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Spreading the Rumor of Snow

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One he left Donnell's cell Godwyn gestured to Mal and Jayne to follow him. He told Volf, "Remember, stay near me, and keep quiet." The he started up the stairs.

As they ascended he asked Mal, "What did you think of that? It all seems clear to me now. Evan Tamm finally heeded the call of the North and returned to the land of his birth. Perhaps truly to serve on the Wall, or perhaps that was merely an excuse. In any wise, he arrived here and was surprised to find his father present at Holdfast. He and his men happened upon Grunther, who recognized him. They slew him and though to hide the body. They placed the knife in Volf's saddle bag, thinking that if the murder was discovered he would be blamed."

"It fits with what I saw," admitted Mal. "But he's set on the Wall, you know. It's not a choice I'd make if there was a castle to stay warm in and girls to sweeten the long dark evenings."

"We're raised with tales of the Wall here in the North," Godwyn said quietly. "There are many otherwise sane men who plan on going there eventually."

Mal said nothing. Meaningfully.

Volf was following, his expression attentive.

As they emerged from the steps that led to the dungeon Godwyn, in the lead, was just in time to catch a glimpse of a female figure whisking away around the corner of a corridor - unexpected, considering the lateness of the hour, for it didn't look like one of the maids.

"If you'll excuse me now, Sir," said Mal, "I should find out how Jayne is faring."

"Hmmm?" Godwyn replied, staring curiously after the briefly glimpsed figure. "Oh, yes. Certainly. Thank you for accompanying me, I hope you found it instructive."

Mal gave a short, respectful nod and headed off towards the kitchens.

Once Mal left, Godwyn told Volf, "Brace yourself, my first duty is to find Ser Anders and report what I've discovered."

Volf looked worried. "Yes, Sir," he said, still following at Godwyn's heels.

"Normally he'd be in bed by now," Godwyn mused aloud as he began walking. "But with all that's going on, and a keep full of Boltons, if I know him at all he's checking guard posts, moving men around, and generally worrying about things like a good captain should. So..." and Godwyn headed for the nearest guards, to begin questioning them about the last time they saw Anders and which way he was headed.

The first guards had not seen Ser Anders for some time - but the second group had, and directed Godwyn to the guardhouse where, they said, Ser Anders was going over rosters, prior to making his rounds.

One of them who had been present at the inn earlier, looked askance at Volf, but said nothing.

Godwyn grinned at him, but didn't explain Volf's presence. The two of them left the keep and headed towards the guardhouse.

Ser Anders was there, giving instructions to two of his officers. When he saw Godwyn and his companion, his eyes narrowed, buut he finished the briefing and dismissed the men.

Then he sat back in his chair, staring at Godwyn - and ignoring Volf.

It was a long time before he spoke, and when he did, it was succinct.

"You have a reason for this?"

"I've got something for you," Godwyn said, ignoring Anders' question for the moment. "Evan Tamm is a false name, his real name is Snow. And guess who his father is?"

Ser Anders eyed narrowed, as though recognising something, but he said simply, "I'm not prepared to discuss this before a man I'll be trying for murder in the morning. Return the Manderly whelp to his stall and we'll discuss this further. You do not improve the discipline of this castle by bringing him before me - unless he has a tale to tell that necessitates a longer leash."

Volf was looking apprehensive.

"I've taken his parole," Godwyn said calmly. "And I agree that it would have been best if we could have discussed this privately. But it was already overheard by guards, and will be all over the castle soon. And you need to know this right away." Godwyn took a step closer to Anders and said quietly, "Whatever we think of each other, this is a matter of the safety of Holdfast. Unless I have completely misjudged you, you aren't planning on handing the place over to Bolton. So you need to know everything I know, so you can keep order. I came to you first, before even seeking my brother, that should tell you something."

Ser Anders looked at him for a moment, and then nodded again.

"Very well." He raised his voice. "Austell! Grim!"

Two of the guards came in, almost immediately. Ser Anders pointed to Volf.

"Take him to the guardroom. He stays there, without restraints, until Master Godwyn is ready to leave. No harm is to come to him."

Volf left with the guards, still apprehensive, but not unduly so.

"I'm not running any risks of being accused of undermining tomorrow's trial," he said simply to Godwyn. "And his hearing what you have to say might do that. So - our mouthy prisoner is a Bolton, eh? Ser Herys's bastard? How did you learn that?"

"After I determined he wasn't going to say anything, I let Eryk Bolton talk to him." Godwyn explained. "I let Eryk think it was because this was a matter that involved his family's honour, but, really I wanted to see if he recognized the man, and might know why he'd kill their man Grunther." Godwyn snorted. "And, I confess, I wanted to see how Eryk handled himself in a situation like that, learn a bit more about this fellow who might be marrying Syndra. Boy's got an awfully weak stomach for a Bolton..." Godwyn shook his head, then came back to the point. "Anyway, Eryk recognized him as his half brother, and it's clear there's no love there. And from what I heard it's probable that Herys Bolton would just as soon this son of his wasn't alive."

Ser Anders nodded. "Did you remove Volf for his own protection? I don't think the Boltons would mount an attack on our dungeons. I think they would choose to be more ... subtle. Nevertheless, we should increase the guard."

Godwyn nodded. "I thought so, too, but I was worried about stripping guards off other duties." Grudgingly, he added, "I knew you were the one who'd know best."

"Quite," said Ser Ander drily.

He considered for a moment. "So ... you think that Evan Tamm or Staven Snow might have killed Grunther because, if his father knew he was close by, he would have killed him? It fits with the sellswords choosing not to stay in the Castle, where they might encounter the Boltons.

"I wonder what Staven Snow did to cause such enmity with his father."

Godwyn shrugged. "He wasn't in any mood to talk about it, and he's another one of those men who you can't believe even if he's telling you that the sky is up and snow is cold." He grinned then, remembering another man whom that description fit.

"I'll bear it in mind," said Ser Anders.

"For now, I'd advise you to get some sleep. Tomorrow ... Evan Tamm will answer to Holdfast for this death - and you will bear witness. With that in mind ... " He looked at Godwyn for a moment. "Put your loyalty to Holdfast above your loyalty to your brother. What you have learned tonight, keep to yourself. Do you understand?"

Godwyn looked at him in confusion. "No," he answered. "I don't. If my uncle weren't keeping vigil I would go and tell him. Kenrith is a Hardy, he should know this."

"The men travelled to Holdfast from Riverrun," said Ser Anders. "They were in your brother's employ. It is possible that they might claim he commanded them to kill the man. It is possible that this is known to him already."

Godwyn snorted. "That's pure nonsense," he said. "You might as well argue that the Lord of Riverrun deliberately sent Bolton's bastard here with orders to cause problems. Sure, these men might claim Kenrith ordered them to do it, men facing the axe will tell any lies. But there's no way it makes sense for Kenrith to have been involved. There's nothing to gain. And there's every reason to believe it's just what it seems, Bolton's son running into his father and his men by accident, and acting in desparation to keep from being identified." His eyes narrowed. "And if you're arguing that Herys Bolton might try to claim that Kenrith is responsible, then all the more reason that Kenrith knows everything as soon as possible."

"Very well," said Ser Anders, with a faint smile. "Obviously, I cannot mandate what you tell your brother."

He returned his attention to the papers on the table before him.

"As you have accepted the Manderly's parole, you had best keep him with you."

"I intend to," Godwyn said. "And I've told him to keep his fool mouth shut. He can testify tomorrow that he saw the sellswords all leave the inn together." He pursed his lips. "So they were all probably there when Bolton's man got killed. The others have probably ridden off by now."

"Not according to my men," said Ser Anders idly. "In fact, one of them is in the gatehouse. My men have been plying him with strong wine for the last three hours. I believe he continues to protest his comrades' innocence - albeit somewhat tearfully now."

Godwyn chuckled. "Well done as always. I'll get some sleep now, you should try to do the same." He started to leave, then stopped, and without turning back to Anders he said quietly, "We've never gotten on well, Ser Anders. I'm probably somewhat to blame for that. I can be mule-headed sometimes. But I'll not deny you've been a good captain for Holdfast. I can't think of anyone who'd do a better job for Kenrith, once he's Lord of Holdfast."

Ser Anders looked too surprised to respond ...

And he walked on, to claim Volf and head back to his room.

Volf was only too glad to follow Godwyn, rather like an over-grown and somewhat undisciplined puppy ...

Page last modified on April 23, 2006, at 07:06 PM