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Meeting in the Tent

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It was pleasant behind the tent in the drowsy sunlight. Godwyn could hear rustlings from the wagon, and also voices coming from the tent. Familiar voices ... Syndra, and Corryn.

As Godwyn recognized the familiar voices of his beloved cousin and trusted friend he smiled, glad to think that the Old Wolf was watching out for her with all the Boltons around.

"So you think she's involved in this too, don't you. Celia. Otherwise, you wouldn't have told Father you'd have to marry me to protect me from her," Syndra said soberly.

Godwyn nodded to himself, then frowned as he realized that he was eavesdropping. He hesitated, wondering if he should move further away or not....

"Aye. Although, I wished to save more than you from her machinations. She has agreed to assist me in breaking your marriage contract if." Corryn sighed. "If I assist her in establishing her son as the heir to Holdfast."

"But Kenrith..." Syndra started to say, then stopped to let Corryn finish.

Godwyn froze, astonishment and disbelief washing over him at Corryn's words.

"And this is where I am in a conundrum. I could marry you and steal her leverage over myself and your father. But then I anger Herys, who controls the rights to Leaning Stone and my daughter. I need to break those two apart and save both you and Limosa from a fate I would not even utter. In the end, I think there will be blood."

"There will be blood either way, Wolf, because the next time Herys comes near me, I won't go quietly," Syndra warned.

"Do not fret, Little Bear," Corryn responded. "He'll never get the chance if I have anything to say about it."

"So, what becomes of a marriage contract when a bride's guardian, the one who made the contract, passes?" Syndra asked, thinking out loud. "Does it terminate? Does it survive? Take Limosa, for example. If both her parents are dead, how do we know the terms of her contract if all we have is Herys's word, which I wouldn't trust as far as I could spit. What happens if you marry her to someone else? And is there anyone else you would marry her to?"

Godwyn's head spun, trying to keep up with the twists and turns in the conversation.

"By law, the contract becomes null," Corryn said. "However, things are decidedly complicated. As that bastard Cerwyn sold her home and rights from under her, there may be a power struggle, with her in the middle. Herys will undoubtedly claim liege 'rights' to her, contract or no. That will not happen; no matter the cost to myself." His voice turned into a growl near the end of this statement.

He sighed faintly, his voice drifting from anger to sorrow. "I had hoped to give her the chance to recover. I wanted her to choose her own path in time. She is so… special, I only want what's best for her."

A pause. "You were right about my affections for her. Limosa touches something in me, I'd forgotten. I had considered that she might come to love me in time. It's rarely been from my mind. I don't think that's an option though.

"So, if I had to choose another? Godwyn would definitely come to mind. A more honest soul, I doubt I've known. She also appeared taken with Kenrith. Heh. I actually got jealous of him for a moment."

Godwyn's mouth dropped open in shock.

Behind Godwyn, a gruff voice rumbled, "Lord Godwyn Hardy, as I live and breathe," Phalan, Corryn's second, loomed over him like a mountain. "What brings ye to our humble camp? And you wouldn't have seen that young lady of ours. She's like a cat that one. Disappears until there's food about. And Stranger preserve us if we can keep track of her."

"Whaaa..?" Godwyn turned, staring at Phalan, unable to form an answer.

Suddenly, the tent flapped open and a rather humbled Corryn emerged from within. "Godwyn. Welcome. What brings you to us tonight?"

Behind Corryn, Syndra emerged from the tent as well and smiled a greeting to her cousin.

Godwyn spun around, giving Corryn the same wide-eyed open mouthed stare he had just given Phalan.

"Uhh..." he said. He pointed vaguely. "Lady Limosa... uhh... shoes...."

"Shoes?" Corryn said in astonishment. "Don't tell me you found some way to get her to wear them." He stepped out of the tent and overheard the rummaging taking place inside his wagon. He scratched his head and just stared in wonderment, "Bollocks and damnation. If she isn't doing just as you say."

He reached over and patted Godwyn's shoulder. "Well, then, you two are just in time for dinner. I'm sure you're both starving. Thank you for escorting her home. I pray she wasn't too much trouble."

Corryn glanced over at Phalan and nodded. "I assume Volf has made something edible? Can you send him in with food for four… make that five, just in case. And another bottle of wine. One of my Dornish stock. That last one had a hint of the lees in it."

"Aye sir," Phalan said. "Volf nearly set his apron on fire, but he's right finished with the meal. I'll send him along promptly. Good to see you again, Master Hardy."

The giant walked off into the center of camp, leaving the trio alone. Corryn finally noticed Godwyn's expression. "Is every thing well, Godwyn?"

"Uhhh...." Godwyn repeated. Then, for a change, he tried, "Ahhh..."

His eyes darted between Corryn and Syndra.

"I was... ummm.... bringing Limosa back, and I..." he waved vaguely around. "I was waiting for her and...."

"Ahh-uhhmmm..." he finished.

Syndra smiled at him affectionately. "Why don't you come on in, Godwyn," she invited, despite the fact that the tent wasn't hers. "We were just having a bite of fruit and some wine and discussing the... " she looked around at all the Bolton banners, "present situation." She held out her hand to him, hoping to ease his embarrassment. After all, she was used to eavesdropping. He wasn't.

Corryn chuckled softly, "I see. Yes, maybe a glass of wine would do you well." He gave a little nod to Syndra, "Could get Godwyn situated and pour us all a goblet, my dear? I think we have a great deal to talk about. I'll fetch Limosa."

Godwyn nodded, confusion still showing on his face, then turned and waved to one of the Hardy guards on duty. With exaggerated motions he indicated, "I'll be in here if anyone wants me," then took Syndra's hand and entered the tent.

Corryn wandered over to the wagon and rapped lightly on the tail guard. He didn't look inside, respectful of the girl's privacy. "Limosa? I hear you've returned? Would you like to join us for some dinner?"

The covering at the back of the wagon was pulled aside, and Limosa sprang lightly down. She was wearing her dress once more, and her hair had been pinned up .. somewhat. She would scarcely pass muster with Lady Celia, but she was, at the very least, decent. And she seemed to be shod ... although the toe peeking out from beneath her skirts seemed to be more of a man's boot than a lady's shoe.

Clearly she had kept some of her winnings.

She looked around, seemingly missing something she had expected to be there - or someone - and looked enquiringly at Corryn.

Corryn smiled faintly, nodding with approval. "You are a vision, my dear. And don't look so disappointed. The one you seek is inside my tent with Syndra. We're all having dinner together."

Limosa's enquiring look turned into a frown.

He brushed a stray lock from her face, "And here I thought you'd be happy to see me after disappearing all this time. I guess this old wolf has been replaced already." He offered her his arm, smiling to show that he was teasing. Well, half-teasing anyway. He knew it was for the best, but it didn't make it any easier.

Limosa stamped her foot - more effective as a gesture in the boots. The frown was becoming a scowl. Then she reached up and kissed his cheek - as he had seen her kiss Kenrith's earlier. It must be a gesture that held a special meaning for her ...

And then, as though impatient with them both, she began to pull him towards the tent.

Corryn felt his cheek flush and that almost forgotten feeling come rushing back. "Well, I guess I stand corrected," he said, relieved. For a moment, Syndra's words came back to him. He should tell her how he felt and be done with it. Things would go far more easily for them both. He wanted to say how much he missed her at his side; how her little snits charmed him like siren song.

But Limosa had decided the conversation was at an end and tugged him forward. With a contented chuckle, he followed. He had little choice in the matter.

Inside the tent, Syndra poured a goblet of wine for Godwyn and offered him a seat and some fruit. With a smile to make him feel more comfortable, she asked softly, "So how much did you hear?" She almost seemed proud that he had eavesdropped, like a teacher whose student has finally mastered a difficult lesson.

Godwyn blushed. "I didn't mean to listen," he said. "Not to you two. I trust you." He took a large gulp of wine, then added. "Corryn said he was going to help That Woman make her son the heir."

Syndra waved away his concern. "It's all right." She sat next to him and retrieved her own goblet. "And I don't think he truly intends to do anything to undercut Kenrith," she reassured him softly. "Somehow Celia has pulled him into this, though. Probably by threatening me with a Bolton marriage. Or worse. He said something to my father earlier about doing 'questionable' things to protect me."

Syndra sighed and shook her head worriedly. "She knows him too well, Godwyn. Wolf might be clever and conniving, but he has a weak spot. Me. And he's just gained another one in Limosa. That's why I was trying to come up with another angle - a way to by-pass Celia and make whatever she has on Wolf useless." She took another sip of her wine.

"Any ideas?" she asked.

"Ummm." Godwyn scrunched up his face as he thought. "We need to make sure she doesn't," he said finally.

The tent flap opened again and Corryn entered, being dragged by a very persuasive Limosa. He smiled brightly at the cousins, and then frowned when he noticed the serious expression on their faces. "Well, I heard my name mentioned and you both look like Winter has come. Should I be worried?" He offered Limosa a seat on the divan before taking his place between her and Syndra.

"No, I was..." Syndra began, but startled when Godwyn leapt to his feet as Limosa and Corryn entered, his face flushed. He glanced back and forth between the two of them, swallowed another gulp of wine, and then sat again, without answering.

Syndra smiled at her cousin, then turned to Corryn and repeated, "No, I was just filling Godwyn in. You already know the worst."

Limosa ignored the divan and sat straight down the the floor, so that she could throw her arms around Godwyn's favourite b!tch. She glanced up at Godwyn, as though wondering why he had deserted her, or else finding his confusion strange - and then she looked at Syndra. Her eyes widened a little - she looked again at Godwyn, her expression one of comprehension, and then she bent her head as she began a careful (and unncessary) examination of the b1tch's ears for mites - which was also a very good way of avoiding looking at any of the humans in the tent.

Syndra looked over at Limosa uncertainly, wondering if she was going to have to walk on eggshells so as not to set the girl off again. She wasn't sure what Limosa's sudden silence meant, but she knew it did not bode well for a "sisterly" relationship.

Corryn poured Limosa a goblet and fixed her a small plate of food. As he set it before her, he noticed her sudden bout of introversion. He shook his head with a sympathetic sigh. Laying his hand tenderly against the back of her neck, he leaned in and whispered something in her ear. He lightly kissed her brow and then moved to serve himself.

"So, um, Limosa. You look nice tonight," Syndra said awkwardly, trying to make benign conversation.

Godwyn stared down into his wine cup. He swirled the wine around anticlockwise. Then he stopped. Then he swirled it around clockwise. Then he sloshed it from side to side for a while.

Limosa looked up, startled. It was clear she was not entirely ceratin of how to respond to a compliment. Puzzled, she looked at Corryn for enlightenment.

There was also a suggestion of suspicion that this hadn't been the topic of conversation before she came in.

Corryn chuckled and rubbed Limosa's shoulder, "Indeed, you do, my dear." He added, "Thank you Syndra for the kind words." He smiled hopefully, wanting these two to get along with keen desperation. With a gentle nod to Syndra, he gave her a silent 'thanks.'

After refilling the goblets for everyone, he straightened up in a businesslike fashion. "As Syndra has probably mentioned, I'm in a bit of a pickle. Both my daughter and Little Bear are engaged to the Boltons. I can try to break the contracts, but there may be difficulty in doing so for various reasons. However, after talking to Godfrey, I think I may have a solution. But first, I would ask the two of you your impressions of Eryk Bolton. He's a serpent and a dandy, I realize, but can he be dealt with in 'polite' negotiation?"

Both Godwyn and Syndra knew Corryn had two types of negotiation: polite and hostile. The latter usually concluded with someone taking an unfortunate trip down a nearby well. For obvious reasons, he preferred to utilize the former as much as possible.

Godwyn shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "Sometimes he seems like a nice enough fellow, and I feel sorry for him. And then he'll say something that just sounds..." he fumbled for the right word for a moment, then settled on, "..that just sounds wrong, somehow. I don't know." He sneaked a glance at Limosa, then looked back at his goblet.

"Oh!" he said, as though he'd just seen something there. "He wanted to talk to me, just before Limosa found me." He glanced at her once more, then back down at his goblet. "Said he wanted to live here at Holdfast. Was scared to go home, said they'd kill him."

"Really?" That caught Syndra's interest. "Hmm. That sort of fits with my impressions of him.

"From what I've seen, you could probably negotiate with him," Syndra answered Corryn softly, not wishing for her voice to carry much beyond the tent flap. "He seemed reasonable, perhaps even sensitive - for a Bolton. You'll have to get him alone, though. He's terrified of Herys. I don't believe he'd be able to stand up to him."

"'Course, those were my impressions. If one listens to Evan, the lad is really Staven Snow, Bolton's bastard, and is a consummate mummer who will turn on me the moment his cloak is around my shoulders. At this point, I don't know what to believe, but I've been trying not to let Eryk soften me like he did last night at dinner. It almost worked," she admitted wryly.

Limosa was still seated on the floor, but she had released the dog now to pay whole-hearted attention to the conversation. She sipped at the wine Corryn had given her, watching the speakers in turn, seeming to assess not only their words, but how they responded to one another.

"Aye," Corryn said in a hushed tone; having learned from his previous mistake. "That one's as silken as a Tyrell's backside. But I'd rather deal with him than Herys, to be sure. I suspect he is a bastard, for the syrup running in his veins certainly doesn't come from Bolton stock."

He scratched his stubbled chin and nodded as if coming to some conclusion. "We can use Eyrk's desperation, which appears genuine enough. If asking me to murder Evan is any indication of Herys' parental skills, I doubt his fatherly love would hold much water with a foppish bastard. I'm sure the boy recognizes that all too well."

Corryn smiled at Limosa and topped her cup. "I would meet with the boy in private. Can you arrange that Godwyn? He appears to trust you to a certain degree. Having Syndra approach him would appear unseemly and suspect. Tell him that I can provide him with his heart's desire: freedom. That should have him running to me fast enough."

He touched Limosa's shoulder again, as if she leant him support through the contact. "I cannot tell you my plan. The less you know, the easier it will be to deny involvement. But if I play this correctly, all of you will be safe from both Herys and Celia."

Syndra looked up at Corryn anxiously, and though she didn't speak, her eyes asked the question - "But what about you?"

Godwyn looked up at Corryn and nodded. "I can tell him that," he said. "Ummm..." He appeared to be thinking, then he blurted out, "Kenrith and I won't give up Holdfast for safety."

Corryn offered Godwyn a respectful smile, "I'm glad to hear that, young Hardy. Lady Stark instructed me to assist Godfrey, Kenrith, and you to that end. It is also my duty as your friend. Holdfast will be yours if you trust me, even when there is indication not to."

He leaned forward, squeezing Godwyn's shoulder. "I love you as I loved Gavrin. In other words, as I would a son. I hope that will allay your worries."

A sadness crossed Syndra's features as her brother's name was recalled. She casually reached for an apple and nibbled it to try to hide it, but both men in the tent knew her well enough to notice, and Limosa, studying everyone as she was, certainly saw it, even if she didn't understand its significance. Her brother's memory was a reminder of how much Syndra had to lose the next day if things went badly.

Still staring into her lap, Syndra murmurred, "Holdfast will be ours until the last Hardy falls, Godwyn. May the old gods give strength to us all."

Limosa suddenly moved across the tent, laying one hand on Syndra's knee and looking up searchingly into her face. What she saw there seemed to satisfy her in some way, for she gave a nod of approval, and slid back to her former position - although perhaps now she was equi-distant between Corryn and Godwyn.

Syndra looked up curiously at Limosa's approach. She met the silent girl's gaze evenly and one corner of her lips quirked upward, acknowledging some unspoken understanding between them. Syndra felt somehow soothed, though Limosa had outwardly done nothing more than nod.

Corryn's eyes widened as Limosa moved to Syndra's side and offered her silent support. That a young woman, who had suffered so greatly, possessed the capacity to feel for others so genuinely never ceased to amaze him. He muttered almost inaudibly in Valyrian, the words an ancient prayer of gratitude.

Godwyn's head turned in the direction of the inner keep, and his eyes had a distant look as he said, "May it be as They will."

Corryn raised his goblet in a toast, "May it be as they will."

Syndra raised her goblet in a silent toast then sipped from it somberly.

After taking a healthy quaff, Corryn lightened the room with his lupine grin. "Enough of the sullen faces, my friends. We haven't seen one another for almost two years now. And although we parted under sorrowful circumstances, we should not perpetuate that melancholy further now that we are reunited. This dark hour shall pass whether we frown or smile. I, for one, prefer to smile."

Syndra smiled affectionately at him in spite of herself. Wolf had always had that effect on her. Once he made her smile, the rest of her mood generally followed.

He filled plates and goblets again, chuckling warmly to lighten the mood. "So, shall we have a story, play some cards, or simply drink until the morning light?"

Godwyn began wolfing down his food, suddenly realizing how hungry he was.

As Corryn filled the plates, Syndra suddenly realized that she was indeed hungry. She had only picked at the fruit until this time. She placed her apple on the plate and tucked into the meat. After a few bites, she said, "I'm sorry. I can't drink until the morning light. I'm meeting another special man for spiced wine after dinner." She grinned at Corryn apologetically, hoping he remembered who her date was and wouldn't take offense.

"Huh?" Godwyn stared at her.

Syndra grinned at Godwyn mischievously and mouthed "My father."

Corryn chuckled, "Aye, that is true. And best go slow on that wine then. Your father will paddle me like an obstinate child if I send you to him in the cups. He believes I'm a bad influence on you enough, I'll suspect." He gave her a heartened grin. "Pray you tell him everything we discuss here tonight. Well, most of it anyhow. You know of what I speak."

His smile turned slightly wistful, but he hide it promptly behind his goblet.

Syndra at first looked like she didn't quite understand what he meant, but she smiled and nodded. "I will," she said.

"In the meantime, though," she turned to Corryn and Limosa. "I'd like to hear about your journey. And how this girl has come to make you so happy." Her knowing glance at Wolf qualified her question - tell about the good parts, leave out the bad.

"Sorry," Godwyn said around a mouthful of food. "I'd like to stay and talk, but my uncle has put me in charge of the guard while Anders is gone. I want to be out among them, in case anything happens."

Limosa, who had been making an equally good meal as the other two, looked up at him hopefully.

Corryn took note of Limosa's excitement, rubbing her shoulder. To Syndra, he offered a consoling smile. "Well, duty does call, it appears. As much as I would enjoy bragging about my dearest Limosa, I believe it is a story best left for another night."

He nodded to Godwyn, "If Godfrey has given you instructions, I shall not keep you from them. However, might I ask two favors of you? My daughter is fascinated with the workings of a castle. Could she follow you on your errands?" His hand squeezed Limosa's shoulder. He appeared slightly saddened by the thought, but with a nod he regained his composure.

Limosa looked up at him, a little started, but then smiled.

"And for the second," he added, "Tell Eryk Bolton to meet me in the Godswood? I would speak with him privately. As I already have someone to pay my respects to there tonight, it seems a fitting place." His eyes drifted over to Syndra for a moment, but his gaze passed through her, as if someone stood behind her. That wistful smile he got occasionally returned as he stared. Then with a shake of his head, the old Wolf returned to his chipper self.

Syndra glanced behind her, but, seeing no one, took it as merely one of Corryn's moods.

Limosa looked hopefully at Godwyn.

Godwyn set down the goblet and food, and stood. "Aye," he said. "I'll tell him. Should he meet you right away, or when?" He smiled at Limosa. "I'll be glad to have your company," he told her.

Syndra set her plate down, but didn't rise yet. She smiled at Godwyn and Limosa, obviously pleased at seeing them together.

Limosa caught at Godwyn's arm, clearly eager to be off about her exploration.

Corryn stood up and brushed the crumbs from his tunic. "Have him come in a half hour. I wish some time to my thoughts and the Gods before I deal with his ilk. And thank you Godwyn. For all your help tonight. If you can have Limosa back at a respectable time." He raised his hand to prevent any protest from his daughter. "No. I want to speak with you before we turn in tonight. It is… important." His eyes expressed the resolve he had on this issue.

"Aye," Godwyn answered.

Corryn offered Syndra his hand, "Shall I escort you to your father, m'lady?"

Syndra accepted his hand and rose gracefully. "I'd appreciate that. Thank you," she smiled, taking his arm with both her hands, as if loathe to relinquish his company.

Turning to Corryn's daughter, she said, "I hope we can get to know each other better. Anyone who makes my old Wolf this happy must be someone special."

As Syndra turned her attention to Limosa, Corryn paused. He shook his head, as if recalling a thought. He patted Syndra's hand, and let her go. "One moment."

He hurriedly went to his bed and pulled a small, sandalwood box from beneath. Carefully unlatching its delicate top, he removed three dried lilies. Handling them gently, he replaced the box and returned to Syndra's side. "My apologies," he said, offering his arm once more. His hazel eyes couldn't meet hers for a moment, as if he'd just done something sinful.

She smiled up at him fondly and looped her arm back into his, squeezing with gentle reassurance. Wolf and Mama had been close friends for as long as Syndra could remember. He had watched out for her along with her children. Syndra recalled them laughing and talking in the evenings as she drifted off to sleep. And lilies had been Mama's favorite flower. Syndra now knew where Wolf was headed.

As Godwyn left with Limosa, Syndra held Corryn back for just a moment. Standing on tiptoe, she kissed his cheek comfortingly. "Say hello to her for me," she whispered with a grin.

Page last modified on August 04, 2006, at 02:50 AM