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"Shall I say a few prayers?" asked the Septon.

"If you wish," said Sewell, as though it was a matter of indifference to him. "Maester Merivel, if you would assist ... " He moved toward the bench where they prepared herbs for Lord Hardy's treatment. The room was quiet apart from the spluttering popping of the fire and the quiet voice of the Septon, praying.

"Certainly." Merivel said quietly.

Sewell shook some purple powder from a small linen bag, and began to measure it with a marked knife.

"Where is Rhys with that water?" he said testily. He needs not go to the well to ensure its purity - any water boiling on the kitchen fire will do!"

Then they heard the sound of raised voices, somewhere outside the room. Only the odd word could be distinguished.

Godwyn's voice: " ... WHAT? .... Bolton .... dared .... WHERE?"

And then Ser Godfrey: "WAIT!"

A long pause ... and then the sound of armed feet hurrying. The Septon had risen to his feet, all prayers forgotten, looking worriedly towards the door. Lord Hardy was twisting and moaning on the bed.

"Guard the door," said Sewell to Merivel, his voice steady.

"Sir." Merivel moved from the bench to the doorway, standing and listening intently.

Rhys slipped into the room, almost bumping into Merivel. "Sorry..." he said to Merivel, distracted. His expression was upset.

He rushed over to Sewell with the now lukewarm water. "Sorry," he repeated to his great-uncle.

"What happened?" Merivel said over his shoulder to Rhys, but he still kept his main focus and intent on the door and the commotion that lay beyond it.

"Kenrith is home. I was late partly because I stopped to greet him. Then coming back from the kitchens I came upon Ser Bolton making unwanted advances on Syndra. They're trying to sort it all out and welcome Kenrith at the same time."

Rhys sighed and glanced over at Lord Hardy. "How is he?"

Merivel nodded thoughtfully but with a glum look on his face at the news. In response to Rhys own question, he did not answer, looking past Rhys to the elder Maester, giving Sewell as per his rank and position the right to answer the question first as he saw fit.

"Probably not much improved by having a small but potent wilding raid break out seemingly outside his door," said Sewell. "One of you had better check him - but carefully. He made an effort to be understood earlier, and that doubtless tired him out. Maester Merivel, could you give my nephew the details of what Lord Hardy was able to say while I finish this preparation - a task rendered rather more difficult by having to use an inadequate temperature of water."

Rhys winced at Sewell's light scolding, then moved to do his great-uncle's bidding and check Lord Hardy since Merivel was still at the door.

"What did he say?" he asked Merivel curiously as he walked across the room to the bed.

Rhys bent down to assess the Lord's condition. He checked his pulse and watched him breathe. Then he touched Lord Hardy's head and opened himself up to that unpredictable empathic _knowing_ he was sometimes able to obtain.

He had a curious image of water - dark water, lapping gently at the side of a ... a boat? Starnge shaped ... long and thin, with a flat boat - not like any sea or river craft Rhys had ever seen.

And how it connected with Lord Hardy's illness was hard to discern.

Rhys frowned. Perhaps it was a memory, something tied in with Lord Hardy's mental anguish. Sometimes he saw things like that, especially when the hurt was mental rather than physical.

"The power of Holdfast is to be divided between Ser Godfrey and the Lady Celia." Merivel began, only turning back to look at Rhys at short intervals. "They are to work together."

"There was more, less clear things, about a marriage arranged for Syn...Syndra, I think. And finding someone. It wasn't entirely clear." Merivel admitted.

Rhys looked up sharply from his examiniation of Lord Hardy. "An arranged marriage? Is that why the Boltons are here? Uncle, do you know? What was in that raven's message?"

"I don't know," said Sewell. "The ravens brought news that Ser Herys and his son were accepting Lord Hardy's kind invitation, and a message sealed with lead for the eyes of Lord Hardy alone. Which, because of his indisposition, I handed to Lady Hardy on her return."

"Not to interfere in politics." Merivel said quietly. "But I do hope that the Lady shows this message to Ser Godfrey, in accordance with the Lord's wishes."

Rhys nodded agreement.

The Septon had begun to pray again, and Lord Hardy's sleep seemed to be a little easier.

"He's stable," Rhys said, standing up from the bed. "An image of water lapping up against something that might be a boat...long and thin and flat...dark water..." He shook his head and trailed off. "Does that mean anything to you?" he asked his uncle.

Sewell's face was still, as though his thoughts were far away.

"Possibly," he said at last. "Coupled with what he said ... "

He glanced at his patient, and then lowered his voice so that the Septon would not hear. "We should talk of this later," he said. "In the Tower. For the moment - if I stay here, will you see if you can discover where the Boltons are? Ser Anders will probably know."

"Certainly, Uncle." Rhys replied, starting for the door. "Merivel, will you come with me?"

"I will." Merivel agreed instantly, with a nod. "There are a couple of things I want to ask on the way." he said, and then gave a nod of respect to the Septon and the elder Maester remaining behind.

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Page last modified on March 19, 2006, at 04:24 PM