When Syndra arrived back at the castle and discovered the reason for Ser Corryn's hasty departure, she excused herself from Edlyn and retired immediately to her room, leaving word with her bedmaid that she wished not to be disturbed.
She tossed the Lannister coin on her dresser and curled up in the chair in which Wolf had so recently sat to scold her, her long arms draped over its back. The tears came without warning, along with the memories. A beloved mother lost, a conversation in an oak tree, a promise between best friends. Syndra longed to be with the Wolf now, to comfort him in this painful time as he had done for her so long ago.
She could feel his pain as if it were her own. He had spoken of his step-mother many times. Syndra often wished she could meet her because it sounded like they had a lot in common. Now she probably never would. And who knew when she would see her Wolf again.
When she composed herself, she found parchment and quill and sprawled across her bed to write:
My dearest Wolf, I was so sorry to hear of your mother's accident and even sorrier that you had to leave before I could tell you so in person. I of all people understand what you must be feeling now and believe me when I say that my heart will be with you. If I could, I would ride to White Harbor on the fastest horse I could find to attend you at this difficult time. However, you bid me stay safe, so words will have to suffice. You have enough on your mind right now without me giving you more worries. I wish we had had more time to talk on your recent visit, but it was not to be. Please know that I am not angry with you. It was just a very bad day. I was scared and confused and I took it out on my best friend. For that, I apologize. Please try not to get murdered on your next trip to Holdfast. We'll have a much nicer visit. Until I see you next, please know that I am thinking of you and that I remain, Your Little Bear
She folded and sealed the note, addressing it to "Ser Corryn Manderly" in her neatest hand, and went off to look for the messenger from White Harbor.
A letter arrives wrapped in vellum and sealed with the Manderly stamp. The messenger also carries with him a finely carved wolf made from driftwood. Etched into the bottom is Your Wolf Forever.
Little Bear, Forgive my tardiness in replying to your letter. My most humble thanks for your kindness. Knowing your heart is with me brings me great joy and comfort during these difficult times. Our bond has always given me strength and I cherish it daily. Were matters different, I would have you here. But you deserve light and happiness, not the shadows and melancholy of White Harbor. I thank you for your understanding in this regard. Poor Ciara did not die from the fall. The gods would have been kinder if she had, I think. Hers is not a soul to be restrained by any obstacle. She is so very brave, but I know the torment of being bedridden vexes her horribly. I try to comfort her as best I can, but will soon run out of stories to tell her I think. She is voracious for them, much like you were at a younger age. My heart is relieved to know you are not angry with me. We parted poorly and I worried about your feelings. Such a strange day that was; a fevered dream that felt like illusion, but possessed a terrible realism. I wish you had never been exposed to such unplesant matters. For that I am sorry. Your mother would have been very disappointed in me. Please express my apologies to her when next you pay your respects. I do not know when next we will be together. My father is taking Ciara's illness to heart. I have become the guardian of White Harbor in his stead. As such, my Lord Cousin has burdened me with numerous responsibilities that will prevent me from visiting you. It pains me to know I will be leaving you to the tender mercies of your aunt and her precocious daughter. I will endeavor to break away from the chains I find myself shackled with. You deserve more than I can ever hope to give you. Your eternal friend, Ser Corryn Manderly
About four months after sending his letter to Syndra, Corryn received a small parcel addressed to "Ser Corryn Manderly, Guardian of White Harbor" in a neat hand. The package bore the seal of House Hardy. When he opened it, a palm-sized piece of stitched fabric fell to the floor. Corryn picked it up to find a Manderly sigil, neatly stitched on a background of Hardy blue. At first glance, it was reminiscent of Morna's work, but on closer inspection, it was definitely not stitched by her hand. The courses on the back of the fabric were disorganized and a bit lumpy with knots, though the face of the work was very fine.
The letter that accompanied it read as follows:
Dear Wolf: Thank you for the carved wolf you sent me. It sits on my windowsill so it can greet the morning sun and howl at the moon. It's the first thing I see each morning. I'm sorry it took so long to write you back. Maester Sewell always says the Hardys aren't a wordy lot and I guess he's right. Enclosed is a gift for you as well. I stitched a Manderly sigil for your protection now that you're the Guardian of White Harbor. Mama's mother and grandmother always said that a sigil stitched by a woman who loves the warrior will protect him if he wears it into battle. Since I love you as much as I loved my brothers, it should work. And now that I'm a woman - yes, it's official - I can make them with the full amount of magic. It's a good thing, too, because the ones Mama made for Father are getting rather worn. I hope it looks all right. Godwyn drew it for me - he knows all the sigils. The colors might be a little off, though. The new traders never bring the variety of colors you used to bring. You do have someone who can sew it on for you, don't you? Things are not much changed here. Uncle Oswain continues to weaken, but he still tries to hide it. Godwyn still does his best to annoy Lady Celia and she still belittles him, which annoys me. Kenrith remains at Riverrun and Father remains at Winterfell. Edlyn and I are getting on well. Sometimes it's nice to have another girl to talk to. She's really not as bad as you thought, and I think I'm having an influence on her. She recently went for three whole days without mentioning "the Vale" even once! And she's always willing to help Godwyn annoy her mother. Personally, I think she likes him, but don't tell Godwyn! Please send my regards to your mother. Even though I never met her, I feel like I have with all you've told me about her over the years. I think I'd like her. She sounds a lot like me. I miss you, but I know you have duties to attend. I'll see you again someday, I know, even if I have to go to White Harbor to do it. Until then, be well and stay safe. Your Little Bear
It took another three months for the response to arrive, carried by Phalan Mormont; a bear-like man that Syndra recalled from many years previous. He arrived with supplies from across the Narrow Sea, specifically perfumes from Lys for Lady Celia, as well as spices and wine for the pantry. Lord Oswain raised the rafters once the price was announced, but Celia's silver tongue soon calmed him. Phalan did, however, have a small sandwood chest for Syndra, which he delivered privately. Inside was a leather tube containing several yellowed scrolls. There were also several expensive threads; gold, silver, emerald, robin egg blue, and purple. There were two thin, glass vials, each capped with a silver swan. Heady perfume, she discovered, that had imbued the entire chest and its contents with the smell of spice markets and flowers.
The scrolls were a letter accompanied by several illustrations:
Greetings from Lys, Firstly, allow me to apologize for my tardiness in corresponding with you. This failure, on my part, grieves me even more after having received your lovely gift. Regrettably, I have been at sea much of the time and regularly out of contact with the world. With my mother's turn of health, it has fallen upon me to maintain the family's southern trade routes and uphold our oaths with neighboring lands. But more on that later. The threads are Lysene and will hopefully replenish your supplies. You have your… <scratched out here for some reason> Please feel free to send me any requests you may have for others colors. Fear not for the price. Call it my gift for one I cherish deeply. I only wish I could deliver them in person as I did in the past. The perfumes are from the Summer Isle I bartered off a fellow merchant. One is for Edlyn. Give it to her with my blessings. Please hide them from your aunt when you can. I'm certain Phalan will pull a good profit from her for similar items. No sense in aggravating the woman. On the other hand, wear the perfume openly. It'll put a little color in the harpy's cheeks. Speaking of colors, I cannot express to you in simple terms the beauty of this strange world. At this moment, I sit in my quarters, gazing out at the harbor of some unpronounceable port. The sun is just setting and has turned the water into liquid flame. Lights of all colors are now burning along the docks; peddlers and merchants selling their wares. Sandstone builds shimmer amidst the reds and oranges of the forest. The air itself shimmers with music and voices and rich spices. And this is but one island amongst the dozens that form Lys; each a unique gem. <a rather elegant illustration decorates the side of this page, documenting Corryn's path from White Harbor to Lys and its surroundings. Several of the pages have little drawings, like flowers or buildings> But I still long for the peace of the North. I long to return to the White Knife and the Wolfswood. I long to return to you, my Little Bear. You are the star guiding me home and watching over me. Your magics have protected me on several occasions, and I thank you for them. My cousin, Wynafryd, sewed your sigil into my cloak before the Wyvern's Tears set sail. <A drawing of his ship is featured here, showing an angry dragon leering over the prow; its eyes almost alive and aware> She has the wit of a stunned mole that one, but is a refined seamstress and very kind. Perhaps that is why her mother, Lady Woolfield, is trying to force her on me at every turn. Winnie is eight and ten and distant enough to make a suitable wife; in their minds anyhow. I feel my age when I am around them. This old wolf will be tamed, I fear. Thank the Maiden and the Smith for allowing me to live on the sea for awhile. But I digress. Your sigil has protected me repeatedly. In truth, I am not so much a merchant as a privateer. It falls upon me to dispose of pirates and brigands that threaten my House's trade and realm. This is bloody work that I will not upset you with, but in short, I doubt I would have survived many a dark day without your blessings. At night, I can touch the delicate threads and know I am safe. I am in your debt a hundred times over, Little Bear. It warms me that you finally have a sister of sorts in Edlyn. I worry about you in that moldering castle. You deserve the warmer climes, I think. Perhaps I can arrange for you to stay at White Harbor. Bring Edlyn, if you so desire. I'm certain my mother would enjoy having two precious young women in the castle. It would certainly offset the dish water grey personalities of my other kin. The light is finally going and I must attend to a local merchant. She has invited me to dinner this evening to discuss final terms. Roasted gull stuffed with mushrooms, fennel, and onion, no doubt. As long as it isn't the grilled lamprey again. The wine is good, thank the Smith. At the very least, I can drink myself into thinking I'm eating food. Yours, Corryn Manderly