In The Hospital Wing
Back in the room, Ser Godfrey seemed now to be sleeping - but there was much that could be done to ready the room for more patients ...
Syndra attended to those tasks. She refilled the kettle to boil more water, then hurried off into the maesters' workroom. Grabbing a pail, she began pulling down bottles - mustard seed, nettle, comfrey, firemilk, milk of poppy. She narrowed her eyes, trying to remember anything that Maester Sewell or Rhys had ever taught her about healing wounds. She settled all the bottles in the pail, like a shopping basket, then filled in the spaces with softer things - bandages, towels, strings of catgut. Before she left the room, she scooped the mortar and pestle under her arm and rushed back to the ward.
Her father still seemed to be sleeping, but by now she could hear voices on the stairs.
By now, a pair of pot boys were hurrying up the stairs, with Rhik following behind, tense and worried.
Good. The potboys are arriving, Syndra thought to herself as she checked on her father again. She paid them no more heed but continued her preparations, pouring mustard seed and nettle into the mortar to prepare the medicine for the poultices.
Rhys grabbed his satchel on his way out the door with Molleen... and almost ran into Ser Corryn on the stairs coming up. [The knight's] color was ashen, his sleeve soaked with blood.
"By the Seven..." Rhys intoned when he saw him, then continued in a clearer voice, "Here, let me help you up!" Without waiting for permission, Rhys put his arm around Corryn to help him up the stairs.
Corryn tried to refuse the help, but realized just how weak he was once his weight was being supported by another person. He leaned into Rhys, humbled by his own mortality.
"It's nothing," he sighed. "Just pour some hot wine into it and bind it. I need to be on my way. And soon. Eryk has a lead on us, but we can cut him off if I leave now.
"I need you to send out two ravens as well. I'll write the missives while you work on my arm. And then you can send them before you return to your other duties. I wouldn't ask, but my daughter's future depends on those messages reaching Leaning Stone and Winterfell."
"What are you talking about?" Rhys asked, not knowing what the situation was with Limosa.
"Eryk has taken her," Corryn said. "Knowing that little weasel, he'll marry her by force, rape her, and then claim dominion over Leaning Stone." His body shook with the rage building in him, only compounded by the sense of helplessness and weakness.
"If I can have a trap waiting for him... well, let us say the people of Leaning Stone love their Lady more than they fear the Boltons."
He allowed Rhys to lead him up the stairs, regaining some strength with every step. If anything, the Wolf certainly was sturdy old dog. Either that or he was just plain stubborn. Perhaps it was a little of both.
Rhys helped Corryn into the room they were using as an infirmary and set him down in a chair near Godfrey. "Syndra, can you bring hot water and bandages here?" he asked as he ripped at Corryn's sleeve.
At the hearth, a short-haired girl in a grey dress was grinding something with a mortar and pestle. She looked up when Rhys spoke, her eyes widening at the sight of Corryn's ashen face and bloody arm. "Wolf!" she gasped, leaping up so quickly that she almost spilled the contents of the mortar. She started to run to him, but instead changed course to retrieve the items that Rhys had requested.
Corryn blinked at this odd woman and then realized who it was. He should have been more shocked at this radical change in appearance, but in truth, he accepted it without question. Considering Godfrey's likely condition, this would be the time for a son; not a daughter. His stomach churned. Godfrey must have been worse off than he'd hoped.
"Take care, Syndra," he called to her. "Your aim was a little off, so no need to rush about on my account."
Corryn sat down and let out a tired sigh. His eyes drifted over to his friend. A gasp escaped his lips. He'd known it would be bad, but to see his peer and friend so... broken... wounded him to the core. It only confirmed his dark suspicions.
The ripping of his sleeve sent a fresh bolt of pain through his arm. "Damnation!" he yelped, returning his attention to the problem at hand.
Rhys didn't apologize.
"Don't even think about telling me I can't ride, Maester Rhys," he said through the pain. "Burn it closed if you have to. But I need to be on a horse. Now."
Rhys took the hot water and bandages from Syndra. "Thank you," he told her as he poured some of the hot water into another basin and washed his hands. "Would you mash up some comfrey leaves for me with the mortar and pestle you found? I'll need a poultice of them for Ser Corryn's arm."
Syndra nodded and hurried away, carefully avoiding looking at Corryn's injured arm. Or his eyes, for that matter.
Rhys dried his hands with one of the bandages as he eyed the wound. "Heh. Me tell you to do something? I might as well tell the sun to stop shining or the wind to stop blowing," he replied to Corryn, the corner of his mouth turning up wryly.
As Rhys worked, Syndra addressed the potboys who had come up the stairs behind the two men. "Darvis, we'll need linens for all the beds in this room. Check the laundry if there are not enough in the closets. Brant, water. Fill every barrel here with fresh water from the well." She shooed the two away to attend to their duties.
"Rhik," she looked up at the familiar Hardy servant as if the two of them were old war comrades marching wearily into battle one more time. "Rhik, we need hands. Maester Sewell is with Lady Celia and cannot attend us. We need to round up anyone who can assist without fainting at the sight of blood. And who's not already with the Maester or Lord Hardy. Septa Annice, Lanney, Myra, anyone else you can think of that might be helpful. And they'll need litters and men to carry them on the field."
Rhik nodded and smiled at Syndra reassuringly. "We'll manage it, M'lady. Don't you fret." He nodded crisply, then turned and hustled back down the stairs.
Rhys tossed the damp bandage and leaned over to poke and prod Corryn's arm, the wry smile quickly turning into a deep frown. "Can you move your fingers?" he asked. "Make a fist?"
Corryn could manage to wiggle them, though the effort was painful. He failed at making a fist.
"The cut is deep--down to the bone--and you've already lost an unhealthy amount of blood," Rhys said, looking up. "If I clean this out and burn it closed as you want, rather than carefully sewing it closed as I want, then you run the risk of losing function of your hand.
"Also, the wound needs to be watched for signs of infection. I can do that here. In the forest, however, if the wound turns sour there's no one to help you, and if the infection gets into your bloodstream it will spread and you will die."
Syndra's head spun round at that last word. She gazed at Corryn fearfully, finally pulling her eyes away to attend to the comfrey-mashing. She did not look up again, but Corryn, who was facing her, could tell she was fighting off tears by how frequently she was blinking.
"Tell me something I don't know, Rhys," Corryn snarled, but it was the pain talking. He smiled apologetically a moment later. "My men know herbs to keep the infection at bay. You don't live on a boat for months at a time without picking up a few maester's tricks. But if it's as deep as you say…"
His eyes drifted over to Syndra, their normal spark dimmed by exhaustion and pain. Even so, the Old Wolf gave her a playful grin. "Hardys," he smirked. "They'll be the death of me."
Rhys resisted the impulse to look over his shoulder.
Syndra hadn't looked up to see Corryn's smile. She squeezed her eyes shut against the guilt.
Corryn turned back to Rhys. "I need my hand if I'm to drown Eryk with my bare hands, so do what you can to keep my fingers working, right?" He listened like a dutiful patient as Rhys went on in his diagnosis.
"My recommendation--I'm not telling you what to do, only giving you my opinion--is to get someone else to go after Limosa, like Godwyn. Look at you--your pulse is racing, your color is terrible--I'll be surprised if you even manage to sit atop a horse, much less race one through the woods."
"I've died twice before, Maester Rhys," Corryn said frankly. "A little blood loss is nothing to get my knickers in a wad over. I'll strap myself to the horse, if you'd prefer. But Godwyn… riding alone after Evan and Eryk? The Warrior has blessed him with courage beyond his years, but the boy has the cunning of a turnip." He immediately glanced over at Syndra, "No offense to your cousin, Lady Syndra. But he'll need me with him. Between the two of us, we'll get Limosa back."
The mention of Limosa caught Syndra's attention. She looked up at the two of them. "Someone HAS gone after her. I was with Volf and Tamlin before the..." she winced, but continued. "The dogs had picked up a trail. It led deeper into the woods, so I couldn't continue with them. But they followed it. They didn't come back for... They've been looking this whole time."
"Perhaps we can catch up with them then," Corryn said. "I've trained Volf in all the secret paths of these forests. And he's a fine hunter. We'll have Eryk's trail for sure... if we can find Volf. I just hope he didn't run afoul of them. The poor boy has had enough misery on my account."
"Half an hour," Rhys said to Corryn gruffly. "That's how long I'll need to sew up your arm."
"Do it, Wolf. A half-hour now will save you many times that if it keeps you from passing out," Syndra urged quietly.
"Fine, fine," Corryn acquiesced. "It'll take the men that long to break camp anyhow. Gods preserve me. I'd almost think you two care for my health or something. So, let's be about it, eh?"
He settled in for the unpleasantness, savoring the moment's rest. "Stop looking at me that way, Syndra," he said softly. "One would think you were feeling guilty about something."
She had been staring at him remorsefully as she ground the comfrey and Rhys began his work. When Corryn commented on it, though, she lowered her eyes and ground harder, biting her lip. In a moment, he heard the telltale sniffle.
Corryn sighed and reached out to touch her shoulder. "Syndra," he said evenly. "I'm fine. And I'm in good hands. Accidents are nothing between friends. And that's all it was. How could I be angry for an accident?"
She started to argue weakly. "But I swore..."
A comforting sternness entered his voice, "So, no tears for me, my dear. I won't have it. Please?"
She looked into his eyes and sighed, a sort of cleansing breath, nodding resignedly, then returned to her work.
Rhys defensively maintained a professional detachment from the emotion between Corryn and Syndra and went to gather the equipment he'd need.
When he returned he cleaned and sewed Corryn's arm for him, and although he worked as quickly as he could in the interest not only of time but of also minimizing Corryn's discomfort, both procedures were very painful. He finished by dressing the wound with Syndra's comfrey poultice and clean bandages.
While he sewed, he suggested Syndra write Corryn's messages for him.
"AgreeEEAGH! Damnation, Rhys, you are enjoying this far too much, I think," Corryn winced as the needle went back for forth through his skin.
Rhys smiled. "Hold still."
Corryn steadied his breathing, "But first. Send someone to fetch Madame Odette for me. Have her meet me at our camp if you would? I have some things to say to her before I go." He smiled weakly in explanation.
When the first of the potboys returned, Syndra sent him on Corryn's errand.
Corryn waited while the messenger was sent for and Syndra had retrieved a quill, ink, and paper. When she was prepared, Corryn began to outline two short, but effective missives.
The first, heading to Leaning Stone, outlined the Bolton's betrayal at Holdfast, as well as Limosa's kidnapping. Eryk was to be held, not killed, if he should stumble into their hands. His men, however, would only be given sanctuary if they plead an oath to speak against the Bastard, which they would be handsomely paid for.
The second, addressed to Lady Stark of Winterfell, briefly outlined the Bolton betrayal both at Holdfast and Leaning Stone, stressing the torture and slow death of Lady Lilith at the hands of her former husband (all, of course, at the behest of the Boltons). A scoundrel he may have been, but Corryn cited legitimacy laws with a Maester's skill and cunning. He explained how by relinquishing his claim to family and manse, Ser Cerwyn dissolved any claim the Boltons may have had on Leaning Stone, as such rights were through him and him alone. By marrying Lady Lilith, Corryn not only became the true Ward of Leaning Stone, but the father of the legitimate heir as well. He agreed to swear fealty to either the Cerwyn family or Winterfell, thus strengthening the territories surrounding the northern road.
Syndra scratched away furiously, doing her best to keep up with Corryn's colorful narrative.
"Lady Stark will see the wisdom of this," Corryn said. "I doubt they'd wish a bunch of traitors a day's ride from their holdings. And considering her love for her daughters… I'm certain she'll lean in my direction considering the abuse Limosa and her mother have suffered. And are still suffering."
He checked his arm and nodded with approval. "Well done, Maester Rhys. Well done," Corryn said. "I do think it will actually remain attached as I'm riding."
After placing the arm in a sling, the Old Wolf began making his way toward the door. "Well. This is not the goodbye I'd expected. But considering the last few days, I am not entirely surprised."
Syndra wanted to throw her arms around him like a child and beg him not to leave. But she held fast, both because of Rhys's presence and the fact that she knew Corryn had to go. Family was everything to Wolf. It always had been. And Limosa was family. She simply nodded, biting her lip to hold back the worry.
By the time Corryn's wound was dressed, a small number of Hardys were being brought in. Some had wounds sustained in conflict - a couple had broken limbs through falling off horses in the charge - most seemed to have stabbed themselves or been stabbed by apologetic friends (who accompanied them) in the wild frenzy of the attack on the Boltons. Most were high on adrenaline - and eager to boast how many Boltons they had killed. If one believed everything they said, it would suggest that several hundred Boltons had been in residence at Holdfast.
Corryn stood in front of Syndra, gazing down at her with sadness and confusion in his eyes. He touched her cheek, trying to find some words of comfort, some simple expression to put her at ease. But how could he do that, standing as he was in this room for the suffering and the dying? Instead, he just nodded, as did she; a silent communication that spoke volumes. They'd known one another for her entire life. They knew each other better than they knew themselves. What were simple words when compared to that?
He leaned down and lightly kissed her cheek, whispering something.
She looked up into his hazel eyes and nodded again, her own eyes welling up. "Be careful," was all she could choke out, but her eyes said the rest. No words were needed. With a final sniffle, she turned away, walking briskly toward the hearth to do something. Anything.
Rhys watched the pair surreptitiously as he dumped the dirty tools he'd used on Corryn in a nearby bowl.
And then Corryn was away, leaving the girl he'd come to save to pick up the pieces of her life; alone.
At least for now.