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Recess - Corryn and Syndra

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Seeing people starting to move all around the room, Limosa wriggled in her chair and looked hopefully at Corryn.

Corryn nodded and waved her over, smiling softly. She'd been quite patient thus far and he felt a deep pride for her efforts. But he would not push her farther. He looked up just in time to see the woman he'd been thinking about throughout the proceedings approaching him even now. He grinned brightly and stood.

As her father left the room, Syndra rose from her seat and, without hesitation, walked straight over to Corryn. "You're good at this," she complimented, impressed.

Corryn didn't hesitate either and hugged her warmly.

Syndra savored Wolf's embrace as she squeezed him back. She hadn't realized how much she truly missed him until this moment.

Limosa, who had taken a step towards Corryn, hesitated - her face suddenly very still.

Godwyn's eyes followed her as she walked, and he frowned at the sudden hesitation in her journey to her father.

Kenrith rose to his feet and stretched with a series of quiet popping noises as he twisted at the waist.

"I've been meaning to do that all day, my dear," Corryn said, brushing her arm. "And thank you. It would appear my lessons with Maester Theomore weren't completely for naught. I hope no one noticed me shaking throughout the proceedings though. I typically serve as an arbitrator for trade issues now, not murder trials. Although, hostile negotiations are still part of my duties."

Syndra grinned up at him when they parted. "You looked fine," she assured him, then she reached up and rubbed the top of his head. "What happened to all this? You look so... respectable," she teased.

He laughed with a deep rumble, one she hadn't heard for some time. He stamped his foot repeatedly, as if he were a dog and she'd scratched the right spot. With a wide smirk, he rubbed his head and shrugged. "Well, I've been the lord chamberlain for White Harbor for the last two years. With the exception of a few raids and trade missions, the man you see before you is all I've known. The hair, I fear, just didn't suit the southern courts as well."

Corrun chuckled again, blushing humbly. "What confounds me is how easily I took to it. Even under the circumstances. My father doesn't know what to do with himself now. He was always so busy pestering me to stop being an infant that he's not accustomed to having a grown man for a son."

He offered Syndra his chair, "You and I have much to talk about, it would appear. That fop at the head of our discussion. I swear to you. I will not allow this marriage to go through, Little Bear. I'll die before you have to marry a… a…" He couldn't even finish the name. It stuck to his tongue like rancid meat.

Syndra's smile faded, but didn't quite disappear. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that," she said with finality. He could tell by her expression that she would rather discuss that situation privately.

"It won't," he said simply, but the look in his hazel eyes spoke volumes. He would have continued were it not for a distraction.

Limosa watched as Corryn seated Syndra and then turned suddenly, heading rapidly towards the open doors of the Hall which led to the outside, as though she suddenly wanted to breathe in the open air.

Godwyn continued watching her as she left. He looked confused. Once she was out of the Great Hall he looked around, as though wondering what he should do.

Kenrith turned and looked towards Godwyn, then twisted his chin in the direction Limosa had run. His eyes, still trained on Godwyn, seemed to ask <'Are you going to go after her?'>

Godwyn met Kenrith's eyes, and his frown deepened. He shook his head and leaned forward, mouthing, "What?"

Then suddenly his expression cleared, and with an audible, "Oh!" he turned and ran out of the hall, politely shoving aside anyone who was in his way.

Startled by Limosa's sudden departure, Syndra looked up at Corryn and winced. "She's not used to siblings, is she?" she asked resignedly.

"Bollocks and damnation," Corryn muttered. "She will be the end of me. And yet, I cannot help but care for her. She's my blood now. But that does not mean I'll dance for every one of her tantrums. And it isn't a sibling she is jealous of, I fear." He let those words hang for a moment, mostly because they caught even himself off-guard.

Syndra raised an eyebrow at that.

Corryn offered Syndra his arm. "Come," he said. "We can get ahead of her if we cut through the dining hall. From the looks of things, she'll be well in hand for the moment. Godwyn will distract her long enough for us to catch up, I'm sure. He has a pleasant way to him that she'll find appealing."

When Syndra grasped his arm, Corryn almost pulled her out of the chair in his rush. She gasped, startled again.

Corryn smiled apologetically and patted her hand. He settled into step with her, allowing Syndra to walk to her own pace. Considering the number of people watching them, the last thing he needed to do was appear as if he were dragging her along.

"It will give you and I some time alone. After two years, nothing will come between us right now."

Syndra turned to Kenrith as she whisked by him helplessly. "We'll try to head her off outside. Back soon," she said hastily, then she trotted after Corryn, wondering what the smallfolk - and Eryk Bolton - must be thinking about her sudden departure with the trader knight.

Casting a nod toward Volf, he led Syndra toward the empty dining hall. He glanced over at her and squeezed her hand. A flush rose to his cheeks. "You've grown too, it would appear."

"I have," Syndra giggled good-naturedly as she hustled along beside him, her long strides almost keeping up with his. "Things have been quite dull around here without you."

As they entered the quiet shadows of the dining hall, he slowed to a more leisurely pace. Limosa could handle herself for a few minutes and Godwyn would certainly be of comfort to her. Syndra was his chief concern at the moment. She always had been to begin with. And he wanted to show her that finally.

"I wish things could be dull, to be honest," he said. "I haven't been allowed a moment's breath since I left Winterfell. In the past few days, I have gotten married and widowed, gained a decrepit castle and two children, discovered my squire is charged with murder, and found the most important woman in my life has been bartered away. I could do with a little of the mundane."

"Days?" Syndra started to exclaim as he spoke, but by the time he finished, her expression had changed from surprise to sheer stupefication. "The most impor... me?!" Her blue eyes were wide as she searched his face, certain she'd misunderstood.

Corryn gave her an equally befuddled smile. After so many years together, he would have thought Syndra had realized the vital role she played in his life. "You are my Lady, Little Bear. You always have been and you always shall be. Of course you're the most important person to me. And it tears me apart that I've failed you yet again. I should have been here to stop this sooner."

He paused in their brisk walk through the dining hall. "You look like a stunned fish."

Her look turned pained at that, but then she smiled and squeezed his arm. "You couldn't have been here," she consoled him. "Father and I just found out about it yesterday, but apparently, the contract has been in place for years." She shook her head. "Never think that you've failed me."

"That bastard Oswain," he muttered. "I know it is ill to speak of the dying, but he has forever been a prickly fellow. To think he could have sold you as if you were his own." Corryn clenched his fists into tight balls. His eyes touched hers, full of apologies and empathy.

"I'll make sure you are safe, Syndra. No matter the cost." And he meant it. She could hear it in the dark resolve of his voice.

Then he sighed weakly, "I wish your mother was with us still. And then this whole affair with the Boltons would be a moot point. After all, you're almost fifteen…" He gave her a sad smile, doubting she remembered.

Her eyes narrowed in confusion. "But what does Mother have to do with..." Her eyes widened, then narrowed again and she shook her head in stunned disbelief. "Fifteen," she repeated, as if in a daze.

Syndra turned away from him and paced a small circle, pinching the bridge of her nose. The gesture somehow looked familiar to Corryn. "Fifteen..." she whispered again. Surely he couldn't be thinking of that?

Corryn smiled as she unconsciously mimicked him. Even after their years of painful separation, she still carried some of his mannerisms. And yes, he certainly was thinking of that day. He remembered it as clearly as the day before. It had been their last day. How could he forget?

They had all been breaking their fast in the solar, on Wolf's last visit to Holdfast before the summer fever. Gavrin had teased her about something Corryn had said, and her knight came to rescue her from her embarrassment. With Mama looking on, Wolf had made a pledge - that if they were both unwed when Syndra reached her fifteenth nameday, he would be proud to take her as his lady wife. She had agreed to the "match", but she had been no more than seven at the time, and he was already in his twenties. It had seemed like a game to her, and fifteen had been so far away then. But here she was...

Syndra looked back up at him, dumbfounded. She tried to speak a couple of times before anything actually came out. "Wolf..." she stammered, "surely you don't believe that... that pledge... that anyone would consider... THAT... to be a... a... a marriage contract?" In her eyes, he could see her mixed emotions - hope for a way out of the Bolton marriage, but... anxiety over this new one.

Corryn sighed and gave her a defeated shrug. "They might, Little Bear. At least, long enough for us to hold off the Boltons until we could find you someone more…" He had been about to say 'younger,' but caught himself.

The old wolf regarded the girl before him and shook his head to clear it of the ghosts that were once more invading his thoughts. In the dim light of the dining hall, he could not help but mistake Syndra for her mother. And that resemblance brought with it old longings, old hopes. He chuckled somberly, realizing that he had not only guarded his heart for Morna's sake, but for his Lady as well. How could he promise himself to another when he belonged to someone already?

He turned his sad gaze away and finished with, "Someone more suitable."

Frustration ignited on his face. "But I fear that every one who could attest to that pledge is gone. It would be your word and mine, Syndra, and at this point that word would be suspect. Your father would be no help, I fear. Even if he would be willing to such a match, which he wouldn't… Godfrey's honor would never allow him to lie about knowing. Morna might have convinced him otherwise, but not I. She had a way with him we could not hope to duplicate."

"But she never saw him again either," Syndra said softly as her gaze dropped to the floor. "He didn't come home until after."

She looked back up at Wolf, forcing herself out of the past. "He'd believe my word, but no, he could not attest to having known firsthand. Septa Annice, perhaps, but... I don't think she was still there when we talked about it."

Corryn stiffened at the mention of Septa Annice. His old nemesis. The judgmental stares, the critical frowns. How could he forget her? "Oh. Yes. Her. No, I doubt she would help me, even if it benefited you in the end. She disapproved of me and still does, undoubtedly. She would sooner cut off her own head than see us married, I suspect. Besides, she was walking out the door when I said it. To buy you fruit, remember?"

Syndra nodded.

"And your father's damned honor. He wouldn't lie. Godfrey isn't like me. A villain. He has been in Eddard's company far too long. No, I think we would be alone in this."

Again, Syndra nodded pensively.

He squeezed her fingers, "It was a pledge I still hold dear, but what is in my heart does not a contract make. I'm sorry, Little Bear. Your knight and protector is desperately inadequate in his duties."

"Nonsense," Syndra smiled up at him. "I'd be proud to be your lady wife, even today. It's just that..." she gave him a little apologetic grimace, "it would be like marrying my favorite uncle. And I don't think Limosa would take kindly to it, either."

"Aye. She has taken to me, I'm afraid," Corryn said with a hint of shame. "I should have been more distant with her, but considering how I found her. Mother bless her, Syndra. She was…" He shook his head and worried his lip. The words were too painful to relate. He shrugged them off. "She is simply confused. Soon she will find love, but for now jealousy appears to be her dominant emotion. I'm sorry you have to be the target, but maybe she senses something."

"But yes, it would be like marrying my daughter somehow," he said softly. "I've known you your entire life almost. You are a piece of me. But we are an ocean of years apart."

And yet, the way he was gazing at her, it must have been more than that. His eyes touched her for a moment in a way Syndra recognized instinctively, but could not recall when she'd seen him this way before. Not yet anyhow.

Syndra felt an unexplained tingle rise within her. It made her want to look away from his deep hazel eyes, yet forbade her to do so. She gulped uncertainly.

The side of his lip curled up, hopeful and timid. And then reason, that traitorous wisdom, returned to brush away the gossamer from his eyes. He blushed and leaned back, suddenly embarrassed. When he reached for her cheek, it was with familial sentiment rather than the odd suppressed passion of a moment before.

Corryn lightly brushed her cheek and sighed. "What are we to do, Little Bear? I could make Herys another offer. Greed is a compelling force. And by law, we can break this contract at any time. We simply need a reason."

A reason. At that sentence, all tingling was cast aside. Corryn saw a feral smile arise on Syndra's lips and her eyes sparkled evilly. "I might have one," she said softly, with the air of a cat ready to pounce. "I told Father this morning. He took it under advisement, but you might be better able to use it to our advantage."

He paused again, immediately intrigued. "I've seen that look before. You know something, don't you?" Corryn knelt before her, failing to hide his optimism. "Please, anything might be useful. And it could save me from having to take more drastic measures when we return to court. Besides, I doubt Edlyn would lie either. She may come from a viper's belly, but the girl has the heart of a sparrow."

"Indeed?" said a voice from the doorway of the room. "I must admit, Ser Corryn, that I find neither comparison particularly flattering and nor, I suspect, would my husband."

Syndra stiffened and suppressed a wince at the sound of the unwelcome voice.

It was Lady Celia. Hard to say how long she had been standing there, watching them together.

"Syndra, come with me, please. Your father is anxious about you."

"Yes, my lady," Syndra said demurely, still looking at Corryn.

Corryn stood, his eyes narrowing as he regarded the familiar shape in the doorway. "Lady Hardy," he said, "As always, it is an inimitable pleasure."

He pushed his cloak back and nodded at Syndra. "Little Bear, you should go to your father. The three of us will discuss this at greater length tonight. Lady Hardy and I have much to discuss."

"Yes, ser," Syndra replied with a nod. With one last longing glance, she turned away and hurried out of the dining hall in the direction of her father's solar.

His lip curled back into a cold grin. "Forgive my turn of phrase. But you forget, in Dorne, such a statement is comment of admiration."

"What a shame," said Lady Celia politely, "that we are not in Dorne."

He gestured to the chairs at the table. "Please sit a while? It has been so long since we traded compliments. And today, it appears we have much to discuss. To each other's benefit if we have but the wisdom to listen."

Corryn pulled out a chair for her, giving her a gentle smile.

She hesitated, and then seated herself. smoothing out her heavy skirt.

"So," she said. "Much to discuss?"

She smiled at him - a smile that never left her lips to reach to her eyes.

It occurred to Syndra after she left the room that she hadn't asked Lady Celia where Ser Godfrey was, but she wasn't about to go back in and ask. She decided to try his solar first, then go back to the Great Hall if he wasn't there.

When she reached there, she heard two voices from within - her father ... and Ser Herys Bolton. The tone was hostile - angry - although neither man had raised his voice.

Syndra raised her hand to knock, but stopped, chewing her lip uncertainly. She didn't want to interrupt, but she couldn't just walk away, either. If it had been Celia and Anders speaking, she would've listened at the door, but she respected her father too much for that. He had always been honest with her and if there was something she needed to know, he would tell her in good time.

Still, this was no simple matter of respecting her father's privacy. Syndra was frightened of Herys Bolton, not merely for herself, but for her father as well. Guest right obviously meant nothing to the Boltons, if Evan's actions were any indication. Syndra was quite certain he had killed Grunther, given what he'd said the previous night. If his son was capable of it, why should Herys himself be any different? No. She would wait.

Syndra took up a position in a window alcove across the hall. Even though she couldn't hear the exact words, she listened to the tone of the discussion, the pitch, the volume. She fingered the knife sheathed in her sleeve and steeled herself to burst through the door at any sign of trouble.

And she also listened for her name.

But her name was not mentioned, it seemed. Nor was Eryk's. Instead - she could tell from the intonation and pitch - it seemed that Ser Herys was making demands ... forcefully. And her father was resisting; quietly, firmly, implacably.

A slight smile quirked the corner of Syndra's lips. Keep shouting, Herys, she thought to herself. Shout and storm and flail all you want. The Hardys are stone. Her father was not quite as impenetrable as Uncle Oswain, but it would still be easier to move the gatehouse with your bare hands than to move Godfrey with taunts and threats. Syndra continued to listen, though, in case Herys decided to offer more than that.

However, after a few more minutes of listening to Herys argue, Syndra began to think it cruel to put her father through the tirade. With a determined frown, Syndra rapped upon the door.

A pause and then her father's voice. "Enter!"

When she went in, Ser Herys was sitting scowling in an upright chair by the fire, nursing a glass of spiced wine. Her father was by the window, as though he needed to breathe the fresher air.

Syndra shot a piercing glare at Ser Herys, then addressed Godfrey. "Lady Celia said you wished to see me, Father."

"Come in, Syndra," said her father. "We have been discussing ... the conduct of the trial."

"Which is a farce," said Ser Herys harshly. "That buffoon Manderly is using it for his own ends. And you're letting him!"

"Volf is almost like a son to Ser Corryn," Syndra stated calmly. "Of course, he would take whatever measures were necessary to defend him. If either of the sellswords were that close to you, I'm certain you would do the same, would you not?" she asked Herys levelly, her gaze never straying from his icy cold eyes.

Ser Herys smiled. "If one them stood in such a position, and had conducted himself in a manner worthy of my son, then indeed I would," he said.

Of course you would. It's a matter of style, Ser Herys. Nothing more. Because Ser Corryn's style is different than yours does not make it wrong," Syndra said coolly.

"And you retain something of your spirit too, mistress," said Ser Herys. He looked at her with a faint smile - very like the one he had worn the previous day.

Syndra's stomach lurched, but she refused to let it show. She faced Ser Herys down like she would an unfriendly dog. Never show fear, Godwyn had always said - when dealing with dogs, that is.

Ser Godfrey moved away form the window and over to Syndra, resting his hands on her shoulders.

"Despite what you say," he told Ser Herys, "the trial will continue. Unless, of course, you wish to see the men pardoned."

Ser Herys's face darkened. "Never!" he said curtly, and then rose to his feet.

Ser Godfrey kept his hands on Syndra's shoulders as the Bolton knight strode from the room.

She watched Bolton icily as he stalked out. Once the door was closed behind him, Syndra's shoulders sagged in relief. She spun around and hugged her father tightly. "The man makes me retch," she said into his chest.

Between his back and Syndra's arm, Godfrey could feel something he hadn't noticed before - the cold, straight lump that could only be a small knife in a wrist sheath. His daughter had apparently taken to wearing the stiletto again.

He had known she had it, of course, ever since Ser Corryn had given it to her on her tenth nameday. It was supposed to be a secret, but Syndra didn't keep secrets from her father. He had threatened to take it away, until Corryn talked to him privately. After that, he had grudgingly allowed her to keep it, as long as she was properly trained and didn't hurt her cousins, the servants or herself. He never did say anything about Lady Celia, but Syndra reckoned that went without saying. Syndra still remembered Corryn's wolfish grin when Godfrey insisted he train her properly.

Syndra, however, had not worn the knife inside the castle for years, and Godfrey was certain she had not been wearing it when she embraced him upon his arrival the day before.

Now he did indeed feel it, and he gave a quick, approving nod.

"Good girl," he said. "That's a wise precaution for the moment. Be careful who you stick, and where, though. Does young Edlyn carry a blade too? Has she been trained?"

Syndra smiled at his praise as she released him. "She has a small one she can wear under her skirts," Syndra admitted. "It wouldn't kill anyone, but it might give them pause long enough for her to run. I showed her how to use it. I hope she has sense enough to be wearing it now." Syndra kicked herself then. She had been meaning to have the smith make Edlyn a more useful dagger, but she hadn't gotten around to it. At least she had made sure the knife Edlyn did have was sharp.

"How long until we need to go back?" Syndra asked her father.

"We have a little while," said Ser Godfrey. "As you may guess, Ser Herys is anxious to bring the trial to an end as soon as possible. But I will hear what Volf and the sellswords have to say. But I want you to promise me not to do anything rash."

"I'll do my best. Hopefully, things will come out on their own. But I want you to promise me you'll be careful around that man. There's no telling what he'll do if he's pushed into a corner." Syndra realized she wasn't telling Godfrey anything he didn't know, but a little reminder of how concerned she was for him never hurt.

"Did he say why he wants to deny the men their chance to speak?" she asked. For the next question, she lowered her voice even further. "And did he give any clues about what we discussed before?"

"He said nothing," said her father. "Except that he wanted to stop the trial. And that in itself I find revealing." He smiled at her. "I think we let your sellsword say his piece, don't you? Let's get back."

"Yes," Syndra said, answering both comments at once. She slipped her arm into her father's and let him lead on.

But as they were walking back towards the Great Hall, a guard stopped Ser Godfrey.

"Ser ... Maester Sewell wonders if you could come to him. He is with Lord Hardy."

Certainly," said Ser Godfrey. "Syndra, will you come with me? Or will you go to the Hall again?"

Syndra patted her father's arm in support. "I'll stay with you," she said without hesitation.

They moved swiftly through the castle until they came to Lord Hardy's room. Sewell met them at the door. He looked thoughtfully at Syndra, but beckoned her as well as her father to join him at the table at some distance from Lord Hardy's bed. Lord Hardy himself appeared to be deeply asleep - he was snoring.

Sewell waited until Syndra and her father were seated close to the fire before he spoke.

"I wanted to ask you," he said to Godfrey, "how much you know of your brother's oldest child."

Ser Godfrey looked a little startled. "Kenrith? Well Maester, you know ... "

"No," said Sewell. "Not Kenrith."

Syndra shot a surprised look at Sewell. Then her gaze, full of questions, turned to Godfrey.

Ser Godfrey sighed. "At the time, I heard rumours, nothing more. We were young, Maester Sewell - no more than boys. I was at Winterfell, squire to Lord Stark. And Oswain was acting as our Father's Hand, governing those parts of Holdfast where the old man's writ was weakest. Perhaps he had a woman in one of those villages - perhaps he fathered a child on her, or thought he might have done. But believe me, once he returned and married Emelyn, he never looked at another woman."

"I'm aware of that," said Sewell. "But now I believe, in his mind he is reverting to wrongs done in the past. He wants to find the woman, and her child ... if child there was."

"But that's absurd!" protested Godfrey. "Maester - it's more than twenty years ago!"

"Nevertheless," said Sewell, "I believe he wants Kenrith to find him."

Syndra's eyes had grown wide at the tale. She had a hard enough time even imagining Uncle Oswain young, let alone fathering a Snow. "Does Kenrith know this?" she asked Sewell, shaking her head in disbelief. "Did Uncle Oswain give a name? Or... or where to start looking?"

Sewell shook his head. "What he is able to say is broken and confused. But he calls for Kenrith and over and over again he reverts to Snow ... and reeds."

"The marshes around the Long Lake, perhaps," said Ser Godfrey thoughtfully. "There are villages there which look to Holdfast. It is possible ... "

Syndra looked at her father dubiously. "But Father, how would Kenrith know which one? What if the man he's looking for doesn't know his own history? Or..." She paused as a thought occurred to her.

She turned to the maester. "Maester Sewell? Did Uncle Oswain say if the Snow was male or female? Did he know? If he knew, he must've known about the child personally. Either he'd seen him or someone told him."

Sewell shook his head again. "We cannot say - and at the moment, Lord Hardy cannot tell us. But ... there are not that many villages. And a Snow, of the right age ... it may not be so hard."

This time, Maester Sewell was the recipient of Syndra's dubious look, but she did not pursue the matter. They were in the middle of a trial. There was naught to be done for a search right now. However, there was one issue that she might not get another chance to ask about before the subject came up.

"Speaking of lost sons reminds me, Maester. Last night at dinner, Eryk was asking me about his brother - you know, the one who died here during the summer fever." She squinted her eyes in frustration, trying to remember, and stamped her foot, impatient with herself. "Oh, what was his name?" She purposely did not look at Godfrey. He, after all, had already been briefed.

Maester Sewell frowned. "It's strange you should ask that," he said slowly, "for the name the boy called himself and the name that his father gave him were different. It seemed to me that the boy ... wanted to stand clear of his father." He shook his head. "It might be a fanciful thought ... but the name he used was the name I told Lord Hardy when he came to name his son later that year."

(OOC - Lord Hardy's son by Lady Celia is called Jonas).

"So ... what was the name his Father gave him?" asked Ser Godfrey.

Sewell frowned for a moment, as though trying to remember. "Devlin," he said finally.

Syndra cocked her head and stared off into the flames of the fireplace, as if wandering in memory. "Tell me about him, Maester," she asked, in that dreamy tone of someone trying to pull forth a memory and not quite succeeding. "Please? I was so young and... we were confined. What was the boy like? What did he say? What happened at the... the end?"

Sewell looked at her curiously.

"Dark haired ... scrawny. One of those who has more strength inside than they seemed capable of possessing. I remember ... he wanted his brother. He called for Eryk and then he begged his father not to hurt Eryk ... I think it had often been his role to protect his brother from his father. Apart from that, he did not speak of his father at all. Or to him, either."

Noting Sewell's curious look, Syndra decided not to press further. She simply nodded. "Eryk said as much at dinner," she explained. "He had wondered. He wasn't here, of course, and his father told him nothing at the time except that his brother was dead." She frowned disapprovingly, though mostly for effect. She had no idea what Herys had actually told Eryk.

With a little sigh, she looked over at her father expectantly, letting him take the lead in any further questioning. He could see the hint of disappointment in her eyes. Sewell's information had not been exactly what she wanted.

But Godfrey shook his head slightly.

"We should be returning to the Hall. Will you come with us, Maester Sewell?"

Sewell looked over at his patient in the bed.

"Shortly, I hope," he said.

Godfrey nodded again. "Come," he said to his daughter. "We should be getting back."

Once they were outside the room, he glanced at her. "You seem disappointed," he said.

Syndra smiled up at him half-heartedly. "A little. It seems they're BOTH right. Not as conclusive a result as I had hoped. Although..." she trailed off, thinking. "It might indicate that Evan was closer to the boy than Eryk was, since he knew his brother's secret name for himself."

She snorted derisively then. "But if Herys didn't know it, it makes no difference, does it?" She sighed heavily, defeated. "I don't know, Papa. I don't know where to go from here. I just hope Evan says something that we can use."

"If he has any sense in his head and any skill in his arm, he'll do what he can to aid himself," said Ser Godfrey grimly. "At the moment, the evidence is dark against him. But right is not always just. Have you ever heard the tale of Ser Duncan the Tall?"

Syndra thought for a moment, then shook her head. "No, I don't think so. Can you tell me?"

He smiled. "Another time, perhaps," he said. "But for now ... we should be getting back."

She grinned at him as she took his arm and continued toward the Great Hall. "Yes, you're right. Such a tale would be much better told in front of an evening fire with a goblet of spiced wine in hand." She squeezed his arm affectionately as they walked.

"Spiced wine?" he said. "Do you have your mother's way with that, Syndra? She used to tell me she knew a secret spice to sweeten the cup. Certainly no-one else's wine has ever tasted like hers did."

The sweet bitterness of regret was in his voice.

"I don't know, Papa. I don't remember hers," Syndra said almost apologetically. "It could be the same recipe, though. Septa Annice told me how to make it. She probably taught Mama, too."

He smiled - a smile that did not quite hold the old pain in his eyes. "Yes, you're right. Yours will probably be the same - better, even."

But, went the unspoken message, it will not be hers.

As they neared the Great Hall, Syndra stepped in front of her father to stop him and took both of his hands in hers. She gazed into his sad, blue eyes - eyes so like her own - and wished, for about the thousandth time in her life, that she could somehow chase away the pain that lived there. "I miss her too, Papa," she said sympathetically.

She kissed his cheek and squeezed his hands gently, sighing as she looked up at him. "There are things we need to talk about, Father," she said in a firm, almost maternal, way. The change in her manner of address indicated to him her seriousness. "Tonight - no vigils, no duties. Just you and me. It's been far too long and there is much to discuss. For both of us. Agreed?" Syndra knew quite well that even if he agreed, circumstances could change that promise, just as they always had. But for now, she needed to make her wishes known.

He smiled at her ruefully. "If we can, then we shall," he said. Then he gave a faint sigh. "Whatever the outcome of this trial, I suspect that our lives are likely to change ... "

She smiled at him encouragingly. "Change happens, Papa. We'll hold fast and roll with it, as always." She released one of his hands but not the other and nodded toward the door to the Great Hall. "Shall we enter?" she asked.

Lady Celia and Ser Anders were there and at first it appeared that they had not seen Syndra and her father. Ser Anders was speaking, his voice angry.

"And I told you that I'd have nothing to do with it, Celia!"

But Celia had seen them approach and said smoothly, "I see nothing untoward about organising a hunt for our guests. We need not ride so very far into the forest, after all."

"What?" said Ser Anders - and then he turned to see Ser Godfrey and Syndra approaching. He nodded, frowning. "We had best take our places again," he said.

Syndra stopped and eyed them warily. Her hand tightened on Godfrey's as she watched them depart. "What are they up to?" she said softly, not really expecting an answer.

Syndra allowed her father to lead her back to her seat and smiled at him as he resumed his place on the dias. She looked around, noting that Corryn and Godwyn were returning, but Limosa was not with them, nor was she anywhere to be seen in the hall. She hoped Godwyn had been able to catch up with her.

During her scan of the crowd, Syndra's eyes lit upon Rhys and she smiled involuntarily. Things had changed a bit. She didn't know now what would happen in this next round, but his presence was calming for her. Then she turned to Edlyn and her eyes widened. The girl was more pale and agitated than usual. She turned in her seat to speak with her.

"Edlyn, are you all right?" Syndra asked worriedly.

Edlyn nodded. "Yes," she said. "Yes. Someone just said something that ... upset me. But I'm all right now."

Her etyes were fixed on the prisoners as she spoke.

Syndra followed Edlyn's gaze, then turned back to her, touching her arm supportively. "Is it something you can tell me here?" she asked, keeping her voice down.

Edlyn turned her head to look at her - but then Ser Godfrey began to speak. Edlyn mouthed the word "Later." Then she turned her attention to the trial.

Page last modified on June 05, 2006, at 01:58 AM