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Searching for Limosa

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Volf set off beside Syndra, still acting the part of her bodyguard.

"Don't you think I should change?" he asked plaintively. "I think people might notice me dressed like this."

This time Syndra could not hide her exasperation. She sighed heavily. "Volf, I told you before to go change and you wouldn't. Now you want to?" she said, her voice twinged with irritation. As they neared his tent, she waved him into it. "Fine. But be quick about it. If anything happens to the Lady..." She left it hanging and shook her head, hoping the obvious conclusion would speed him along.

Volf disappeared into the tent.

As Syndra awaited him, another figure came up to her - one she recognized as Evan Tamm's squire, Garyn.

"My lady, I have a message from my master," he said, blinking rapidly. "He wishes to speak to you - urgently."

Syndra shot him a withering look, her patience by now wearing quite thin. "Tell him I'm already doing something urgent. He'll have to wait his turn," she said curtly, turning away from him to watch for Volf.

Garyn swallowed audibly.

"He ... he said ... that you had best see him. If you wanted your father to survive, that is."

Syndra sighed irritably and turned back to him, rubbing the back of her neck as if fending off a headache as she weighed her words. "Look, Garyn," she said, holding her temper, "I know you worship the man, but if truth be told, I have no use for anything Evan Tamm, or whatever his name is, has to say. I'm certain he simply wants one last chance to malign another Hardy before he dies on my father's lance. I'm sick of his nonsense. If he wanted to make a deal, he should've done it yesterday. He was given every chance to walk away from Holdfast with his life and what did he do? He spat them all back in our faces.

"I'm done with him, Garyn. The Boltons have caused nothing but trouble here and much of it revolves around him. I doubt that there's anything he can say or do that will *spare* my father," she said with disdain. "Ser Godfrey Hardy is a skilled and experienced knight. He will live or die on *his* terms and those of the Old Gods. Not Evan Tamm's. And certainly not Herys Bolton's.

"Now, if you'll pardon me, I have other more pressing Bolton problems to attend to. *If* I have time after I finish my business, I will meet with Evan Tamm. But not before. Good day, Garyn," she dismissed him frostily.

Garyn trailed away miserably, just as Volf emerged from his tent, considerably more conventionally dressed.

"Where shall we go first?" he asked.

"Tamlin," Syndra said without hesitation. "You have the shoes, correct?"

Volf held them up solemnly. "Tamlin's the forester, isn't he?" he asked. "With that ugly white-faced dog? Where will we find him?"

At this time of day, Syndra knew, Tam would either be in the kennels or out in the forest already. But with so much going on, the kkennels might be a good place to start.

"Kennels, probably. Unless Kenrith's gotten to him first. We'll start there," she answered.

Syndra led the way to the kennels, trying to look nonchalant but having a hard time holding back the urge to run. She avoided the small knots of people gathering in the courtyard and stuck close to Volf. Though she did not stop, she viewed the Bolton people with suspicion, looking for signs of a recent struggle with a wild and desperate young woman.

Tam was there, Whiteface at his side, watching a little wistfully as his master discussed breeding with the regular kennelboy. Both looked up and saluted respectfully when Syndra approached, by touching their forelocks.

Syndra smiled politely in acknowledgment.

"Have you come to see the puppies. Mistress?" said the 'boy- - who was fully forty-five. "Master Godwyn brought Ser Corryn's daugher to see 'em yessenday. Take with 'em, she was. A gradley lass, that one."

Syndra's smile grew wide. "She is at that," she agreed. "I wish I could stay, but we're looking for Lady Limosa now, as a matter of fact. Have either of you seen her? Say within the last hour or so?"

"I saw her heading off towards the godswood," said Tam thoughtfully. "That'd be a bit over an hour ago. Is something wrong, Mistress?"

Syndra smiled, trying to appear casual. "It's probably nothing, but she went off alone and her father is concerned, considering the company we're keeping lately," she said, nodding toward the Bolton encampment. "If you wouldn't mind, Tam, could you bring Whiteface around to where we last saw her? The way she loves the dogs, I'm certain that will bring Limosa running." Before Tam could even answer, she had turned pointedly toward the godswood, indicating that her request, though politely phrased, was more like an order.

By the time she reached the godswood, she realised that Tamlin had brought not just Whiteface, but two of the Castle dogs as well.

Syndra led them to the spot where they found the banner and the ribbon before.

"They're still not fully recovered," he said as they approached the centre of the godwood, "but they should prove true. Do you have anything of the lady's?"

Syndra gestured to Volf to hand Limosa's shoes to Tamlin. As he did so, Syndra spoke quietly to the forester. "Tam, I wanted you specifically because you've done well by the Hardys over the years." She sighed heavily. "We have reason to believe Ser Herys may be behind Lady Limosa's disappearance. We found her ribbon entangled with that banner. There," she explained, pointing to the muddy Bolton banner.

"I didn't want to say anything at the kennels because we need to keep this quiet. To my knowledge, Ser Herys doesn't know Volf and I know he took Limosa. If we can track her down quietly without raising his suspicions, we'll have a better chance of freeing her safely."

She crouched down to pet Whiteface. "You're a good girl, Whiteface. If anyone can find her, you can," she smiled. Turning to Tam, she asked, "Can they track without barking? Perhaps if you keep them on a lead?"

Tam looked appalled.

"I don't keep them on no lead, Mistress Syndra! They'll run as quiet as you like if I tell them. But do you have something to scent them on?"

Syndra blushed. "Sorry. Master Godwyn's much better at this than I," she apologized, moving out of Volf's way.

Volf handed him the shoes, and Tamlin knelt to over to offer them for the dogs, who sniffed them eagerly.

Syndra bit her lip in anticipation, watching as the dogs took the scent.

The moment of quiet, however, allowed the sound of the growing crowd on the tournament field to penetrate the godswood. Syndra gazed back toward the castle. "The trial. Father..." she said, almost inaudibly. A different kind of worry filled her eyes as she pulled her attention back to the dogs, her graceful fingers now tapping her skirt with newfound impatience.

One of the dogs lifted his head and sniffed - and then Whiteface too was straining to be off, deeper into the forest.

Tamlin looked up at Syndra.

"Aye. Reckon the challenge will be soon."

Syndra winced slightly when she saw what direction the dogs wished to go. She had hoped their path would take them back toward the castle. She made a difficult decision.

Turning back to Volf, she touched his arm. "Volf, go with Tamlin and keep looking. I must go back for the challenge. Father needs me to be there." As he looked about to protest, she continued, "You were charged to watch Lady Limosa too, and she needs you more than I do right now. After I'm done there, I'll have someone catch me up with you."

She turned to Tamlin. "Tam, watch the woods. At the first sign of wildlings, turn back and get help. People died yesterday in the forest from a wildling attack. You two would be no match for them."

Continuing her rapid-fire instructions, she yanked at the sheathed knife at her waistband and gave it to Volf. "Give this to Limosa when you find her, but make sure she's careful with it. It belonged to Ser Corryn's mother."

Volf nodded, his expression troubled.

"Ser Godfrey. He'll ... "

"He'll win," said Tam firmly. "One of the best, Ser Godfrey is. Never you fret, Mistress. Your da can take on five like that Evan Tamm and not break into a sweat."

Syndra smiled at Tam gratefully. "Yes. He will," she agreed, nodding firmly. "I shall not be gone long."

She stepped back and looked back and forth between the two men, obviously distressed at being unable to complete the task with them. She looked about to say something more, but then turned suddenly and started back for the castle at a run.

As she ran, Syndra watched her surroundings carefully. The last thing she needed was to be ambushed by a hidden Bolton. She stayed away from potential hiding places, keeping to open ground and well-used paths. She went first to the tournament field; to the section where her father would be waiting before being announced onto the field. As before, she made sure she was quite visible to the gathering crowds in case anyone tried to grab her.

There was no sign of Ser Godfrey on the toruney field - although Evan Tamm was now nearly fully armoured. Lady Delia frowned at Syndra and beckoned her closer, but Syndra was able to avod her gaze and hurry inside to the stableyard - where she found Godwyn, with Edlyn lifted in his arms.

Page last modified on November 13, 2006, at 05:14 PM