhys frowned. Apparently leering and making advances on the fairer sex was a common pursuit with the Boltons. He felt a pang of sympathy for the women who lived at the Dreadfort.

He frowned. "I think we'll pay a visit to the Goose and Gander while you search the forest. Find out if any strangers have called in." He smiled grimly. "Find out if their missing man is rolling drunk beneath a table in the tavern."

"Speaking of outsiders, some strangers rode in with Kenrith today, too," Rhys added. "I left to attend Lord Hardy and didn't see where they're settling for the night."

"Kenrith?" said Ser Anders slowly. "I met two in Riverrun livery but ... " He frowned. "Why should Kenrith's escort choose to stay in the town rather than here at the Castle? Where they local men, do you think, Rhys? But no Holdfast men went to Riverrun ...

Rhys shook his head. "I didn't get a good look at them, but I don't think so."

"Another mystery to be resolved," [said Ser Anders.]

"They're sellswords," Godwyn said. "Kenrith said the lord of Riverrun sent them with him as guards for his journey home."

"Ser," Rhys addressed Anders, "If there has been foul play and the Bolton man is dead, I believe there's a good chance that if the guilty party is in town, they're at the Goose and Gander. It's easy to blend in there and stil hear all the local happenings. If we make a loud commotion in front of the Goose, fire and brimstone, perhaps that might serve to flush out any inside with something to hide. If they do flush, a few men stationed around the back of the building might catch an interesting quarry."

"Agreed," said Ser Anders. "Godwyn - if you come into the town, be careful to do it quietly. None of your clodhopping, or letting your dogs howl a greeting."

Godwyn grinned at him in response.

He signalled for his men and the Boltons who accompanied them to prepare to leave, and strode towards his own horse.

Godwyn clasped Rhys' arm and said quietly, "Who knows, this may divert Bolton's attention from you. Good luck to you."

Rhys clapped the young man on the shoulder. "Luck to you as well. Be careful." He watched Godwayn walk away, then turned and looked for his own mount.

Once Anders and Rhys left Godwyn spun about and headed back to the knot of guards with Tamlyn at his side. "Right, then," he said briskly. "Here's what's happening. We're riding, in case we need to ride someone down. We'll be moving slow at first, the dog handlers and foresters will be on foot. Torches for half of us, but only men who are experienced in woodscraft are to carry them. The woods aren't dry, but there's no need to risk some fool starting a fire." He looked over the Bolton men and said, "I admit that I thought this was a fool's errand at first, that your man just wandered off and got himself lost or else is with one of the whores at the Goose and Gander. But someone doesn't want us hunting him down, and that makes me think you're right." He grinned a wolfish grin. "No one harms a guest of the Hardys. Now, if your man is all right, we'll track him down, and he can explain why he's wandered off. If someone has hurt him, well, we'll find that out. If someone has robbed him and is wearing his clothes the hounds will track him down. If that happens, I want us to take the man alive."

He waited for the inevitable grumbles from the Bolton men at that before he said, "We wouldn't want to deprive your lord of some proper Bolton justice, now would we?" His grin was even more predatory now. "Now get your horses. We ride."

In fact, the Boltons seemed less inclined to grumble than he expected. Grim-faced, they mounted their horses, and made ready to leave.

He looked for the Bolton man who had run off to find the missing man's clothes. "You have the clothes?" he asked. "Bring them to the hounds."

The Bolton man who seemed to be in charge, a sallow-faced man with a scar on his left cheek and a black, drooping moustache, gave a nod and passed over a soft leather jerkin. Tamlyn held it out for Whiteface and Godwyn's hounds to sniff.

"Where did you last see your man?" asked Tamlyn. One of the other Boltons pointed to the meadow outside the gate where the shadowy forms of the pavilions and lists being errected for the tournament could be seen.

"We should let the dogs cast for a trail in the meadow," said Tamlyn to Godwyn.

"Do it," Godwyn ordered. He watched and waited for the dogs to take the scent and lead them to their quarry.

The dogs cast around in the field for some little while. There had been a lot of activity there earlier, and the scents were muddled and confused. It was Whiteface who picked up the scent eventually, although the Godwyn's hounds were quickly on to it. They headed off down the lane towards Holdfast at a rapid pace, sure of the scent now ...

It seemed as though the route was going to take them straight into the town - perhaps it was nothing more than a errant drunk they were looking for after all.

Godwyn called out to Tam, "If the trail leads into town hold the dogs up before we reach the first of the buildings, I don't want us charging in with them hallooing."

Tam nodded and, as the dogs showed no sign of slowing as they entered the town, put a whistle to his mouth and blew. There was no sound, expect perhaps a sort of vibration in the air, that made the ears tingle. Then the dogs stopped and sat, waiting for Tam and Godwyn to come up to them.

"How did he do that?" the sallow-faced Bolton asked Godwyn. "That some magic or something? The whistle didn't make any noise, but the dogs stopped in the tracks!"

"He tells me it's not magic. The whistle makes a sound the dogs can hear, but people can't. Comes in handy if you're tracking a man." Godwyn shrugged. "Sounds like magic to me, but as long as it works, I don't care one way or the other."

He turned back to Tam. "Keep the dogs quiet, and let's walk them from here on it. I don't want the town disturbed, they'll all come running out and ruin the trail. Let's see where they're going."

"Yes, Master Godwyn," agreed Tam.

They moved through the town at a sedater pace, but if Godwyn or Tam had expected them to turn off at the little lane that led down to the Goose and Gander,they were disappointed. All the dogs were unamimous in going straiight on, all the way to the edge of the small town.

"The woods, then," said Tamlyn quietly. "Shall I let 'em range again, Sir?"

"Aye," Godwyn answered with a sigh. "I hoped there for a bit that it would all be a silly misunderstanding. It looks not. Onward."

Tamlyn blew again on the whistle, and the dogs once again sprang forward. They moved off the road and into the woods, up the hill that bordered the road.

Then they changed direction.

"Back to the road again," murmured Tamlyn.

And that was where the dogs stopped, milling around and sniffing the hard-packed earth of the road.

"Hold up," Godwyn said. He sat his horse, staring down at the ground where the dogs were sniffing.

"Tam," he finally said. "Has that earth been turned recent?"

"Nay, Master Godwyn," the youth replied. "'Tis just the roadway. Hard earth."

Godwyn slid off his horse and knelt along with Tam where the dogs were sniffing. After a few moments of quiet consultation, and some digging in the dirt with a dagger, he rose and turned back to the men. "Blood," he told them curtly.

"Tam, whoever was hurt here either left on his own, or was carried away. Can the dogs trace the scent of the blood?"

Tam nodded, and blew his strange whistle again. The dogs began to sniff further and further afield - until a b!tch of Godwyn's gave an excited whine, and the rest followed her through a gap in the trees and into the fringes of the forest. It was darker there, but they could still see the dogs sniffing excitedly at one spot in the mulch of the undergrowth.

"What have they found?" Godwyn asked from the saddle. He gestured for one of the men carrying a torch to move up with Tam, giving him light to search the ground where the dogs were sniffing.

Tam stooped, clearing the leaf mould from the ground beneath. Then he gave a brief nod, as though he expected no other, and then turned his head to look up at Godwyn.

"Freshly turned, Sir. I'd say this was the spot."

Godwyn nodded and exchanged a grim glance with sallow-face. He told two of his men to head back to town and find shovels. While they were gone he sat his horse and brooded.

They were not gone long, and while Godwyn watched impassively, Tamlyn set about rewarding the dogs for their sagacity, and then securing them at some distance.

Once the men returned with the shovels he ordered, "Dig it up."

They were not happy, but set to work immediately.

It did not take long to uncover the corpse. It was clear he had not been long in the earth, and the insignia of the Flayed Man showed clearly, while his features matched those of the description of the missing Grunther. If that were not enough, the Bolton who had accompanied them confirmed his identity, and glowered at Godwyn as though to demand what he proposed to do about this outrage.

"Murder," Godwyn grated. "Even if it were a fair fight, hiding the body makes it murder. Someone dared kill a man under guest-right with Holdfast. There will be an accounting."

He gestured towards the body. "Bring him. Gently, treat him with courtesy and respect." To emphasize his words Godwyn slid out of his saddle and instructed the men to lay the body across his own horse, and took the reins himself to lead the body back to the castle.

As they began to make their way back at a walk Godwyn asked sallow-face, "Did he follow the Old Gods, or the New? Should we take him to the Sept or the Godswood?"

"The old gods," said the sallow-faced one. "So do the men o' the Dreadfort." "The Godswood, then," Godwyn said, a certain note of approval in his voice. "He won't need a priest to stand between him and the gods. We'll tell Ser Godfrey and your lord what we've found once we've laid him out."

Tamlyn moved closer to Godwyn and spoke quietly. "Do you want to see if the dogs can pick up other scents in the woods?"

"Oh," Godwyn said. "I did not think of that." He considered the question. "Yes," he said quietly. "Stay behind and see if they can pick anything up. Keep a torchman with you. If the dogs find anything, send him to me before you follow the trail. We'll be walking the body back, so he can catch us up easily."

Tamlyn nodded his agreement.

Godwyn and his melancholy preocession were more than halfway to the godswood when a breathless torchman caught up with him.

"Sir," he gasped, "Tamlyn thinks he has something. He says it's an odd trail, but it leads almost to the Goose and Gander."

Godwyn nodded. He handed the reins to one of his men and mounted that man's horse. "Take him back to the Godswood," he said. He pointed to another Holdfast man. "Go with him. Two of Bolton's men should go with you, to see that he is given full honour. Once you have laid him out in the Godswood, one of you, and one of Bolton's men, may go to the Great Hall and tell Ser Godfrey and Ser Herys what we have found. Do not make a scene, tell them privily."

He looked at the sallow-faced man. "We have a trail from the grave, although it is not certain. Let us see what we may see."

He gestured to his other men, and Jayne, to follow him, and then told the torchman to lead them to Tamlyn.

They found Tamlyn at the edge of the inn courtyard, the dogs sitting quietly near him. As soon as he saw Godwyn, he came across.

"The scent they followed, Sir, it wasn't hard," he said softly. "You or I could probably have followed it too, with our own noses. A strong smell of dung, Sir, leading to the inn. It ends at the pump, suggesting that whoever it was, they washed under the pump before they went in.

"Holdfast men are all around the inn, Sir. And I've heard Ser Anders inside ... talking to the people there."

"Well done, Tam," Godwyn said. He turned to the leader of the Bolton men. "Come with me," he said, "I'll have you see that we do justice here. The rest of you men, wait out here."

He walked past the men watching the inn, opened the door, and walked in.

Page last modified on March 28, 2006, at 05:13 PM