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"Snow," whispered the old man. "Snow ... my son."

Kenrith jerked and froze, nearly butting his father in the lips with his brow but stopping himself in time. "Older... or younger than I, father? You want me to bring him?"

"Bring ... " His eyes closed with the effort of speaking and making himself understood. Then his eyes opened again. "Once I saw her, I loved her. I was always true to her ... your mother. It was ... before." His voice was hoarse, fading.

"I understand, father. I will find him and bring him... but I'm not sure how I will find him," Kenrith replied quietly, as he had before.

He did not move far from his father's side, but he did raise his head enough to have a look around the room. Unless she was hanging out a window, or hiding in the wardrobe, however, Lady Celia was nowhere to be found. He saw that the young maesters, too, had moved to the far end of the room... probably to discuss the Bolton matter. As much as they were a fraternity of scholars... they were also a fraternity of secrets shared.

Returning his head to a position right by his father's ear, he asked "Does Sewell know this Snow?"

But Lord Hardy made no answer. Instead he was breathing harshly, as though he had just run a long race, and his eyes were half-closed.

Kenrith might have known what to do if his father had been struck by an arrow while riding, or if his breast plate had been staved in at the side by a mighty swing of some wildling's axe, but he clearly had no idea what to do for his father's present condition. With a look on his face not far from panic, Kenrith waved his good arm in an effort to get Maester Sewell's attention. He was torn between crying out or rushing over to the wise healer, and staying by his father's side and keeping his voice low so as to avoid upsetting him further.

Finally, Kenrith gathered his wits enough to call out in an even voice, "My father... has exerted himself speaking. I-" here he faltered, only to swallow and continue. "I am not sure he is alright," he said as he stroked his father's hair and turned to the wall to show as little fear to the world as possible.

"You have the right of it," said Sewell, looking carefully at Lord Hardy. "A very little doing, and he needs to rest. Move away from him now, Ser Kenrith, and if you wish, we can talk."

Kenrith moved away a few paces.

He was looking at Kenrith shrewdly. "Did he say aught of moment to you?"

Kenrith's expression was that of a man recovering after having been struck dumb. After another few steps, and another pause, he once again found his tongue. "Yes... apart from asking for me, has he said anything unusual to anyone else?"

"I believe so," said Sewell. He glanced around, and then said quietly, "I believe it is not unciommon, after an illness like this, for a man's maind to revert to an occasion of some moment that might have happened a great many years ago."

Kenrith nodded. "If it was only Rhys and the visiting maester... Merival? who heard him speak thus... I would appreciate it if you would caution them with regards to whom they spoke of it to... if we are talking about the same dredged up memory, and I think we are."

Sewell bowed his head.

"You must remember," he said, a little austerely, "that Maesters take vows even as Septons do. A similar injunction of silence ... "

A moment later, he added "Do you know where to find the one he spoke of, what his name might be... his first name? Even knowing the correct Sept and year to ask after the records might speed the process considerably. I would see my father's wish fulfilled, but with discretion."

"I know very little," said Sewell. "He has spoken of reeds and rushes ... But he did not confide in me as a young man. It might be that his brother could tell you more."

Kenrith nodded. "The steward as well know something... if the lord has been making small payments in support of this man. On the other hand, he may not be. My thanks... and did you happen to see where the Lady Celia went? I had wanted to talk with her about another matter..."

Sewell shook his head. "She has not been with his Lordship since before dinner."

"Strange... she and Merival left dinner for this very chamber. I'll have someone pass along the message. Will he be alright, better, with time?" Kenrith asked as his voice dropped in volume.

"Better, yes, we can hope so," said Sewell. "But Ser Kenrith ... I doubt he will ever be the man he once was, even with time. And it is possible that he might have another of these attacks which could weaken him further."

"I understand better than most... that even miraculous recoveries... are not always complete ones. Thank you for your frankness, and advice. Is there more I should know, before I go?" Kenrith asked with his usual seriousness.

Sewell shook his head. "I may be able to tell you more in a few days," he said. "But you can, perhaps, tell me something. How stand matters with regard to my nephew, Maester Rhys?"

"I did not hear the story, he simply said that there was one and chuckled... so I trust his freedom was not bought at too dearly of a price. It seems... there is never enough time. I do know that he has been of service in investigating the," Kenrith said before dropping his voice even lower to prevent his father from overhearing "murder of the Bolton man. He had many questions with regards to whether I might have had something to do with it, but I didn't... and I think Rhys at least believes as much," Kenrith said with a shrug.

Sewell looked at him thoughtfully. "Do you know the source of these questions?" he asked.

"I can only guess as to who brought it up, there are several who might have. Apparently, however, one or more of the sellswords to traveled north as a part of my escort are believed to have committed the act. I am sure you are familiar with the difficulties one would face in proving that one did not issue some quick order whilst all but alone with such men," Kenrith continued in his lowered voice.

Sewell nodded.

"Do you have any reason for believing that they would claim as much?" he said.

"They may feel I have motive... and while I do -desire- revenge upon Ser Herys... I also understand the value of my oaths and obligations, and of the value of peace. This, however, would be a copper against his debt... My greatest argument in my own defense is that I am not this great of a fool," Kenrith said quietly, but with obvious contempt for the idea he had something to do with murdering the Bolton's man.

"One would trust not, for any student who spent some time under my instruction," said Sewell with dry humour. He glanced at Kenrith thoughtfully. "Do you intend to respect your father's wishes with regards to Godwyn?"

Kenrith's smile at Sewell's compliment faded almost as soon as it began as he continued. "If you mean... that he should go to the wall? At the moment, it does not look as though it will be my decision to make. He may well be sent long before I am Lord here. To tell you the full truth of it, I have considered going in his place... but I do not believe he has the temperment of a Lord of Holdfast... though I shall never question that he holds true to our words," Kenrith said slowly.

"I'm not suggesting Godwyn should be Lord of Holdfast," said Sewell, "although I've known worse Banner Lords. What I would suggest is that he could be a fine soldier at the Wall ... or he could be a loyal brother here. It is for you, Ser Kenrith, to decide how much you want allies here at Holdfast."

Kenrith nodded. "I had thought that as well... he and I need to talk about it, at the very least," he said.

"Good," said Sewell. He hesitated, and then added, "Your brother places honour above everything save his loyalty to Holdfast and your father. Should you wish him to stay, you should know that."

Kenrith nodded, but it looked as if there was more he wanted to say. Finally, he drew a slow breath and continued. "I... I fear it may be neccesary. I have heard of men who have caught the summer fever who cannot father a child... and while my parts function as I think they should, it is a mystery to me why some men's seed quickens in a womb at every go, as with the hundreds of Freys, while some heads of mighty houses can go through years and wives seeking to conquer a problem which rests within themself. I would not see the line pass to Celia's children by default, or allow myself to be cuckoled that I might call some Snow a false-Hardy... at least, not unless they were fostered well and in the North," Kenrith said even more quietly, but with an absence of blushing. As he spoke, he looked at the Maester' straight on.

A few moments later, he added, "I... did not mean to make light of the sacrifice Maesters make. I understand there can be a full life without children... but there are also concerns of my House at stake," Kenrith continued, now slightly embarrassed.

Sewell's bushy white eyebrows lifted slightly. "I see you have indeed made plans for your brother. And do you have a suitable bride in mind for him too?"

At this, Kenrith snorted. "No... I've thought about it... what life my brother might lead... but I haven't thought it out fully. As I said... I wish to speak with him about it. He would see Lady Celia thrown out, and Ser Anders with him... and she, at least, seems afraid he'll do it... I'm not sure how to resolve that either."

"Lady Celia fears that will be her fate," said Sewell calmly. "Lord Anders too - although many nobles will have place for a good Captain of the Guard. Not many places where he will hold the status he does here, however, nor have the freedom of action he has enjoyed while your father has been ailing."

"Paradoxically... it is what their fear may move them to do which would lead me to send them off," Kenrith said with a shrug. "And thinking on this... at the moment, it is hardly my decision who stays or goes... at least it isn't in name."

"At any rate... it grows late, and I should allow you to return to your patient or your bed, as needs dictate," Kenrith said after stifling a yawn with the back of his hand.

Sewell smiled, a little wearily. "For now my patient. Rest well, Ser Kenrith, for tomorrow will dobtless bring its own challenges. Perhaps, on the morrow, you will permit me to examione your arm."

Kenrith started to nod, froze, then continued with less enthusiasm. "I would be... not exactly happy, but it would probably be a good idea for you to look at it. It is still lame, and quite... deformed," he said quietly before nodding once more, then making his way towards the door.

After leaving, Kenrith returned to his room.

Page last modified on April 22, 2006, at 03:53 PM