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Partings and Reunions

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The summer fever epidemic left its mark on Rhys. Usually possessed of a cheerful disposition, afterwards he became unusually quiet and somber. It was only with the passing of time and after several long talks with his great-uncle that Rhys started becoming himself again, smiling and joking.

Partly as result of these talks, and partly as a result of what happened in the weirwood the night Kenrith almost died, Rhys made the decision to follow in Sewell's footsteps and study to become a Maester.

He spent the time before leaving for the Citadel in informal training with his great-uncle. He learned how to grind lenses and about the observable properties of light. Sewell taught him the names of the northern constellations and let him look at the moon through the telescope he built. He showed Rhys how to grow vegetables, and through grafting and breeding cultivate better plants. He brought Rhys out into the woods and taught him the names of the useful herbs and where to find them.

The summer fever had ripped apart Syndra's life as well. Her mother and brothers were gone. She spent most of those first difficult months either staring off into space alone or building anew her relationships with the adults in her life. Her father had returned from Winterfell with his own grief to work out, and Septa Annice did her best to fill in the empty spaces Syndra's mother left behind. Even Ser Corryn, on his visits to Holdfast, grew closer and more protective of his young friend.

At first, Syndra avoided the boys who had shared her sickroom. It hurt too much to be around them. Kenrith had not recovered fully. Godwyn had been too close to Gavrin. And Rhys...well, eventually she realized he hadn't lied to her about Trey; she had merely misunderstood, but it took time.

Children are resilient, though, and in time, Syndra began to regain some of her previous exuberance. One good thing to come out of the epidemic was a newfound closeness she shared with her father. Having grown up in a family of boys, Ser Godfrey had no idea how to raise a girl. Fortunately, Syndra was quite happy to do the masculine things he enjoyed. He taught her archery and took her hunting, including Godwyn on the trips when he wished to go. He even practiced swords with her, as did Ser Corryn when he swung through on his trading trips. She also started hanging around the Maester's tower, watching Rhys and Sewell grind glass and grow plants. She was clever and curious and always had a boatload of questions for them.

Finally, by the time Rhys left for the Citadel a year later, Syndra felt up to spending more time with Godwyn. Kenrith had gone to foster at Riverrun so it was Godwyn's turn to miss his brother. Syndra became almost the shadow to her cousin that Gavrin used to be, but she was MUCH more decisive. Godwyn's presence was a big help when her father was finally called back to Winterfell a couple years later to resume his service. She corresponded with Ser Godfrey frequently by raven, but it wasn't the same as having him home.

Rhys left for the Citadel at the age of sixteen, almost a year to the day that the summer fever first appeared at Holdfast. Six years passed before he returned. In that time he earned his silver link for healing and was well on his way to earning the iron link for the care and training of ravens and the wooden link for his accomplishments in herbology and plant lore. Tall and gawky for his age at sixteen, in the intervening six years he grew another foot in height, put on another two stone in weight, and managed to grow a passable beard.

Life at the Citadel agreed with Rhys. Brought up in Dorne, he found his views more liberal than most of his instructors', but the knowledge and learning gained through his various studies more than made up for any inconvenience derived from differing ideologies. He would have happily stayed there for several more years, but circumstances intervened.

Sewell contacted Rhys with the news that Lord Hardy was seriously ill and asked him to return to Holdfast that the Maester could take advantage of Rhys's recent training in healing and advise him on Lord Hardy's condition. Rhys left for Holdfast immediately.

He arrived several weeks later in the company of traders, mid-afternoon on a cloudless day. Reminded of his first arrival at Holdfast, Rhys looked eagerly for the Hardy flag flying proudly on the highest turret and the wood houses of the town outside the walls appearing through the thinning trees.

As Rhys entered the castle courtyard, he saw a group of young squires training together near the stables. Watching them attentively was a tall, slender girl of about fourteen. Her soft, light brown curls cascaded down her back and strands of honey-colored highlights were pulled away from her face in a bow behind her head. Beneath the skirts, Rhys could see her feet twitching, as if they would have preferred to join the squires rather than wait on the sidelines. The hand she rested on her right hip looked like it should've been resting on the hilt of a dagger.

As the merchants pulled in, the girl looked up and a huge grin lit up her face. "Rhys!" she exclaimed as she sprinted, very unladylike, directly at him.

Rhys passed his leg over his horse's neck and dropped to the ground. He squinted at her as she ran toward him, wondering who this young woman was, then recognition hit him like a squire's practice sword upside the head.

"Syndra?" he said, almost disbelieving. He grinned and caught her up in a bear hug when she reached him. "God's teeth, you've...grown..." he continued, then laughed.

Syndra hugged him fiercely, laughing all the while. When she let him go, she grasped him by the shoulders and looked him up and down, her blue eyes dancing. "Me? Look at you! And here I thought you couldn't grow any taller!" she grinned up at him.

"When I left you were, what, this tall?" He indicated a height that stopped just above his knee.

"No!" she exclaimed in mock-indignation and placed her hand about two inches above his, just to be contrary. "*This* tall!" Her composure crumbled in a fit of giggles.

She let him go then and began chattering. "Maester Sewell said you'd be coming. I've been watching the gate for days now. I couldn't wait for you to get here. It's been SO long! It's so sad about Lord Uncle Oswain, though. The poor, dear man..."

Rhys grinned again, reaching for his saddlebags during her barrrage of words. He slung them over one shoulder and paused to look at Syndra when she trailed off.

"You've had enough death in your life, Little One," he said softly as he stroked her cheek with his thumb. "We'll try our hardest to heal our Lord Hardy."

She seemed to bristle at that, but smoothed her feathers just as quickly, as if some beast she had kept in a box for years had tried to escape and she snapped the lid down on its fingers. Lord Hardy's name brought back a weak smile.

"Can I help you carry anything?" she asked, turning to look back at the horse. The change in the direction of the conversation was razor-sharp.

For a heartbeat, there was an expression on Rhys's face that Syndra couldn't quite place. Sorrow? Regret? Then Rhys recovered his smile and followed her lead in changing the conversation.

"Here, you can carry this," he said, fishing a drawstring bag from one of the saddlebags and tossing it to her. "This is for you and Godwyn." Inside were a number of hard somethings about the size of her thumb, each individually wrapped in a silver-colored leaf. "It's a sweet, from Dorne," he explained. "Picked it up from a trader who owed me a favor. It's made with honey and nuts."

Syndra opened the bag and breathed in the aroma. "Mmm. They smell good. Godwyn'll be lucky if he gets any," she teased.

She looked up at Rhys a little bashfully. "I like the beard," she said with a small smile. She seemed to be a little embarrassed about her show of mood a moment ago.

Rhys's hand passed over his chin. "It's passable," he allowed with a wry grin. His hand dropped. "I..uh...maybe I shouldn't have brought sweets. In my head you were still a little girl and Godwyn a tad older. Maybe you're too old for them now? I got older...somehow I forgot to apply that to you. And Godwyn."

"You're never too old for sweets," Syndra smiled. To prove her point, she fished two candies out of the bag and offered him one.

He took it good-naturedly. "Thanks."

"Time does fly, doesn't it?" she mused as she unwrapped her own sweet. "Godwyn will be a man grown on his next name day and I've... um..." she stopped herself and looked down at her candy, blushing deeply at what she almost said. When she looked up again, she was smiling sheepishly. "We should tell Maester Sewell you've arrived."

It was apparent from the amused grin on his face that Rhys filled in the blank. He popped the sweet into his mouth. "Yes...let's go find the Good Maester. On the way you can tell me about Godwyn. How tall is he now?"

"Oh, he's only a little taller than me, but broad!" Syndra held her hands out to indicate a set of very broad shoulders. "And just as obstinate as ever," she added affectionately. "Just wait 'til you see him!"

Rhys's eyes twinkled. "I'm sure I won't recognize him."

Rhys handed off his mount to an available stablehand and joined Syndra as she started across the courtyard to Sewell's tower.

She stepped in beside him when he rejoined her. As they walked, she stood up on her toes and peeked over his collar. "So which links have you earned so far?" she asked, as curious as Rhys remembered.

"Just the silver for healing," he replied, turning around so she could see the shiny link. "I'm very close to the iron for the care and training of ravens and the wood for plant lore. Due to extenuating circumstances, the Citadel gave me a writ authorizing Maester Sewell to continue my instruction, so hopefully he'll accept and I'll get those links soon.

"Apparently my great-uncle has been communicating with the Citadel concerning the creation of a new link: glass for training in the creation of various lenses and their uses. I have a letter from them replying to his proposition."

"Ooh, you'd be good at that. You could probably teach them a thing or two by now," she said, remembering all the experiments she watched Rhys and Sewell do years ago.

Rhys smiled at her, then shifted his saddlebags to the other shoulder. "So...When I arrived I saw you watching the boys in the practice yard. You looked like you wanted to be right out there with them."

"I did," she replied. "And I would've been, if my father was still here. He had started training me - well, you knew that. But he continued after you left. Since I didn't have any brothers to defend me, he felt I should be taught to defend myself." She smiled conspiratorily, "Personally, I think he just liked being able to do things with me." Her fond grin indicated that that was perfectly fine with her, too.

"After he was called back to duty, though, Lady Celia" her voice oozed contempt at the name, "put a stop to all that. I've been forbidden to even touch a sword. It's not ladylike," she mimicked with a disgusted shake of her head.

Then a sneaky grin crept back across her face. "I still do, though," she confided quietly. "Godwyn works with me sometimes just to piss her off. And Ser Corryn trains me when he's here. That's when I really learn my paces."

He leaned her way and said in a low voice, "In Dorne, women are trained in warfare, if that's what they want." A simple statement of fact, and as far as Rhys would go to express an opinion that went against the Lady of Holdfast. He was mindful of his rank and position.

"Really? Perhaps I should ask Father to promise my hand to some Dornish knight," she joked. She seriously doubted Ser Godfrey would ever send her that far south. In fact, she doubted she'd ever see anything beyond White Harbor.

In a normal voice Rhys continued, "And how is Ser Corryn?"

"Oh, very well. He swings through as often as he's able," she beamed. She was obviously quite fond of the River Wolf. "Ser Anders is still a thorn in his side, but sometimes I think he wouldn't know what to do with himself without a thorn of some sort."

"Doesn't sound like much has changed," Rhys grinned.

"No, not much," she agreed with a chuckle.

To Syndra's chagrin, they arrived at the door to the Maester's tower. She squinted high up, then looked back at Rhys. "Well... here we are," she sighed. After a short awkward pause, she said half-heartedly, "I suppose I should go tell Godwyn you're here."

"Be sure to share the sweets." Rhys winked. He looked down at her... but not as far down as he had been expecting. "I'm going to have to get used to the idea that you're grown up now," he commented, his expression wry. "Are you still climbing trees and playing in the woods?"

Her smile turned a little sad. "Some," she replied. "When the mood strikes me. Not as much as I used to, though."

Rhys narrowed his eyes thoughtfully at her remark.

"And what about you, Dornish?" her smile grew wider, as she used the name she'd heard people call him when she was young. "You must've enjoyed soaking up that Southern sunshine."

Rhys grinned at her use of the nickname and glanced up at the weak sun. "Oh, yes... I walked barebacked and barefooted in fields of yellow and white flowers and I was warm. It was wonderful."

Syndra looked up at him and her cheeks began to flush. "I... can imagine," she said a little dreamily.

He looked back down at Syndra. "But I'd forgotten how painful a sunburn was!"

Syndra giggled and poked at his silver link playfully. "You're the healer. You're s'posed to know about those things," she teased.

Rhys stepped back a step, putting a little more space between himself and Syndra. "Um...yes...well, that was right after I got to Oldtown, before the link. As a child growing up in Dorne, my skin was just always brown and I didn't worry much about the sun. I lost some of that brown the year I came to Holdfast."

Rhys's backstep brought Syndra back to reality and she realized how forward she must have just seemed. She clasped her hands demurely in front of her and listened politely.

Rhys's expression turned thoughtful. "Rather interesting, actually, as at the time I didn't know my skin would pale like that and I even remember asking my uncle about it with some alarm. He warned me, but when I returned south I forgot to let myself get used to the sun gradually."

He smiled at Syndra. Rhys's face and arms were very tan from long sunny days in the south, contrasting nicely with his light blue eyes. "Well, I should go say hello to the good Maester. I'm sure I'll see you at dinner tonight."

"Yes. Yes, you should. And I hope so. About dinner, I mean," she stifled a wince of embarrassment and turned away quickly. "I'll just, um...go give these to Godwyn," she excused herself and began to trot off. "Thank you," she called back over her shoulder, just before she ducked around the nearest corner.

He waved and disappeared into the Maester's Tower.

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, CastleHoldfast

Page last modified on February 15, 2006, at 12:12 AM