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Sneaking in the Back Door

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Syndra tied up the ripped hem of her dress as best she could, shoved the bloody apron under her arm and pulled on the cloak. Disguised once again, she rounded the edge of the tournament field toward the left tower, watching warily for anyone else that might approach her. She knew about the crack in the wall. She, Gavrin and Godwyn had explored it as children, but she had always thought it was their secret. Apparently not. She wondered if Father knew about it, too.

Once past the pond, she removed her hood, not wanting to be taken for her mother again. That had caused too much trouble already tonight. She resolved to pack all those clothes away for good once the trial was over. At her mother's window, she did not even look up, deciding instead to make her way around to the back door, the one she had crept out the previous evening. All the way, she took great pains to keep to the shadows and watch for passers-by, Ser Godfrey in particular. As always, she avoided any wandering Boltons she happened upon.

It was as she was creeping up the steps to her room that she heard behind her a harsh voice that she recognised as Ser Herys Bolton.

"Well, boy?"

Syndra froze, then silently flattened herself against the center pillar of the stairway, barely breathing. She listened to hear which boy he was talking to, but remained ready to flee up the stairs if it sounded like he was coming in the same direction.

"I don't know what more you want me to do." It was Eryk's voice, a little sullen. "I've done all you asked of me. If I could do more, I would. But the girl hates all by the name of Bolton. She won't have me. And now, with this challenge tomorrow ... "

"You think your brother might win? Highly unlikely. Unless, of course, he is given help."

There was a dangerous edge in Ser Herys's voice - and a long silence followed. Then Eryk spoke - and he sounded even more sullen. "I will respect your wishes."

"See that you do so," said Ser Herys - and then Syndra heard him moving away.

Syndra listened as the Ser's crisp step departed, then raced up the remaining stairs on tiptoe, balancing stealth and speed. She burst through her door, wild-eyed, and slammed it behind her.

Syndra looked nothing like she did when she left. Her hair was disheveled and adorned with leaves and twigs. When she removed the cloak, Edlyn could see that her dress was torn and filthy. The apron, now dirty and spotted with blood, fell to the floor in a heap from under Syndra's arm.

Syndra crossed the room to the washbasin in three strides and immediately started stripping. Her breath was ragged and while she wanted to tell Edlyn everything that had happened, she had no idea where to start, or even how much to tell. So she remained silent and began washing - scrubbing her bloodied hands hard as if to remove guilt as well as dirt.

Edlyn, who had been lounging on the bed with a piece of embroidery, sat bolt upright, her eyes wide with horror.

"Syndra! What in the name of the Seven Gods happened to you?"

"The disguise was too good. After the deed was done, Cook saw me and made me take the slops to the pigs near the tournament field," Syndra explained without looking up. She had by now stripped down to just a shift and was leaning over, scrubbing her knees with the washcloth and tending to a nasty cut on her calf.

"I tried to avoid the Laughing Knives camp, but one of them saw me. I ran into the woods so he wouldn't recognize me, but I tripped in the dark." She held out her hands so Edlyn could see the scrapes. "I got away, but it wasn't pretty."

"Oh no!" said Edlyn. "But you managed to do it? You delivered the meal and everything? Or persuaded the Squire to do it?"

Syndra nodded. "Persuaded the Squire to do it. Whether he did or not, I don't know. I didn't dare follow him." Having finished washing, Syndra shrugged into one of her own dresses, a comfortable one with a flowing skirt, suitable for spiced wine with her father. She began brushing her hair with enough care to get the job done, but obviously in a rush.

"Did the kitchen send up the bread and ale yet? Tilda said she'd get one of the spit boys to do it once they had a moment," Syndra asked as she worked her hair into a loose braid. "And have you eaten? I'm going to meet my father, but I could have something else sent up - tell them your appetite has returned."

"No," said Edlyn. "I think - if you'll help me get settled - I shall lie back and sleep for a little. Hopping does tire one out, you know!"

"Oh. All right," Syndra said agreeably. She took a few moments to help Edlyn into her nightclothes and settle her into bed, propping her ankle up on pillows and making certain she was warm enough. Once she was sure Edlyn was as comfortable as she could make her, Syndra said goodnight and closed the door quietly behind her.

Page last modified on September 15, 2006, at 10:12 AM