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Tam was in the courtyard, setting the dogs ready for the hunt. He nodded to Rhys.

"You're riding with us, Maester?" he asked.

Rhys nodded back. "So what do you think of all of this, Tam? The trial, the raven coming back?"

"They had a fair trial," said Tam. "And fair sentence too - trust Ser Godfrey for that. As for the raven ... "

His eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "There's more in the woods than buck and boar, though it's not been seen for a while. But winter's coming, as they say, and we need keep a sharp watch out."

"More? Something other than men?" Rhys asked, remembering tales he'd heard about the North.

Tam smiled. "Men can be bad enough, Maester. Haven't you heard tell of the wildings beyond the Wall, and what they do to those they capture? It's been a long summer ... and we know a bad winter will follow."

Rhys nodded. "I'm aware of the limits of our bodies and what men do to exploit them--and not just the Wildings. But that's not what I was asking.

"Tales of...Others. Have you heard them? Do you believe them?"

Tam's smile was gone - as though it had been wiped from his face with a cloth.

"A tale to scare children, Maester. You don't want to listen to any of that foolishness."

Rhys eyed Tam with some interest, but let it go.

Ser Anders could be seen emerging from the Hall now, scowling around in the sunlight. Something, it seemed, had displeased him.

This was nothing new. Rhys stepped off to the side and out of the way, the better not to attract unwanted attention from Anders while he was in a mood.

Ser Anders moved off towards the guardhouse, seemingly without seeing them. A few minutes later, Godwyn came down the main steps from the Great Hall.

Godwyn stopped halfway down the steps and looked about the courtyard. When he spotted Rhys and Tam he waved, then trotted the rest of the way down the steps and over to them.

"I won't be coming along," he said to Tam as he approached. "My uncle has asked me to take charge of the guards while Ser Anders is gone." He gave a friendly nod to Rhys.

Well, that explained Ser Anders' scowl. Rhys grinned back at Godwyn, happy that they were finally giving the young man some serious responsibility. "You'll do a great job, I have no doubt. Do you know if Kenrith is coming or staying?"

"He's going. Should be interesting to see how he and Anders get along." Godwyn bit his lower lip, than said in a lower voice. "Could you watch that and let me know how it goes? Anders can be difficult, but he's a valuable man. I hope he sees Kenrith's worth, sees past his...." Godwyn didn't finish the thought.

Tam nodded, but looked at Rhys, as one who would have more opportunity for such observation while Tam worked with his dogs.

"I understand," Rhys replied, "and I'll let you know. Godwyn, have you ever been to Marshend?"

"Marshend?" Godwyn repeated. "Little place, on Long Lake, right? I've been there once or twice, but I don't remember much about it. Other than that it's on Hardy land, not Draupaud."

"How far away is it?"

"A week's journey," said Tam. "Although that's for a caravan. A man could ride it in half the time. Perhaps less on a Hardy horse."

Godwyn nodded. "They shouldn't have had any reason to push the horses. But, then, they shouldn't have run into any trouble five men couldn't handle, either." He scowled.

"Does Holdfast have any ties with Marshend?" Rhys asked curiously.

"Huh?" Godwyn stared at him for a moment, dragging his thoughts back from wherever they had been. "Oh. Yes, Hardy land runs right up to Long Lake. When my father was young he oversaw that area for his father. There was some confusion about competing claims with the old Lord Draupaud in the recent past, but with the Draupaud title and holdings given over to an upstart family I don't think anyone can doubt that has all been resolved in our favour."

Fascinating. Lord Hardy was young and a by-blow before marriage was not uncommon. And for Lord Hardy to be thinking of his Snow at this time of his life when he'd be considering his heir and his House's future suggested that the Snow was older than Kenrith. The clues he had were converging on Marshend, but they were by no means conclusive.

An interesting thought occurred to Rhys: does Kenrith know? And if he doesn't, should Rhys tell him what he suspects, though it's based on anecdotal suppositions? How would Kenrith take the news?

Rhys nodded. "So where were your thought a moment ago, young Godwyn?" he asked.

"Umm..." Godwyn glanced around, furtively, then leaned in and lowered his voice. "There was an argument between Anders and his sister, about guest right. Kenrith knows about it. You should ask him, sometime when Anders can't hear."

"Thanks, I'll do that," Rhys replied, not wanting to reveal that he'd had a discussion with Syndra. He didn't think Godwyn would disapprove or inform Ser Godfrey, but no sense in taking the chance if he didn't have to. "You keep a sharp eye about here, too, with all these Boltons running around. I mislike this situation."

"Aye," Godwyn answered grimly. His eyes focused somewhere behind Rhys, and he waved. "Kenrith looks like he's ready to leave, you should be off. Take care. Tam, don't let anyone make off with our maester, like they did with Clearwater's."

"I'll have an eye to him, Ser," promised Tam.

It seemed as though, since he had left the Hall, Kenrith had acquired not only his leather armour, but also a lady's favour.

As they were mounting, Ser Anders emerged from the guardhouse and - mounting his stallion, started to make his own way to the gate, four Holdfast guards following.

Rhys mounted and waited for instructions.

And subsequently rode off, followed by Tam, his dogs (led by Whiteface) trotting at the heels of his horse.

Godwyn was left alone, to check the guards - and the others. But he could also see something beyond the gates - in the tourney field. It looked like a man in the stocks (not an uncommon occurence) - but this man also seemed to be chained to a stake by his neck.

Godwyn deliberately turned away from the party gathering at the gate, preparing to leave. He wouldn't be seen to shirk his duty in favour of goodbyes. He walked the courtyard, briefly speaking with each of the guards, confirming their orders in a few words and taking their reports. For the moment he ignored the prisoner in the tourney field, there was only one man that could be and Godwyn had no interest in hearing any more of his baseless accusations and self-serving lies for the moment.

It was as he was completing his rounds that he became away of someone standing in the shadows of the entrance to the Great Hall, watching him as he went about his chores. As he shifted position, he could see more clearly who it was in the Shadows.

Eryk Bolton.

Godwyn shook his head, not sure whether it was anger, annoyance, or just frustration that the sight of Eryk produced in him. He went about his business, checking with the guards and reinforcing the orders they already had from Ser Anders, his rounds gradually taking him closer to the Great Hall. As he finished with one guard and started towards another he passed the shadowed area near the entrance, and nodded to Eryk in passing.

He didn't stop, unless Eryk said something.

But Eryk did - very softly, as Godwyn was passing him.

"Godwyn." A pause, to see if Godwyn checked his pace.

Godwyn stopped and turned to face him.

"Can we talk?"

Godwyn shrugged. "Talk," he said. "But I don't know if I can believe anything you say, it seems that every time a Bolton talks he says something different from the last time. I get confused just trying to remember all the different things I've heard from your family."

"I don't ... " Eryk began, and then he stopped. "I don't want to tell you any lies," he said at last. "Please - is there somewhere quieter where we can talk? I've no wish for my father to see us."

Godwyn sighed. "Very well. In the maester's tower. I can watch out over the courtyard for there, I'll see if I'm needed. You go on, I'll be there soon."

Eryk Bolton gave a hasty nod and disappeared back into the shadows of the entrance to the main part of Holdfast. It was clear that he wanted to be unobserved.

Godwyn shook his head as Eryk stepped back, then continued on his rounds. He made certain to speak to each of the guards on duty, checking to see that his understanding of Anders' arrangements matched what the guards were actually doing.

Only when he was completely satisfied did he tun his steps to the maester's tower, and climb the turning stairway to the top.

The tower seemed very quiet. Sewell perhaps was with Lord Hardy once more - usually there was more of a sense of his presence in the tower.

As Godwyn turned a curve in the stairs, he saw through to the living quarters - the large bed where Sewell and Rhys slept together. Eryk Bolton was sitting there, his face pensive. When he saw Godwyn, he hesitated for a moment, then rose to his feet.

"Thank you for coming. I ... I didn't want to go to the Maester's laboratory on my own. It seemed ... his place - in a way that this room is not." He smiled a little awkwardly. "Does that make any sense to you?"

Godwyn nodded, an answering smile appearing on his face. "Yes," he said. "Yes, it does."

He walked to a window and leaned against the wall, looking out over the courtyard, watching the activity below.

"What is on your mind?" he asked.

Eryk was silent for a long moment.

"It's hard to explain it all," he said at last. "This marriage ... I didn't look for it. I mean, I ... I'm sure that your cousin is a delightful girl and will make someone a splendid wife. But she ... she clearly wants nothing to do with me. And I ... "

He fell silent for a long moment and then said, very quietly, "There is someone else."

"Oh," Godwyn said. He thought for a bit, then said, "Your father doesn't know about her? I'd think it would be dangerous for her and her family if he did."

Another faint hesitation, and then Eryk gave a little laugh.

"No," he said. "No, my father does not know. And you're right - there would be danger in it. But ... more for me, if I let my feelings be known, I think."

"For daring to go against your father's will? Or just for having any softer feelings at all?"

Eryk hesitated. "A combination of both, perhaps," he said at last. "At all events ... it's not soimething I want to talk to him about. But ... that's not why I asked to speak with you. You see ... "

Again the hesitation -- and then Eryk lifted his head and looked straight at Godwyn.

"Whatever happens ... I want to stay here at Holdfast."

Godwyn gaped at him. "What?" he asked.

Eryk flushed slightly. "You heard what I said. I want to stay here - at Holdfast. If I go back to the Dreadfort - I'm dead."

"But..." Godwyn appeared to be grasping for words. "But, Eryk," he said finally. "No one here likes you."

Eryk's smile in response to Godwyn's words seemed a little forced. "No-one likes me much at the Dreadfort either - there'd be no change there. But ..."

He stopped suddenly, frowning, as the door of the tower banged. But instead of boots, there was the patter of bare feet on the stones as someone approached.

A second more, Limosa came into view, dressed in male breeches, a coarse shirt open at the throat, and a waistcoat, with her dark hair tumbling loose and her feet bare. She hesitated in the doorway, then ran across to Godwyn and began tugging at his arm.

Godwyn straightened immediately when she came in the room, only gaping for a moment at her strange attire. When she began to pull on his arm he started moving immediately. "Looks like this is important," he said over his shoulder to Eryk. "Look, I wouldn't be the one to make that decision anyway. Kenrith's the one you need to talk to."

He turned back to Limosa then. "What is it?" he asked. "What's happened?"

Eryk was silent for a long moment.

"It's hard to explain it all," he said at last. "This marriage ... I didn't look for it. I mean, I ... I'm sure that your cousin is a delightful girl and will make someone a splendid wife. But she ... she clearly wants nothing to do with me. And I ... "

He fell silent for a long moment and then said, very quietly, "There is someone else."

By way of answer she pointed at her throat, then held up her wrists as though manacled, and then stomped her feet on the wooden boards and held them close together. Allowing Godwyn no time to ponder her meaning, she started to haul again - then paused and looked at Eryk, finally gesturing imperiously for him to come to. The Bolton shrugged -and then looked at her more closely, his eyes widening.

"Lady Limosa! What's she doing here? Father will be furious ... "

"Already is," said Godwyn, allowing Limosa to pull him out of the room. "But it's none of his business. She's Ser Corryn's daughter."

Page last modified on July 27, 2006, at 05:29 PM