Marshend- After The Struggle: Derron, Mariam, and Visitors
Mariam broke off as the door opened, and Aerin walked in, Shade at her side, and followed by Merivel and Davin.
"Derron! I've found Maester Merivel!" Aerin called out as she entered the kitchen.
Merivel followed Aerin inside, looking about for the Smith-turned-Steward.
Derron made a quick mental note to ask Mariam about her adventures sometime as he looked up at Aerin's interruption. But her news threw him a bit. He was about to ask if she was sure when Merival walked in. Derron beamed a grin and said, "Well, well. I finally have completed a task. And not one I set out to do. Maester Merival, it is indeed a relief to find you." He glanced up and down at the young man's colorful clothes and added, "I hope you've not been too much trouble for the Hardys that they stole your garb."
A dark, troubled look ran across Merivel's face at Derron's mention of the Hardy's. He suppressed it quickly, but it was unmistakable.
"I had severe difficulties in my travels from Holdfast, which is part of the reason why I wound up here." Merivel said, barely keeping his tone neutral now that he was amongst allies and friends. "I nearly was killed."
Derron's eyebrows shot up and his eyes popped open as once again he felt some excitement rush into his veins. He also recalled why the man was supposed to have been traveling. He stood up and was about to speak when he caught sight of Mariam.
"My manners," he muttered. "Maester Merivel, this is Septa Mariam. She has been kind enough to give us a place to set camp after our own adventures. She has also proven quite adept at the healing arts you practice. And most importantly she has hepled save the life of our own Septa after an arrow struck her."
Merivel turned and gave a nod of greeting to Septa Mariam and then turned back as Derron continued.
Derron held up a hand to forestall the obvious questions. "Why don't the three of us check on her in the next room? While you admire Mariam's handiwork, I will fill you in on what has happened to us. And also why I sent for you." He turned to Aerin and suspected his next request was about to meet with some resistance. "Aerin, would you keep Ranulf company out here? I believe he is keeping our Septa company. I will send him out here."
Aerin nodded once, her face closed. She understood that Derron would need to explain much to the Maester without Ranulf around.
"All right." Merivel said simply to Derron, nodding again "I'll have a look and see what has been done, and what I can do myself, and you can fill me in."
"Later, perhaps, I'll explain what I can of my journey from Holdfast." he offered to Derron. "You as Steward, as well as the Lord, should know."
Derron nodded and quietly opened the door to where the Septa was resting. He stepped in softly and said, "Ranulf, Maester Merivel has arrived. He needs to check the Septa. Step into the kitchen with Aerin, please."
Ranulf, who had been sitting quietly by the Septa, rose to his feet, suddenly pale and tense. "Maester ... Merivel?" he faltered. "What's he doing here? Has he come from my father?"
"I'll explain later, Ranulf." Merivel said from the room outside, listening to the conversation. "I should see to the Septa first before much more delay."
"All right," said Ranulf, a little reluctantly. He glanced at the Septa, and then moved off towards the kitchen and Aerin, doing no more than shooting a scared look at Merivel in passing.
"Through here," said Mariam, a little unnecessarily, and led the way into the room where the Septa lay.
Derron followed Mariam then turned and let Merivel in before closing the door and leaning back to keep it closed. He said quietly, "I'll explain everything after you examine her."
Merivel nodded. "You do not wish to prejudice my diagonsis...or you have something disturbing to tell me. In any event, I will." Merivel agreed. He headed to where the Septa lay and began checking on her condition studiously, checking for fever, eye motion and the other things one might check in a victim of poisoning.
Her saw at once that her wound had been poisoned, but that she showed signs of excellent care. Some of the ingredients in the poultice used to treat her were unknown to him, but effective nonetheless. The fever that had followed the wound was broken, and, although weak and needing careful tending, the worst of it was past.
He was aware that the Septa was watching him anxiously, as though worried that she might have done something wrongly by a Maester's standards.
Derron said nothing, but noted the anxious stance of Mariam. But knowing Merivel he assumed the man would begin querying her about her methods the moment he had the chance. Not as criticism, but to add to his vast storehouse of knowledge.
"I think the Septa is past the knife edge of whether she will live or die." Merivel finally said, having not spoken the entire time he examined the Septa. He turned to regard Mariam. "However, the Septa will need patient and careful care to be husbanded to a full recovery."
"I should like to know more what you deduced, and what you used to treat it," he said to Mariam. "It would have been difficult for me to improve on your results, but the ingredients you used are not as familiar to me as they should be."
Mariam glanced at Derron.
"I will be happy to demonstrate in full," she said. "Only it will take some time, I fear."
Derron chuckled and said, "We have time, I assure you. And knowing the good Maester here, he'll offer you his own knowledge in exchange for whatever you can teach him." He remained standing against the door and turned to face Merivel. "For the moment, I'll be brief. Let me finish telling the tale in full, then ask all your questions."
He paused, and it was obvious from his knitted brow he was composing his thoughts. He finally decided, as usual, to be frank. "The reason I sent for you was Her Ladyship was found dead. It looked initially like suicide, then we thought a mercy killing. Septa here even confessed. But it turned out it was Ranulf. Something about hoping her death might make His Lordship more likely to not hate the boy. Basically, because the Septa confessed, she needed to be punished. But upon learning the truth, the best solution we came up with was to bring the boy here to Marshend to be raised. Niko and Septa will teach and train him. Then either His Lordship might forgive him, or send him to the Wall. During our journey here we were attacked by bandits trying to take the bounty on a woman who travels with a wolf. They assumed that it was actually Aerin and the tale of a wolf was actually the shadowcat. Of course once we arrived here, we were eventually shown that Catriona travels with a direwolf. But that is beyond the scope of our discussion. Any questions so far?"
"Many" Merivel said, his face grim, his body language uncomfortable. "Mainly, and the only digression I'll ask at this point--how was it determined that Ranulf was the true person responsible for her Ladyship's death?"
Derron answered grimly. "The Septa confessed, since she suspected Ranulf was to blame. She had failed to save the Lady, so she tried to save the child. But we found it hard to believe the Septa would kill Her Ladyship. The boy's guilt overcame him, and the others even found evidence. He finally admitted it. In his defense, she had said she wished she'd died well before he was born. His claim to be doing what he thought was her bidding actually holds water." He shook his head. "And as His Lordship needs to wed and sire more heirs, he can't have a murderer inside the walls. So, here we are." He slumped a bit as he recalled that day. "I've never made it a secret I do not enjoy being Steward. But that day was by far the worst I've had yet."
"I wish I had been present." Merivel said with a grim nod as he waited a moment after Derron's explanation to respond. "Unfortunately, I found precious little peace in my visit west." Merivel explained. "Things are...uncertain in Holdfast, Derron, with the health and status of Lord Hardy and I became mixed up in such matters."
"Even given the fast friendship with the two Maesters there, it might have been better had I never gone." Merivel added glumly.
Derron sighed and shrugged. "I doubt it would have made much difference to the end results. It would have been you who learned the sad truth, rather than me and Niko."
Mariam, who had vanished quietly to the small kitchen, now ewturned with two mugs of ale for them.
"I told your men that they should help themselves to my small beer," she said to Derron. "But neither will last us long."
"Thank you Mariam." Merivel said, and he took a sip of the mug.
Derron smiled his thanks and added, "Aye, many thanks. I seem to keep thanking you. Rest assured I will see you compensated. The one benefit of being Steward, I guess." The deep cut on his arm seemed to have stopped bleeding, but he would keep an eye on it. He turned again to Merivel. "So, you will now accompany us to Marshend, then back to Clearwater. Now, I should check on the men. I'll let Ranulf back in, if you two are finished with your ministrations."
"You can bring Ranulf back in." Merivel agreed. "My questions that I have for the Septa now have naught to do with matters of which he should not hear." he replied. "And I should be happy to return to Clearwater with you, Derron."
Ranulf was sitting in the kitchen with Aerin and Shade who was rather delicately cleaning his claws.
Derron stepped into the kitchen and said to the young ones, "You can go back in now. Maester Merivel is quite pleased with Septa's treatment. I'll go see how things are outside." He moved for the door.
Aerin had been attempting to clean her nails with a knife, not too dissimilar to Shade's actions. She looked up at Derron, then nodded to Ranulf. "Go ahead. Shade and I will watch the doors. I'm not sure all the trouble is done with yet," she explained.
Ranulf looked anxiously at Derron before obeying. "What did you tell him?" he asked. "What did he say?"
Derron said, "Speak freely with him. I doubt he will judge you."
Ranulf gave a tight little nod and then moved to enter the main room.
Through the half open door, Derron could see his men were engaged in burying the dead, while a dwarf was sitting on the wagon that had brought Merivel, watching them thoughtfully.