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Round-Up at the Holdfast Stables

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As Godfrey and Corryn strode toward the stableyards, their hearts heavy, the people of Holdfast continued their daily tasks: a young girl fed chickens as men toiled in nearby fields and the clang of the blacksmith's hammer rang in the distance.

Rhys followed behind discreetly, prepccupied with his own thoughts.

As they reached the stableyards, Godfrey and Corryn saw Godwyn attempting to pick up Edlyn--or was he dropping Edlyn?--while Syndra stood nearby. The three had their heads together, talking earnestly.

Seeing Syndra, Rhys picked up his pace.

Edlyn spotted the approaching group and said something quietly to the other two. Syndra's head spun round at Edlyn's announcement, and she almost let go of her poor friend herself. With a quick apology, she guided Edlyn back into the capable arms of Godwyn, then strode purposefully toward the trio. These were her three favorite men, but on this day, she had eyes for only one of them.

"Papa," she beamed, not caring that her manner of address was inappropriate for a Ser in public. She held out her hands and, unable to actually hug him through the shiny plate mail, she grasped a gauntleted hand and stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. "You look... prepared," she said, all of the more gallant words dying when she thought about what was to come.

Rhys stole a glance at Syndra, saw that she only had eyes for her father, and looked away. He stuffed his feelings down deep where they wouldn't interfere with his judgment today--that was the plan, anyway--and walked around Godfrey and Syndra's reunion to stop in front of Godwyn holding Edlyn.

He crossed his arms and looked at her severely.

Godwyn was still half holding her, his face fixed in a furious expression. "Did you know the Bolton's have kidnapped Lady Limossa?" he hissed to Rhys.

As the Hardys reunited, Corryn stepped away to a corner of the stables. He leaned against a stall and watched their interchange silently. Occasionally, he would glance toward the door, caught between duty and the love of his friends and family.

Rhys frowned and nodded. "I heard."

"Isn't it terrible?" said Edlyn, clearly delighted to have an excuse not to be harried about her ankle. "Poor Limosa!"

Corryn's eyebrow rose. News traveled fast in the castle; surprisingly so when one considered the secrecy of this particular subject. He tapped the back of his head against the stable support, but said nothing. He didn't want to start yelling again and was dangerously on the verge of it.

Ser Godfrey meanwhile, moved forward to rest one hand on Syndra's head - the blessing a battle-bound father might usually bestow on his son.

And like a son, Syndra stood tall and noble under his gauntlet. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply, as if committing this moment to a special place in her memory.

Then he lifted his hand and smiled at her. "Shall I have your favour to bear with me into combat?" he asked. "As I used to carry your mother's?"

"Of course," Syndra smiled at her father. She reached up with both hands and removed her Hardy-blue hair ribbon, allowing her long hair to spill freely over her shoulders. A battered comfrey blossom threatened to spill out with it, but she saved it at the last moment and adjusted it to a position behind her ear.

Godwyn made a low growling noise, and moved restlessly from foot to foot. It was clear he wanted to say something, but he held his silence for the moment.

Corryn took note of Godwyn's agitation and calmly walked over to the boy. As Syndra and Godfrey went through the proper rituals, he placed his hand on Godwyn's shoulder. He gazed down at the boy, nodding confidently. "We'll find her," he said. "We'll find her safe and untouched. Not to worry, my boy."

He hoped he sounded convincing, because he was having a difficult time believing it himself.

Syndra placed the ribbon reverently to her lips and murmurred an inaudible prayer. When she finished, she kissed the ribbon and removed the gauntlet from her father's left wrist. A lady's favour was traditionally tied around the knight's lance, but from somewhere deep within her, Syndra remembered watching her mother do it this way instead. "Closer to the heart and on the left, to guide the lance straight and true" she whispered, though it was not her own voice she heard.

She replaced his gauntlet, adjusting the ribbon so the ends peeked out from underneath, and looked up into his eyes, deep blue like her own. "May the Old Gods be with you, Papa."

He smiled at her, then stooped forward and lifted her hand to his lips - a knightly salute.

"They will be," he said. "Now, go with Corryn and Rhys and take your place."

Yes, Father," she smiled, stepping back. As Syndra moved out of the way, she glanced at Rhys uncertainly, then looked away. However, she did not rush to Corryn's side, either. Instead, she diplomatically took up a position somewhere between the two and stood staring at the ground.

Godfrey turned to Godwyn. "Are my lances ready?"

"All ready, uncle," Godwyn said. "There were two of Bolton's men spotted in the stables earlier, and when we checked over both the horses carefully we found they'd partly cut through the cinch on Tamm's horse. Enough so that he would have gone flying off the horse the first time you hit him. Bolton wanted him defeated, but in a way that would later make it look like we cheated. Couple that with Limosa, and it's clear he's not covered by guest right any longer. I say we arrest him and his men now, call off the combat, and lay the whole thing before Stark."

Ser Godfrey looked at him, frowning. "This will go before Stark," he said. "But the challenge cannot be prevented. If we halted it now, people would lose faith in Hardy justice. We must see that the contest is as fair as possible - and afterwards we shall find Limosa. Then we take this to the Starks."

Rhys turned at Ser Godfrey's question to Godwyn. He watched Syndra hesitate, then avoid his gaze. He exhaled and schooled his features into something more neutral than what he was feeling.

"Godwyn, here, let me take Edlyn and you can help Ser Godfrey," Rhys offered, holding out his arms.

Godwyn looked down at Edlyn, half held in one arm, in surprise. It was clear he'd forgotten he still held her.

Syndra looked up at her father anxiously at Godwyn's news.

He smiled reassuringly. "I will win," he said.

Syndra nodded, smiling bravely.

Godwyn sighed, the straightened his shoulders. "Aye, Uncle," he said. "We will hold fast to our honour, and trust to the Gods that they will see things come out right."

Page last modified on January 15, 2007, at 12:44 AM