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Misty Pasts and Cloudy Futures


Syndra rushed through the courtyard at Winterfell, looking for Corryn. She had hoped to spend more time here, but it appeared that Lord Stark wanted to depart for the return trip north quicker than she had expected. Before she left though, there was something she wanted to do. Something important.

She finally spotted her old wolf near the stables making his own preparations for the journey.

Corryn stood beside his warhorse, running a brush through its dark mane. He glanced over its powerful shoulders and smiled warmly at the sight of his Little Bear. After a polite nod, he returned to his work and began to study her in that inscrutable manner of his. He'd been positively pensive of late; undoubtedly, a result of Lady Stark's unflinching eye being upon him.

"Ser Corryn," she called, unable to hide an uncomfortable wince. It felt strange to call Wolf by his real name. It seemed so stiff and starchy. Even the short time she had been at Winterfell was enough to decide that she didn't like the rigid formality of the place.

She strode toward him with a gait that meant business.

"Lady Hardy," he chimed, setting the brush down. Corryn closed the stall door behind him and found a rag to clean his hands. "How may I assist you this morning, m'lady?"

"I was hoping you could help me with something, if you're not too busy," she asked, patting his horse's neck. Now that she was closer, she lowered her voice. "I'd like to go through Papa's things here to see if there's anything he'll need now that he'll be at home longer than expected." A cloud crossed her face at the question.

"That's right," Corryn said. "He does have his things here. I'd forgotten how often he stays in this blasted tomb of a castle." He scratched his dusting of hair, which had officially begun to grow back in.

"Aye. I think that's a fine idea, Syndra. Although I suspect he'll be up and about by the time we return."

"I hope so," she said worriedly.

He reached over and squeezed her shoulder. Unspoken words of comfort passed between them; their shared years the only vocabulary they required to be understood.

A wry smile warmed his features, "And along the way you can tell me about this Ryswell fellow that now hangs on your every utterance."

Syndra blushed. "It's not that bad," she protested, though the hidden smile betrayed a certain pleasure at the notion. "He's nice, that's all. Father likes him."

Corryn gave her a thin smile, "But do you like him, Little Bear? That's far more important to me. That you be happy. It's easy for the fathers to be content with an arrangement. But they don't have to live the life it creates for their daughter."

He opened a wooden door leading deeper into Winterfell and allowed her to pass. "I think that's one of the reasons I never married."

"I thought it was because you couldn't find any fathers who'd approve of you," she teased.

"Those incidents were severely overstated," Corryn said, straight-faced.

"I am a decidedly charming, attentive, and principled fellow when it comes to the daughters of noblemen. And I'd certainly honor any offer made to me. Stranger's bollocks, I'd be hon-er and off-er all night, if given half the chance." The thin line of his lips curled up into a vulpine grin, a devilish twinkle glittering in his hazel eyes.

Syndra erupted in a fit of laughter, playfully shoving Corryn with her shoulder in the narrow hallway like a comrade in arms. "You're horrid!" she grinned at him when she recovered. "Fun, but horrid."

This proclamation gave Corryn much joy and he puffed up his chest with a rooster's pride.

Syndra straightened up and blew out a breath. "All right," she began, trying to get serious but unable to quell her wide smile. "You asked me a question. Do I like him?" Syndra turned forward, thinking as she walked. From beside her, Corryn could see her chewing her lip indecisively, but there was a hopeful glimmer in her blue eyes. "Yeah. I think I do," she said finally, in a voice softened so it wouldn't carry. She gnawed at her lip once again.

He reached over and ran his hand along her shoulders, resting upon her neck gently. "I'm glad," he said. "If you like Ryswell then he isn't as much of a git as I thought him to be. You're a mite difficult to impress, Little Bear. That says something in his favor. Maybe he has a sister that likes old wolves, eh?"

"He does have a sister. I remember that," Syndra replied eagerly.

"And something tells me that you'll be reminding me of that fact from this point forward," Corryn chuckled.

He let his hand fall away and cocked his head. "So what's troubling you so?"

She looked up at him, partly grateful and partly guilty. He was her best friend and he knew her better than anyone, save perhaps Edlyn, and Edlyn wasn't here. "It's stupid," she muttered, looking down at the floor as they approached the barracks. "I shouldn't even be thinking about Rhys. I should put it out of my mind as something that can't and shouldn't happen. And I... I think perhaps I can... do that, but it bothers me that I can. I mean...," she looked up at him plaintively, her voice lowered, "it bothers me that it doesn't bother me more. Does that make any sense?"

Corryn listened, nodding here and there throughout her admission. A cloud passed over his features as she spoke, darkening his eyes. At her question, he glanced around for a moment to determine that they were alone. Satisfied that they were, he took a deep breath, steadying himself. "You rarely cease to amaze me, Syndra," he said. "Sometimes I forget how young you truly are because you're so mature for your age."

He gave her a warm, understanding smile. "I understand what you mean, Little Bear. Love consumes you. And an impossible love, even more so. You dream of a fantastical life together. You fill your mind with 'ifs' and 'maybes.' You clutch onto hopes and wishes for something that simply cannot exist, letting it blind you to what your real life could be."

The old Wolf chuckled sadly, "I know you love Rhys. That feeling will never go away. But you've recognized a real future with Ryswell. You shouldn't feel guilty for letting go of the dream, Syndra. We live in complicated times. Dreams are too fragile to survive here. Just like hearts. Give yours to the man who can care for it properly."

His eyes shimmered with emotion. "Don't make my mistake. Ghosts..." He paused, correcting himself. "...Dreams can not love you back."

Syndra's eyes had grown bright as well. She nodded thoughtfully, but wisely did not push him for clarification. Instead, she looked down, idly kicking a pebble on the ground. "It was a wonderful dream," she said softly, her words punctuated with a little sniffle. "But things have changed since..."

Her words trailed off and she sighed before she spoke again. "Pursuing that dream would mean hurting Papa. And leaving him forever. And I can't do that. Not now. He's had so much hurt, Wolf." She risked a glance up at him, revealing the tears that had started to fall. "But Deryll... he understands that. He likes Papa. And cares about him. He would... help. I think. He seems kind and... he seems to like me too. Like I am, I mean."

Corryn paused and leaned down. He tenderly brushed her tears away, a peaceful smile warming his worn features. A fingertip outlined her jawbone, so he could lift her chin to meet his kind gaze. "I'm glad," he said. "You are perfect just the way you are, Syndra. Only a fool couldn't recognize that."

She found herself swept into his arms, hugging her with a desperate fierceness. "Your mother would be so proud of you," he whispered through tears of his own. "I'm proud of you too. I think you're the bravest woman I've ever met."

She hugged him tightly, grateful for his comforting presence to guide her through these treacherous emotional waters. Against his ear, he could feel her smile. "Thank you," she squeaked.

Corryn finally released her and chuckled with deep emotion, "I love you, Little Bear. Promise you won't forget me?"

Syndra looked up at him as if he were some kind of idiot. "Why would I forget you?" she asked as she took a step back and straightened her skirt, remembering Winterfell's strict rules of decorum. "Don't even think that you're going to get rid of me this easily."

Corryn shrugged, continuing to smile brightly. "You'll have your home and hearth to think about. A husband. Children. And certainly not some old wolf you once tried to drown. I'm sure I'll fade into memory, broken ribs and all. As evidenced by the overwhelming number of letters you sent me the last two years." His pursed lips couldn't hide the joking smile beneath.

"I'll do better. Truly," she protested. "And you know you'll always be welcome at our hearth whenever you come North."

Corryn resumed his slow pace toward the barracks. "So. Are you ready to gaze into your father's checkered and unsavory past?"

"Yes, though I doubt we'll find anything more unsavory than an old pair of socks," Syndra said a little defensively.

She slowed as they neared the barracks door. "Um... perhaps you should go in first. In case anyone is... changing. Or anything," she suggested modestly.

Corryn nodded and then opened the door. He strode through the doorway and bellowed. "Attention! Lady on deck. Look decent, will you lot? Warrior's Balls, Herrik. Put that thing away before you scare someone. I swear you'll go blind, oiling that thing all day." A communal chuckle accompanied a mortified protestation. "Right, right. Well done."

He opened the door further to reveal the barracks, a wide and open area filled with bunks. The common foot soldiers mulled about their morning business of playing dice, eating, or preparing their weapons and armor for the day. They stood to an uneasy attention, apparently on edge to have a woman invade their private sanctuary.

Corryn gestured for Syndra to follow him, heading toward one of the nearby archways that lead to a private room. "After you, Lady Syndra. You'll find your father's trunk in there," he said.

Syndra crept in behind him, her eyes averted from the men in the barracks. "Thank you, Ser Corryn," she mumbled, red-faced, and scooted around the corner under the archway.

As she passed him, he glanced back at the soldiers and gave them a respectful nod. "Back to your business, gents. Good on you all." And with that, he entered Godfrey's room and closed the curtain behind him.

By the time Corryn entered the room, Syndra had already determined which trunk belonged to her father and was kneeling beside it. It was not hard to pick out. The Hardy crest was burned into the heavy oaken top. She traced a graceful finger over the burnished wood, suddenly hesitant to open the lid.

Syndra chuckled sheepishly as she looked up at Corryn. "I reckon we should do this now," she said, scooting over so he could kneel beside her.

Corryn knelt down beside her with a pained grunt, the days of riding still aching in his legs. "Aye," he said with a hint of trepidation. "This should be revealing, I'm sure. I haven't rummaged in Godfrey's things since before you were born. If we find something embarrassing, I'm blaming you, yes?"

He leaned forward, waiting for her to undo the latch.

The trunk seemed, at first, simply to contain clothes and some writing inplements. Then Syndra's exploration uncovered a packet, wrapped in leather and tightly bound with complex knots by way of protection against intrusion.

Syndra pulled out the clothing piece by piece, folding the best items tightly for transport and tossing into a pile the items that were not worth carrying home. The writing implements went into the pile as well.

Corryn shook his head amusedly and began to fold and sort through the discarded items; a soldier's habit, perhaps. The writing implements gave him pause. He held the stylus up for a moment of nostalgia and then carefully returned it to its leather case. In turn, he slipped the case into his inner pocket with an uncommon fondness.

Her brow furrowed when she reached the leather-bound package. "This looks important," she mused curiously. She pulled it out carefully and examined it, poking at the knots and seams and squeezing the package to see if it felt more like metal or paper inside. "Do you recognize it?" she asked Corryn.

There seemed to be papers inside.

Corryn chuckled softly. "And I thought you were bad on your Naming day," he said. He extended his hand to coax it from Syndra, long enough to give it a closer examination. For as long as he was allowed, anyhow.

Corryn recognised it at once - it was a leather pouch he had given Godfrey many years ago as a gift upon his wedding. There was a trick of opening it that would circumvent the knots - something that only Corryn and Godfrey would know.

Page last modified on January 14, 2008, at 12:30 AM