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Saving Godfrey

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Rhys paused at Godfrey's hip, deemed it not immediately life-threatening, then turned his attention to the ribs. He felt gingerly for the position of the breaks. "Looks like he punctured a lung, but I don't think it's collapsed. That's good," he said out loud for Syndra's benefit. "We need to move him off the field."

By the time Rhys made his assessment, a change had come over Syndra. She was strangely calm, as if there had been some decision made within her during her moment of silence. She leaned forward again, ready to help, as cool as a battlefield nurse.

He looked up and around. "Litter! I need a litter!" Rhys yelled. The litters were over by the stands, part of the standard equipment whenever a tourney was held. Why didn't he think to bring one when he initially ran out onto the field? Stupid!

He spied a Holdfast man nearby. "Olsan, go get one of the litters. They're over by the stands. And hurry!"

As Olsan ran away (hopefully toward the stands and not into the woods), Rhys fished through his satchel and pulled out a small corked bottle. "Milk of poppies for the pain," he explained to Syndra.

She nodded silently.

He unstoppered the bottle and tried to coax Godfrey to sip it as he waited for Olsan to return.

Syndra held her father's head gently, trying to help him sip the medicine. She leaned over him closely so he could hear her and spoke comfortingly, calmly, encouraging him to hold fast. She did not cry.

He swallowed once ... and then again. Most of the liquid seemed to trickle out of his mouth, but some had clearly gone down. His hand clenched momentarily on Syndra's - but then he looked at Rhys - and his sudden frown seemed to indicate his desire to know the worst.

"Your hip is broken in several places, as are several ribs. Resetting them will not be pleasant, and healing will take awhile, but you should live." Unless the punctured lung was more serious than Rhys thought--there was no way to know for sure and only time would tell. "Ser Anders has taken control," he added, hoping it would help serve to keep Godfrey calm.

Rhys reached over and touched Syndra's hand, wanting to offer comfort.

Syndra allowed Rhys to take her hand, but her manner remained somber. She looked over at Rhys solemnly and asked the even harder questions that she knew would be on her father's mind. "The healing will be long and difficult. With that hip, what are the chances of him being able to sit a horse, or even to walk again afterwards?"

Rhys stole a glance at Godfrey, then answered Syndra's question. "His riding days are over. I have hope that he'll walk again, though it will be with a limp."

She lowered her eyes. Rhys's prognosis confirmed her fears. Her father might live, but he would never again have what he considered a life. He had had one foot in the grave with his beloved wife for the last seven years. His honor and duty were the only things that had kept him going. With those gone...

Syndra could not bear to finish the thought. She nodded and let go of Rhys's hand, placing it instead gently on her father's shoulder. She leaned down over him again, kissed his forehead and asked softly, "What are your wishes in this, Papa?"

"Take me ... to the Tower," he said, and then his eyes closed - although it was hard to gauge whether it was the effect of the poppies or his injuries. Either way, he appeared to be unconscious.

"A blessing," Rhys said. "Hopefully he'll stay unconscious while his hip and ribs are set. Olsan! Where is that man?"

"Here, Maester!" Olsan answered, out of breath from his rush across the field, a litter awkwardly under his arm.

"Carefully..." Rhys intoned as he and Olsan gently eased the unconscious Godfrey onto the litter. "To the Tower," he told Olsan, indicating that he should take the front end. Rhys took the back end of the litter, wanting to keep an eye on Godfrey as they travelled.

Syndra helped the two men place her father on the litter, then followed along beside them, chewing her lip nervously. At times, she moved ahead of the litter to ease concerned smallfolk out of the way. This was not difficult considering her rather grotesque coating of caked mud, drying blood and other unidentifiable human remains. Once at the Tower, she ran ahead to open the doors while Rhys and Olsan carried the litter inside and up the stairs.

There were no interruptions to their journey, but as they began to manoeuvre the litter up the first flight of stairs, Godfrey groaned, without opening his eyes.

"Hold fast, Father," Syndra soothed, touching his hand gently.

"Carefully..." Rhys repeated to Olsan. They came out onto a landing which adjoined a ward of sorts with several cots set up for sick and wounded. A doorway to the right led to the bedroom Rhys shared with Sewell, and a door to the left led to a storage room filled with supplies and medicines.

"Should we put the Ser on a cot, Young Maester?" Olsan asked, peering at Rhys over his shoulder.

"No, on the table," Rhys replied, nodding at a large wooden table off to the side. Besides a work area, the table also served when needed as an operating table and as a rigid surface on which to set bones.

Once in the room, Syndra left the transfer from litter to table to the men and busied herself with preparing for surgery. She started a fire in the fireplace and removed a large kettle from the hearth, taking it over to the water barrel in the corner to fill.

When she removed the cover from the barrel and peered inside, she was met with a sight so shocking she almost screamed - her own reflection. Her hair, which had hung loose since she had given her ribbon to her father, was matted and tangled with sticky gore and things that made her hold back a retch. Her face was streaked with blood and tears. She was a mess.

Syndra had worked with Maesters Rhys and Sewell enough to know that they insisted on cleanliness around open wounds. In her present state, she could do her father more harm than good. Once the kettle was back over the fire to boil, she bolted from the room with a bucket of water, calling a hurried "I'll be right back" over her shoulder.

She returned five minutes later. Or rather, someone returned. The person that entered the room looked like a drowned rat in an oversized maester's robe. Tall, skinny, and dripping, her face and hands had been scrubbed nearly raw. The robe was wrapped almost double and belted twice around. The droopy sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, revealing bare arms and a blood-stained wrist sheath with cleaned knife safely in place. Most surprising, however, was her hair. Where once there had been long, soft curls there was now... a ragged, short mop of soggy hair. In her haste to rid herself of the putrid Bolton filth, Syndra had apparently taken her knife and hacked her hair off at the shoulder.

The girl seemed unperturbed by the drastic change in her appearance. Instead, she hustled back to the hearth to check the water. "What do you need me to do?" Syndra asked Rhys.

By the time Syndra had returned, Rhys had Godfrey's clothes removed and was re-examining his hip. He looked up at her and started, then blinked before returning his attention to Godfrey's hip without commenting.

Conscious again, Godfrey's face was lined in pain and his breathing was shallow.

"It would be a big help if you can get more of the milk of poppy down him," Rhys said. He paused in his examination, rummaged through his satchel, and pulled out a small packet of dried herbs. "Mix this in with it--it'll relax his muscles so we can set the broken bones."

Syndra took the packet and added it to the milk of poppy she found in the satchel, swirling the mixture around in the bottle to blend it thoroughly. She stood at her father's side with her back to the rest of his body, a bit shy about seeing him naked. With soothing words, she gently parted his lips and dripped milk of poppy into his mouth, drop by meticulous drop, patiently encouraging him to swallow.

He drank it, his eyes fastened on her face as he did so. But he made no move to speak and even as he was drinking his eyelids sank lower and lower until he was clearly unconscious - his breath still wheezing.

Rhys turned to Olsan. "Go find Maester Sewell and ask him to come here--I'd like his opinion. I last saw him in Lord Hardy's rooms."

"Courtyard," Syndra corrected without looking up. "He came out just as we went in."

"Yes, Maester, ma'am," said Olsan, and, with a bow, he left them.

As Syndra stood by Godfrey's side, he suddenly gave a jerk and a cough. Bloody foam sprayed from his lips, spattering both her and Rhys.

"Rhys!" Syndra shrieked. She dropped the bottle, which crashed to the floor, and held her father by the shoulders. The sudden spasm had broken her veneer of calm and she began to tremble again.

Rhys placed his hand lightly on Godfrey's chest where the ribs were broken. "It's not as bad as it looks," Rhys said to calm Syndra as he watched Godfrey breathe. "Coughing is good--it gets fluids out.

"We'll keep him on milk of poppy for the pain, make sure he breathes deeply a few times every hour or so, and see if the bleeding resolves itself. There's a good chance it will--I've seen other men survive coughing up blood like this.

"There are blankets over on the shelf there. Would you get one for your father?"

Syndra merely nodded, her eyes still wide with worry as she went to fetch a blanket. She brought it back silently and covered her father with it tenderly.

Godfrey gave a murmur, without opening his eyes.

Once Godfrey had quieted again, Rhys started the process of cleaning and dressing the various lacerations, keeping a close eye on Godfrey's breathing and waiting for Sewell's arrival.

The act of walking away and doing something useful seemed to steady Syndra. So she did it again. She added more wood to the fire and brought Rhys a large bowl of hot water for his work. Then she cleaned up and disposed of the broken glass and milk of poppy mixture. Then she went into the maesters' workroom to find more milk of poppy. All this was without any prompting from Rhys. She just had a need to be useful; to keep herself busy physically so she would not have to think. Just do.

Finally, when she had accomplished all the tasks she could come up with on her own, she stepped up and stood at Rhys's side at the table, looking down as her father's broken body while the maester worked. "Can I help?" she asked softly. Something about the way she said it reminded Rhys of a brave young girl helping in the sick room seven years ago.

"I'm finished here," Rhys announced, pausing to ascertain that Godfrey was breathing all right before taking the basin of water and leftover bandages to an empty shelf. He glanced at Syndra over his shoulder as he reached for a packet of herbs, then dumped them into a mug. He added hot water from the fire to the mug and handed it to her.

"Lemon balm. Let it steep for a few minutes," he said as he assessed her with a critical eye. "How are you doing?" he asked softly.

Syndra eyed the mug suspiciously. "I don't want to sleep," she protested weakly, remembering lemon balm's usual purpose.

"It'll just calm you," Rhys replied. "If I wanted you to sleep, I'd have given you valerian."

Syndra smiled wanly. She took the mug from him and held it before her, breathing the aromatic steam deeply with her eyes closed.

After a moment, she opened her eyes again and gazed at Godfrey's prone form. "I knew this would happen," she mused wearily. "He was so certain he would win, but nothing is ever certain in a tilt. I knew Tamm would cheat. Father never even entertained that thought. It was not honorable, and so he believed it couldn't happen." She sighed heavily. "His honor blinds him, Rhys. He lives by it and by the gods, he'll die by it. But for what?"

"Of course your father suspected Tamm would try to cheat," Rhys said softly. "If it was so apparent to us, don't you think he knew, too? He's an experienced Ser, a leader of men, a favorite of the Starks. He knew.

"I don't think your father lets his honor blind him. I think he knew, but decided he'd be honorable anyway, even if Tamm wasn't."

Syndra looked up at Rhys somewhat dubiously, but rather than argue, she rubbed her temple with one hand as if she had a headache and took a sip of the tea. She wandered over to a bench by the fireplace and sat down, exhausted.

"I suppose," she conceded finally. "It's probably why he was able to clear the horse when it went down. He must've been ready for Tamm to go after his mount." She sighed, reaching up out of habit to brush her hair behind her ear and pulling her hand away uncomfortably when she realized there was no hair to brush. "Whatever. It's done now."

She stood again and began to pace aimlessly, apparently unable to sit still. At one point, she neared the window, but turned away abruptly to avoid looking down at the mess below. "I don't think Maester Sewell's coming," she announced anxiously. "There must have been too many others... injured. I think we're on our own."

Indeed, at this point Olsan came pounding up the stairs and into the room.

"Maester Sewell - he's with Lady Hardy!" he gasped. "She hit her head - badly. The maids were saying she might die!"

Ser Godfrey made an urgent, thrashing movement under the blanket.

"Shhh, Papa. Shhh. It's all right," Syndra soothed as she returned to Godfrey's side. "Ser Anders is still in charge and Kenrith is returning. And Ser Corryn is still here to help us, too. Holdfast will be fine once we clean up the mess. We need you to rest and get better," she reassured him, hoping she was telling the truth.

As she comforted him, she checked his breathing and skin, trying to determine if there was any reason for the spasm other than a concern for Lady Celia.

Rhys started toward Godfrey, but Syndra was there before him. He stopped, pausing to watch her minister to him, then turned an ashen face to Olsan. "Did you tell Maester Sewell about Ser Godfrey?" he asked.

"I did, Sir, when I caught up with him and Ser Corryn on the stairs," said Olsan. "He told me to tell you that his trust was in you, but he would come as soon as he could."

Syndra looked up at Olsan anxiously, then her gaze shifted to Rhys. They were indeed on their own. Just as they had been in the summer fever. Rhys had taken good care of them all then. He had saved as many as could be saved. Syndra's lip twitched upward faintly and she nodded at him almost imperceptibly. He could do it again. And she would help.

She turned her attention back to her father, silently preparing herself for the long haul.

Rhys exhaled and ran a hand over his face. "Olsan, were there other wounded? I can't leave so I need you to make sure they get to me if there are. We can set up more bedding and take care of them here. Go see to that, then come back. I have other errands for you to run."

He turned back to Syndra tending to her father and his heart melted to see her in such distress. "The biggest part of this now needs to come from Godfrey himself," Rhys said. "Our part is to see that he's well taken care of and out of pain, and we're doing that. Now it's time to let his body heal itself."

Syndra nodded without looking up. Godfrey had calmed under her ministrations, and his overall condition appeared to be unchanged. It seemed that the spasm was indeed prompted by the news about Lady Celia. Syndra adjusted the blankets and continued to stand by her father, her fingers gently massaging his shoulder as she spoke softly to him.

A frown crossed Rhys's young face and he walked over to check Godfrey's legs. "They're still the same length. Sometimes, depending on the kind of break, the one leg will be shorter. That they're still the same length bodes well for your father walking again.

"I do want to look at that hip again, though... Maybe..."

Rhys laid his right hand on Godfrey's bare hip and closed his eyes, mentally calling out to the gods to show him the extent of the break.

Syndra turned and stared at Rhys, watching him silently but intently as he worked his healing.

The damage was less than he had expected. Several bones would need setting, and there would probably never be perfect recovery. But Ser Godfrey was a fit and healthy man, still engaged in vigorous activity. All this would be in his favour.

Rhys looked up from Godfrey's hip and smiled at Syndra. "It's not as bad as I feared. I believe he'll live and walk again."

Syndra allowed herself a smile of relief. Rhys's almost supernatural ability to read injuries still amazed her to this day, and that amazement showed in her eyes. "What about the ribs? Can you tell anything about those?" she asked eagerly.

Rhys pursed his lips. "The gods have told me nothing about his ribs," he replied softly, "but I don't think they're broken completely through. See how his chest rises equally on both sides when he breathes in? There's every good chance that the bleeding we've seen will resolve on its own.

"He'll need to be watched closely for the next few days and we'll need someone to nurse him while he recovers," Rhys continued. He cocked his head as he looked at Syndra. "I assume you're interested in volunteering for the job?"

Ser Godfrey continued to breathe slowly and steadily under the influence of the poppies.

"Yes," Syndra replied without hesitation. She gazed at her father for a few moments, then held up her arm, regarding the droopy sleeves of the oversized robe with a grimace. She smiled sheepishly at Rhys. "I suppose I should go change though, before I cause a stir. And before more wounded arrive. Do you think he'll be all right long enough for me to go to my room to wash and change?"

He nodded. "I'll watch over him."

Syndra smiled. "Thank you." She turned somewhat reluctantly toward the door, then turned back and touched Rhys's arm. "Rhys, I..." she stammered, her words failing under the stress. "I'll be right back. Do you need anything?"

His eyes held hers briefly, then Rhys looked down and away. "I'm good," he replied, his tone level. "Go change."

Syndra bit her lip, then nodded and silently left the room.

Syndra continues in Kenrith Returns to Holdfast

Some time after Syndra had gone, there was a tentative knock on the door, and the greying curls of Molleen, Holdfast town's wisewoman, poked around the edge of the door.

"Maester?" she asked.

Rhys looked up from where he stood over Godfrey. "Yes?"

"There are people wounded," said Molleen nervously. "Some - I don't think we can save. But others need a Maester's care .. " She looked worriedly at Ser Godferey, aware that those of noble blood would be Rhys' first duty.

"Can you see that they're brought here?" Rhys asked.

Molleen nodded. "But where will you put them?" she asked anxiously. The room they were in was large - but these would be humble folk, not of Ser Godfrey's rank.

"In here," Rhys replied without hesitation. "It's the practical solution. I'm sure Maester Sewell would agree with me, were he present. Where's Olsan? He's suppose to be seeing to this as well!"

Molleen nodded. "Thank you, Maester. And Olsan ... he's outside. He's organising stretchers for those we think can be saved. But there are others ... we think that we should just let them pass peaceful like."

Rhys looked at her in alarm. "No! He's not qualified to make those sorts of decisions! I need to see them for myself... But I can't leave..."

Distressed, he ran a hand over his face and started to pace. "Bring them up here if they're still alive. All of them. And I need help. More hands..."

Syndra ducked back into the room around Molleen, newly-cleaned and wearing a grey woolen dress that was a little past its prime. "Go, Rhys. I'm back," she urged him, apparently having heard a little of the conversation on her way in. "I can get things ready in here."

She turned to Molleen. "Please, go to the kitchens. Have them send me a couple of potboys that I can use as runners. And Rhik. Ask for a servant named Rhik and have him sent here. Please." Without waiting for an answer, she bustled toward the hearth.

Rhys blinked at Syndra, almost as if he didn't recognize her--so different did she look all clean and with even shorter hair--then came to himself as she walked past him on her way to the hearth. "Oh. All right. I won't be far away if you need me. Make sure your father takes a couple of deep breaths every so often and don't let him put any weight on that hip.

"Thank you, Syndra."

He grabbed his satchel on his way out the door with Molleen.

Page last modified on February 20, 2007, at 02:46 AM