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Kenrith found the Hall was full of servant setting fresh rushes out and endeavouring to arrange the benches in some sort of order. A promising quarrel seemed to be brewing between who thought the room should be arranged as when Lord Hardy held court in ordinary; others were claiming it should be arranged for an assize court, even though Lord Stark would not be present.

He took his time as he observed the progress which had already been made, and that which was still under way. While he waited, he made sure that at least some involved in the debate over the two proposed organizational schemes could see him looking on.

Finally, he moved directly towards the feuding parties. "Ser Godfrey bid me oversee the preparations. Let me see if I understand your contention. You," Kenrith said as he indicated the red-faced man who was holding himself back from shouting, "feel that the room should be organized as we have always done for trials, as we must hold to tradition."

Kenrith paused to allow the man to nod, but before he could start to make his point anew, Kenrith had indicated his debating opponent with his still-outstretched finger. "You, on the other hand, feel that we should use the Assize court layout. The crime is significant enough, and it seems likely there will be multiple judges. Ser Corryn sounded the Stark call and bears the Stark banner, so while Lord Stark is not here, it seems sensible enough for those reasons."

"Both of you are mostly correct. As you have no doubt wisely pointed out," Kenrith said as he indicated with a flourish which left his fingers outstretched and his palm up in the man's direction "Lord Stark himself is not here, nor has any mention been made by Ser Godfrey or Lady Celia or any other worthy about multiple judges," Kenrith said quite calmly.

"You," Kenrith said as his open palm swung to indicate the other man, "understand that Ser Godfrey and Lady Celia share the stewardship, and that chairs must be made available on-high for others... perhaps myself, Ser Herys, Ser Corryn, Ser Anders."

"We must Hold Fast to tradition, but we shall do so by honoring my father's wishes. He has bid his beloved wife, Lady Celia, and brother, Ser Godfrey, act as his representatives in all matters... including this one. Thus, we will adapt the layout used when Lord Hardy sits in judgement with his wife by his side. We will also place a chair to either side... one beside Ser Godfrey for Ser Corryn, and one beside Lady Celia for Maester Sewell," Kenrith said with a smile to each. This was, perhaps, the first time these men had seen Kenrith smile in a decade. There was the polish of Riverrun in his words and in his smile... but his eyes carried the frost of the North, and he was prepared to stare down any who spoke with a disrespectful tone to him.

The men both nodded and moved away to direct operations. But at a distance they conferred and came to back to Kenrith.

"Ser," said one, "where shall we place Lord Herys?" He paused, and then went on, "And where shall we set your place, Ser?"

The Hall suddenly seemed to become very quiet.

Kenrith paused for a moment and studied the layout of the room. He drew a slow breath into his nose, and mentally calmed his pounding heart. He must give every indication of confidence, and did have some idea of how the room should be layed out.

"This first row of seats in the center will, I think, be for those of noble blood who are not actively called before the trial. I believe I will sit there," Kenrith said as he indicated an isle seat in the front, near the center. It faced those on stage from the left hand side, so that his good arm was to the center isle.

"Ser Herys will sit here," Kenrith said as he indicated the seat across from the isle from him "and his son next to him, and so on. We will make this row with the taller seats usually used for the high table, with those reserved for those below the salt assembled behind, as you have been doing. Place the other seats an additional half-pace apart from the taller chairs, in case someone must walk behind to bear someone a message."

"Also place seats along that wall for witnesses who have not been called.

I believe the accused will be held opposite them, and that those called to testify will do so at the center of the floor. Most will stand, but someone should be ready for a chair in case someone older is called to testify for a long period."

"Noblemen who might be called to testify can rise from the first row of seats," Kenrith finished.

The men both nodded as if relieved and went off to do the setting out as instructed.

"Actually, Oland," said a fresh voice, "you can set me down here. I can hop

  • perfectly* well, and if I decide I need to sit down, there are plenty of

benches - and even some chairs."

When Kenrith turned, he saw one of the guards carefully setting Edlyn Martin down - for he had clearly carried her into the room. She saw Kenrith and promptly dropped into her prim curtsey - but this time the effect was spoilt when she let out a very audible, "Ow!"

Once in the Great Hall, a servant directed Maester Sewell to his assigned seat.

Ser Kenrith bowwed to the senior Maester and offered him a hand up onto the raised platfor from which justice was dispensed. At other times, of course, dinner was dispensed to the lords and ladies of Holdfast on this same platform.

Rhys noticed Edlyn nearby, her ankle wrapped, and changed his direction to go attend to her.

"What happened to you?" he asked upon reaching her.

Kenrith looked on with concern.

"I was trampled half to death," said Edlyn. "But it was obeying Ser Kenrith's orders, so that's all right." Her tone was that of one nobly martyred.

"Syndra strapped up my ankle," she added, "and it's *perfectly* all right, as long as I don't have to keep curtseying to people." She lifted her skirt and extended her bandaged ankle for Rhys to examine, while casting a look of wide-eyed innocence at Kenrith.

Rhys grinned at Kenrith, then went down on one knee to unwrap the ankle to examine it.

Kenrith moved closer so that he might speak with Edlyn without raising his voice. "I'm sorry that you were hurt, Edlyn. I'm sure everyone will understand why you mustn't courtsey on your injured leg. I had no idea my request would see you hurt. Please accept my apologies."

"Thank you, Ser Kenrith," said Edlyn, adding piously, "it is enough for me to know I gained my injuries in the service of House Holdfa ... ow!"

She looked down at Rhys, and then gave a wicked little giggle. "That hurt!"

"Sorry," Rhys replied, testing the freedom of movement of the joint. "Looks like just a sprain, though a bad one. I'll wrap it back up now. Although perhaps undignified, if you can rest the ankle on the bench so it's elevated, that would be good."

"Mother will have fifty fits," said Edlyn wistfully. "Can I tell her it was at the express command of the Maesters?"

"Yes, feel free to blame it on me," Rhys replied while rewrapping the ankle. "After the trial I want you to lie down and elevate your ankle for the rest of the day. No weight on it at all. All right?"

He helped Edlyn lift her leg onto the bench, then addressed Kenrith. "Is there any place in particular I should sit?"

"The witnesses will be sitting along that wall," Kenrith said as he indicated the row of chairs with a sweep of his hand.

"It may be that you will be asked to sit in the order in which you will be giving testimony, but for now you may take any seat you like," Kenrith said with a shrug and faint smile.

"Thank you." Rhys bowed his head in respect to both Kenrith and Edlyn, then retired to the wall Kenrith indicated to wait for the trial to start.

Corryn and Limosa emerged into the Great Hall without flourish; their only announcement the echo of his voice excitedly explaining the various architectural wonders of Holdfast. He had the young girl on his left arm, gesturing with the other as he talked. He was obviously enjoying the shared experience, despite the circumstances under which they were here. That joy blossomed further when they entered the Great Hall. It dwarfed the main hall at Leaning Stone, a fact that was not missed by the young girl that had spent some much time in that grim room.

"And this is the Great Hall," Corryn said. "It's been two years since I've been in here, and it still amazes me to this day."

Limosa was gazing around, her eyes wide. Clearly she had never been in so large an enclosed space.

He paused, seeing the others gathered. After dismissing Phalan and their escort, Corryn led Limosa over to the trio. "Ser Kenrith and Lady Edlyn, how good to see you again," he said with a polite bow. He noticed Rhys and smiled, "Rhys, correct? Sewell's nephew, correct?"

Kenrith returned the bow, and his thin smile expanded slightly at Corryn's energetic personality.

"Correct on both counts," the young man replied as he returned Corryn's smile and bow, his three maester's links gently clinking together.

Rhys's gaze slid to Limosa and turned clinical, taking in her malnourished frame and her fearful eyes, and the healer in him itched to help her. "My apologies for upsetting your daughter earlier," he said, addressing Ser Corryn but still looking at Limosa. "I would like to make amends if I might. If there's anything I can do for you or your daughter, please let me know."

Limosa took a step backwards. She did not seem inclined to trust Rhys.

Corryn patted her hand reassuringly, but kept his eyes on Rhys. "The fault is mine, Maester Rhys. Things have been so hectic of late, that I forgot to explain a few points. And important ones at that. So, if there was any embarrassment to be had, the blame falls solely on my shoulders.

"However, if you and I can speak later on, I would be grateful to you. I would seek the counsel of a maester, for we are of lack for one at Leaning Stone. Perhaps you can shed some light on certain issues that trouble me of late. But they can wait until after this… unpleasantness is resolved."

There was more to it than hinted at by his words; Rhys could tell it by the way Corryn looked at him. Somehow, he seemed protective of Rhys, but didn't give any indication as to why.

Rhys acknowledged the apparent hidden agenda with a somber nod. "I am at your convenience, Ser Corryn. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go find my seat."

The young maester-in-training bowed to all present and then retreated to find a seat along the wall indicated earlier by Kenrith.

When Edlyn didn't rise, he cocked his head. "Edlyn, you're injured. What happened, my dear?"

Ser Kenrith looked from Corryn to Limosa, and from her to Edlyn's leg. He then returned his eyes to Corryn's face, with a look on his face somewhere between guilt and slight apprehension

"I was injured serving the interests of Holdfast," said Edlyn sweetly. "Which must be my reward." She looked positively angelic.

Limosa coloured and frowned.

Corryn followed the silent story veiled beneath the furtive glances and half-truths. He frowned when the conclusion became apparent to him. He gave both Kenrith and Edlyn a pained look, his hazel eyes showing an apology best left unspoken.

Instead, he took Edlyn's hand and kissed the back of it chastely. "It appears injury in the course of duty hounds us both, m'lady. Someday we must meet under circumstances where one of us isn't stabbed or throttled, yes?" He held her hand for a moment longer before letting it go. Once again, he gave her a silent apology with his smile.

Edlyn shot him one of her wicked smiles. "I must say, that would be singularly pleasant, Ser Corryn."

Limosa looked at Corryn, not understanding the reference, but clearly troubled by the talk of violence. She drew a step closer to him, as though to ensure he would not be harmed.


Garyn had reached the courtyard and was standing queueing for admittance with a load of Holdfast folk who had come to see Justice done. And were looking forward to it.)

"Come on, lad," Godwyn called as he rode past. "What are you waiting out here for?" He and the wagon rode through the crowd and into the courtyard, Garyn scampering to keep up. Everyone dismounted, and Godwyn helped Mistress Odette out of the cart. He turned to one of the guards and told him, "Help Arney get the horses and the wagon to the stable. And see to it that the Bolton men don't bother him, all right? They seem the sort who'd like to torment a harmless fool. He can tell you all about how he saw the Others wandering about the Goose and Gander." Godwyn snorted a laugh and turned back to Odetter. He took her arm in his and said with a smile, "If I may be your escort, Mistress?" and led her, Volf, and Garyn into the Great Hall.

Odette stood there for a moment, blinking in the comparative darkness ... and then she saw Ser Corryn and swept forward.

"Ser Corryn! Why are you setting up your tents outside? Did you not think I could accommodate you all at the inn?"

Then she saw Limosa, still clinging to Corryn's arm and stopped abruptly. Then she dropped a curtsey to the assembled nobles - a little stiffly. "I was asked to attend as a witness," she said.

Two years. Two years of remembering the touch of candlelight on her skin. Two years of dreaming of how she moved, how she held herself proudly. And, of course, two years of guilt at how he'd left her without a word. His letters and the gifts, what few there'd been, could not make up for that. And yet, here she was smiling just as he dreamt of so many times.

He patted Limosa's hand and then let her go briefly to take both Odette's hands in his. He wanted nothing more than to kiss her and beg forgiveness, but not here, not now. He kissed her knuckles and chuckled warmly, staring into those eyes he adored so dearly. "Madame Odette, I have missed you. We're camped outside because I did not want to be an imposition to you and yours. But never fear. The Knives will be on your doorstep soon enough. Phalan could talk of nothing other than your cooking and I must admit that I have had a bellyful of fish for the last two years."

Corryn remembered himself and gestured toward Limosa, nodding to both in introduction. "Odette, I'd like you to meet my daughter, Limosa," he said, moving back to the girl's side and offering his arm for reassurance. "Limosa, this is Madame Odette. She is one of my dearest friends."

He offered Odette a gentle grin, hoping she would know to be patient with him. There would be an explanation in time. Although he had dreaded this moment, he could not hide how good it was to see her again.

Her face lit in a tentative smile.

"Your daughter, Ser?" she said, and looked at Limosa, a little uncertainly.

Limosa glowered back. Odette shot a look at Ser Corryn,, and then back at Limosa.

"I am most pleased to make you acquaintance," she said hesitantly. "Is your mother ... "

Limosa's hand on Corryn's arm suddenly became a band of iron.

Corryn straightened as her nails, the ragged results of a feral life, dug into his arm like daggers. He managed a sad smile and shook his head at Odette. The message was obvious: Don't broach that subject. Before any further upset could be had, he interrupted her.

"Madame, two years has been a long time. Much, I fear has happened in that time. I'm sure we can reacquaint ourselves once we're done here.

 I am to understand you are a key witness on my squire's behalf.  For

that I am grateful.

"May we escort you to your seat?"

He glanced down at his arm, wondering if Limosa had drawn blood. The girl had a bloody good grip. Odette's touch was far more pleasant as he helped her to the witness area. Before long, it devolved into a silent tug-of-war; one side pulling him with gentleness and the other side with surprising vigor.

After getting Odette settled, he led Limosa over to their place to sit. As he sat down, the Riverwolf slipped away from his features to be replaced by a stony semblance few would recognize. After all, the Hardys had never really seen "Ser Manderly," the stoic, brooding creature spawned by two years of sorrow and bloodshed. But the seriousness of this day was not lost on Corryn and the time for lightheartedness was at an end.


In the hallway beyond the rear doorway to the Great Hall, Ser Godfrey and Syndra appeared, seemingly deep in muffled conversation, apparently of a very serious nature if the intense expressions on both their faces were any indication. As they approached the doorway, their manners changed. Both straightened and pulled on their court faces - neutral, poised, proud. Anyone watching the two enter together would have no doubt that they were father and daughter.

Syndra scanned the room with just her eyes, taking inventory of friend and foe alike. She met the gazes of certain people - Kenrith, Edlyn, Corryn, Godwyn, Rhys - but otherwise did not speak to anyone until Ser Godfrey led her to her appointed place.

As Syndra entered the Hall, Rhys paused on his way to find a seat to turn and meet her gaze. How he knew she was there, she wasn't sure, but he gave her a flicker of a smile and and a wink before returning to his original pursuit.

Kenrith helpfully indicated where she was to sit.

Godwyn stood strangely silent through all this. In fact, he had not said anything or moved since he had led Odette to the small group. Instead he just stood there, mouth slightly agape, staring at Limosa.

Volf and Garyn stood nervously behind him, shifting from foot to foot uneasily and glancing around as though they expected to be set upon at any moment.

Limosa seemed to become aware of his attention. She turned to look at him and coloured, before treating him to her customary scowl.

Page last modified on May 16, 2006, at 07:43 PM